The most effective and confident leaders develop the habit of conscious leadership – consciously choosing how they conduct themselves, inside and out, in every situation.
It’s easy in a fast-paced work environment to slip into “reaction mode”. To run on “instinct”. To start “taking things as they come” and “shooting from the hip”.
It’s also easy to let ourselves off the hook for sloppy decision-making or an offensive word because we were operating “in the heat of the moment”.
The truth is that while we can make all kinds of excuses for operating in reaction mode when the going gets tough and we can rationalize away all the relational carnage we unleash as a result, that doesn’t change the consequences of our behavior within our team and our most critical business relationships.
Eroded trust. Low confidence. Even lower motivation and productivity.
The most effective leaders – those practicing conscious leadership – know that, while many other factors may be outside of their control, the matter of how they will respond to any situation is always within their control. How we address our team members in any moment is always within our control. How we react to an angry or stressed-out client is always within our control.
Choosing, owning and executing our response to any situation. That is conscious leadership.
But knowing that doesn’t make doing it any easier.
Conscious leadership is a habit developed over time. Learning through mistakes and setbacks. And deliberately creating the conditions for consistent success as much as possible.
It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t require the latest new age meditation technique or your own on-demand motivational speaker.
Conscious leadership is simply taking ownership of your own thoughts that govern your feelings and actions in any situation. And you can do it with a pen, paper and 5 minutes to think.
The next time you find yourself heading into a sensitive meeting or a critical conversation with a client or team member, try these three steps:
- Create 5-Minutes of mental space – Give yourself 5 minutes before the interaction (or away from it if it suddenly develops out of the blue) to collect your thoughts.
- CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP TIP #1: excusing yourself to go to the washroom is a totally legit strategy for this purpose!
- Write down your plan – Write down 3 words, phrases or ideas that define the way you choose to respond to this situation. Those points might include the emotion you want to display, the main message you want to convey, or the outcome you want to achieve from the situation (although this last point is outside of your complete control). Whatever you need to clearly define for yourself the person you want to be and the focus you want to have in that moment
- CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP TIP #2: Yellow sticky notes are awesome for this because they are easy to find and to crumple into your pocket and hide once you are ready to act!
- Own your decision – Once you have given yourself 5 minutes of space to think and have written down the three points that define your response plan, then it is time to take ownership of your choice. Decide for yourself that this is who you are going to be, take a deep breath and go do it.
- CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP TIP #3: How others respond to your chosen response to the situation should be of secondary or no concern to you because they choose how they respond. Not you. All you can control is yourself.
Consistent, effective leadership, especially in a crisis, is really, really hard. We will make mistakes. Lots of them, probably. And we can never be sure how others will respond to our leadership.
But with practice, we can harness the habit of conscious leadership and be the leader we want to be in any moment. With practice, we can choose how we engage our teams, our clients, all those around us.
What kind of leader will you choose to be today?