Transformative Leaders are Conscious
Transformative Leadership is the capacity to impact and engage others in an important work that causes forward movement with positive effect. To put it simply, transformative leadership drives real and profound change. There are three attributes of transformative leadership. Today, I’m going to cover the first one. To lead transformation, we must ourselves be open to it. Openness is a by-product of the first attribute of transformative leadership. Transformative leaders are Conscious; they are awake. When we live continuously self-reflective lives we keep the lines of communication with our inner lives open. We live in the question; and, by doing so we are able to bring ourselves more fully to our relationships and to our work leading transformation.
David Whyte, in his book Crossing the Unknown Sea writes: “One of the outer qualities of great captains, great leaders, great bosses is that they are unutterably themselves. This is what makes their stature so gigantic in our imaginations. They are living at a frontier, a cliff edge, in a kind of exhilaration that we want to touch in our own lives. The best stay true to a conversation that is the sum of their own strange natures and the world they inhabit, and do not attempt to mimic others in order to get on. Though they may try sincerely to communicate with others, these giants will not make themselves like everyone else in order to do it. There is no replacing a Mandela, the present Dalai Lama, a Rosa Parks, a Martin Luther King, a Churchill, a Susan B. Anthony, not because there are no more great leaders like them to come but because there are no more of those particular individuals.”
In my view, in fact, consciousness (or awareness) is the cornerstone of transformative leadership. Robert Greenleaf observed, “Awareness is not a giver of solace – it is just the opposite. It is a disturber and awakener. Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed. They are not seekers of solace. They have their own inner security.” Transformative leaders are engaged in honest self-reflection that leads to self-discovery and enables self-affirmation, an ability to affirm one’s self in spite of doubt or anxiety. The awareness or consciousness associated with this process, this way of being is a cornerstone of transformative leadership.
The best thing we can do to help our organizations and to lead those around us is to work at growing our awareness of who we are. This means exploring and accepting not just the good stuff, the knowledge and skills we’ve developed after years of education and experience. It also means looking into the shadow side we all have. What are the things that hold us back and keep us from fully engaging and impacting people in a positive way? By seeking greater awareness and consciousness, we grow our capacity to be intentional, deliberate, and transformative leaders.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved t be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it be sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden