Obviously Conscious Leadership

Recently, I attended a gathering of global leaders in the beautiful setting of Esalen Institute, an oceanfront human development center in California.  Our aim was to embody a comprehensive, internally consistent and externally aligned philosophy of Conscious Leadership.

The workshop conformed conceptually with the Conscious Capitalism Movement. As a group, we met with Dr. Rajendra Sisodia, co-author of two topical books—Firms of Endearment and Conscious Capitalism—and we were instructed by two of his teaching colleagues, Nilima Bhat and Vijay Bhat.

Principle among the draws for Conscious Capitalism is the recognition that organizations do not attain their full power (e.g., brilliance, innovation, profitability, market share, talent attraction, mission impact, stance) unless they are thoroughly conscious enterprises. (Surprisingly few “leaders” appear to understand this.) Sisodia and co-author John Mackey write in Conscious Capitalism about four tenets of conscious enterprise: (1) higher purpose, (2) stakeholder integration, (3) conscious leadership, and
(4) conscious culture and management.

The 45 attendees were an international group, women, and men ranging from mid-level professionals and managers to executive leaders and business owners. The intrigue that brought them to Esalen was the belief that conscious, truly human organizations are the highest performing, and that conscious leadership—the principle ingredient—is far too uncommon today. Some would say conscious capitalism designates the biggest opportunity in business today! Others claim conscious leadership is the biggest need in the world.

On the third day, we enjoyed a presentation from chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies—a conscious, activist leader whose focus is “truly human leadership.” Self-described as a “very ordinary guy,” Bob Chapman has led the reinvention of his corporate workplaces, inspired by ideals deemed higher than maximizing shareholder value. He told stories of dramatic cultural transformation at his companies.

The stories revealed Chapman’s passion for the growth and well being of employees. The transformations came about through moments of inspiration he ably translated into practical action steps, strategies, daily practices, a leadership university—and, higher corporate performance.

About ten years ago, after several years managing as a “successful executive,” Bob Chapman began to fundamentally change his executive leadership strategy, and then the conscious culture of his companies. As I listened to Bob tell one of the stories about what prompted the shift, I heard him talk about responding to the inspiration that occurred for him in the course of life.

Bob and his wife were invited to the wedding of their friends’ daughter. Arriving at the wedding venue, and hearing the traditional organ fanfare that causes all to look with the expectation of the bride and father, Bob turned to see his friend accompany his beautiful daughter down the aisle.

In response to “Who gives this woman to be wed?” Bob listened to the traditional response, “Her mother and I do.” Yet, Bob heard inflection filled with instruction, and was struck by profound realizations at that moment, aware the father actually was imploring the groom: “Her mother and I give her to be wed, and you, young man, have the duty to understand and cherish this woman with care and respect! She is the love of our lives.”

In the next instant, Bob felt the shocking realization that each of his companies’ employees had mothers and fathers who felt no less concerned and no less strident about their own sons and daughters employed there. He realized employee’s parents do implore: “Care for, inspire and celebrate my precious child!” The realization of this responsibility has influenced him every moment since.

An illustration of his prospective is simplified in a three-point leadership and culture model that guides his company: To (a) care for, (b) inspire and (c) celebrate the employees and all stakeholders of Barry-Wehmiller Companies.

Now, he said, the primary product of his company is transforming lives through people-centric leadership. As his website confirms: “A $1.5 billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting company, Barry-Wehmiller prefers to measure its success by the way they touch the lives of people.” Cultural change has dramatically stimulated the innovative power of these people and the growth and success of the company.

Watch and contemplate TED Talks by Raj Sisodia and Bob Chapman. Obviously, conscious human leadership can transform your organization’s performance capacity. If you already are a high performing model, help others who—by your encouragement—can shine, similarly.