The Inner Journey to Conscious Leadership: Ten Practices for Leading Consciously

The Inner Journey to Conscious Leadership: Ten Practices for Leading Consciously

by Paul Ward


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504399838
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Pages: 214
Sales rank: 1,090,393
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)

About the Author

Paul Ward is a leadership and life coach, strategy execution consultant, adjunct professor, small business owner, and hot air balloon pilot. He has masters and doctoral degrees in organization and management and has spent more than thirty years consulting to large and small organizations in Europe and the Americas. He divides his time between Portsmouth, England and West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Listening with All the Senses

Conscious leaders are waking up and becoming more aware of themselves, of others, and of their environment. They are listening generously with all their senses, feeling all their feelings, and creating space for becoming more mindful and for noticing what is going on around them. This chapter is an invitation to begin waking up. Whoever you are — rich or poor, young or old, leader or follower — I invite you to accept this invitation to wake up, recognizing that conscious leadership requires us all to become wide awake and to stay awake and alert in all aspects of our lives.

A Zen Buddhist story reminds us about the importance of waking up and noticing what is going on. You may have heard the story before in one of its many variations. A man being chased by a vicious tiger comes to the edge of a cliff. As the tiger closes in on him, the man notices a vine leading over the cliff and down the precipice. Quickly he crawls over the edge and begins to climb down the vine, only to discover another tiger waiting for him below. Looking up, he sees a mouse gnawing away at the vine, his lifeline, and looking down, he sees the tiger. Just then, he spots a luscious strawberry within arm's reach. He seizes the berry and eats it. Ah, how delicious the strawberry tastes. Can you stop and notice the beauty in your environment and the people around you despite all the tigers and the mice?

In this chapter, we will explore how conscious leaders listen generously using all their senses, feel all the feelings, increase their self-awareness, become more aware of others and the environment around them, and create space for mindfulness.


Active listening has been part of leadership skills training curriculums for many years. Leaders have been encouraged to talk less and listen more, to make eye contact, to lean in, to keep arms and hands open and relaxed, to avoid interrupting, to smile, and to encourage the speaker to continue with a nod of the head or a short verbal comment. Listening generously requires much more than active listening. As Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and well-known Catholic writer, says, we must slow down to a human tempo so that we can begin to have time to listen. This requires a level of stillness and silence to really hear what is being said, a concentration within ourselves and on the person speaking.

Our concentration is affected by barriers or filters that get in the way of our listening. Distractions are everywhere, whether conversations close by, pictures and noise from televisions broadcasting constantly, or our own inability to ignore our mobile devices. We may be feeling tired, hungry, or stressed out. The speaker may be telling a long, boring story that we have heard many times before. We may be looking forward to something coming up later in the day. We may be, consciously or unconsciously, applying listening filters; we may be dismissing what the person is saying as insignificant, trying to diagnose the problem and thinking of ways to fix it, or becoming defensive. Managing these barriers and letting go of these filters can help with our concentration.

Silence and stillness are prerequisites for listening generously. Listening is not just waiting to speak. It's about listening to others without interruption, without simultaneously preparing what you want to say next. I see this in my young grandchildren. I often speak with them via Skype video conference. They are full of energy, dancing around the room and sitting down in front of the camera for just a few seconds at a time. They want to share the excitement of their day, and I am happy to listen. I don't need to be preparing to speak; I'm happy to share in their excitement. Stillness comes only at the end of the day, at story time, when they are listening to their favorite bedtime stories, which I love to read when visiting. Silence and stillness while listening to a client, colleague, or friend are just as important. The silence provides the space for them to speak; the stillness inside us provides the space for us to listen. Allowing the space for silence takes practice. Following Mahatma Gandhi's guidance "to speak only to improve on the silence" is wise advice for the conscious leader.

Rachel Naomi Remen, one of the pioneers in the mind/body holistic health movement, said, "When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time, and in the silence of listening you can know yourself in everyone." Watching someone really listen generously to another without interrupting has been a personal privilege during my leadership training classes. The speaker often reports the positive emotions experienced when being listened to so intently, sometimes sharing something deep and meaningful for the very first time.

"The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people" was how Woodrow Wilson put it. More than that, listening generously is an important practice for conscious leaders, and I am reminded of Winnie the Pooh, who suggested, "If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear." Becoming a conscious leader requires us to make sure our ears are free of fluff. But listening with our ears is not enough. We need to be listening with all our senses.


How often, when listening, have you noticed the feelings in your body? We are familiar with the physiological changes, such as the butterflies in our bellies and the sweat on the palms of our hands when feeling fearful, the tingling sensation down the spine when feeling joyful, tightness across the shoulders and the back of the neck when feeling angry, and the welling up of tears in the eyes when feeling sad. Locating these feelings in our bodies and understanding the sensations is critical to listening with all the senses. This brings us to the feelings and emotions required to really notice what is going on in ourselves and others.

Feelings and emotions are words often used interchangeably, but although closely related, they are two distinct terms. Antonio D'Amasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of California and author of several books on these topics, explains feelings this way: Feelings are mental experiences of body states that arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body's response to external stimuli. As an example, the order of events could be "I am threatened, experience fear, and feel horror." An emotion can be considered a physical response to change that is hardwired and universal. Feelings can be described as mental associations and reactions to emotions that are personal and acquired through experience. I have found Dr. Alan Watkins's integrated performance model, referred to in the introduction to this book, to be helpful in distinguishing between feelings and emotions. Watkins, an international expert on leadership and human performance, represents the integrated performance model as an iceberg. At the bottom of the iceberg, submerged below the waterline, is our physiology, where the primitive fight-or-flight response may be found. The next layer up in the iceberg is emotions. These emotions, sometimes described as e-motions or energy in motion, can be both positive and negative and drive our feelings. These feelings determine our thinking. Our physiology, emotions, feelings, and thoughts — all internal and invisible — drive our external and visible behaviors and the results we achieve at the tip of the iceberg.

Conscious leaders exhibit high emotional intelligence. Building on Harvard University professor Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences described in the book Frames of Mind', Daniel Goleman introduced the now-familiar and well-researched concept of emotional intelligence in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which was followed by Working with Emotional Intelligence in 1998. Goleman, an internationally known psychologist and best-selling author, describes emotional intelligence as the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.

In the book Primal Leadership, Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman and his coauthors described the four dimensions of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, all competencies and skills that can be learned and that align well with the practices of conscious leadership. Also described is a continuum of leadership styles that was a critical input to my own doctoral research study into leadership values and behaviors. The continuum of styles runs from commanding and pacesetting through democratic, affiliative, coaching, and visionary. The last four of these leadership styles foster resonance, whereas the first two can readily generate dissonance when not used effectively. Goleman et al. described an interesting research study of 3,871 executives. The results showed that, all other things being equal, leaders who use a style with a positive emotional impact saw decidedly better financial returns than those who did not, and leaders with the best results didn't practice just one particular style but many of the six distinct styles, depending on the business situation.

The Complete Coherence Universe of Emotions app has been designed to help develop emotional intelligence. Mapping two thousand emotions out of an estimated thirty-four thousand emotions found so far and represented as a planet or a star shows active and relaxed emotions on a vertical axis and positive and negative emotions on the horizontal axis. This is an excellent tool for building our vocabulary of feelings and emotions and increasing emotional literacy. As we learn to name the emotions and how we feel about the emotions, we can increase our ability to feel all the feelings and recognize how these emotions and feelings influence our thoughts, which in turn influence our behaviors. We can begin to take control of our emotions, mastering what is going on below the surface while knowing that our feelings are within our control and it is not someone else who is doing it to us.

The death of a loved one or birth of a child often accentuates feelings and emotions. We may vividly remember where we were when we heard news that affected us deeply. When my mother passed away in England in 2014, I was working on a client site on the thirty-eighth floor of the General Motors Building in New York City. I received an email from a family member asking me to call my father as soon as possible. Although my mother had not been ill, and I had seen her only a few weeks before, I knew this was not good news. I stepped outside the office building and called my father. He had my number but in his heightened emotional state was unable to remember how to add the international code. My mother had passed away that morning. An abdominal aortic aneurism had ruptured the day before, and her death had followed quite quickly.

I remember walking across Fifth Avenue and into Central Park to gather my thoughts and call my brother in California, as my father had asked me to do, and then to call my wife in Florida and my children in England. The immense sadness over the death of my mother was immediately limited by the need for responsible action. I was scheduled to facilitate an all-day workshop the following day. In these situations, clients are understanding, but this was a workshop I didn't want to miss. And anyway, I didn't have my passport with me and would have to return home to Florida before flying to England. The tension between my own grief and my responsibilities to my father and to my client brought forth a cacophony of feelings. I felt intense sadness at my mother's unexpected passing. I felt a little angry about the timing. I felt overwhelmed by the need to make immediate decisions. Fortunately, my brother was working at home and was able to begin the journey to England within hours of our telephone conversation. He would be with my father the following day. My daughter in England was already taking care of his immediate needs. I was able to facilitate the workshop and follow my brother across the Atlantic two days later. I felt the roller coaster of emotions during the workshop, alternatively feeling absorbed in facilitating the process, sad about my mother's passing, and yet thankful for a family vacation only a few weeks earlier where four generations of our family had lived together in a converted barn for an entire week.

Increasing our sensitivity and awareness of our emotions and feelings will help us notice what is going on inside of us and in others. When we feel changes in our bodies, such as goose bumps on the back of the neck or butterflies in the stomach, we know something is happening and we had better sit up and take notice. We can check in to assess why we feel that way and begin shifting our negative feelings to a more positive place. Rhythmic breathing has been shown to help shift away from negative emotional states such as anxiety, anger, and frustration toward positive emotional states such as passion, determination, and focus. Naming the emotions and feelings for ourselves and, where appropriate, for the person we are in dialogue with can help us notice what is going on.


Self-awareness is the first component of emotional intelligence, and having a deep understanding of our emotions may be considered a minimum foundation for becoming a conscious leader. In addition to emotions, self-awareness also means understanding our strengths, weaknesses, needs, and desires. Conscious leaders cultivate deep self-awareness.

Building self-awareness requires us to penetrate the commotion and distraction of our lives. Matthew Crawford, a philosopher and motorcycle mechanic, writing about becoming an individual in the age of distraction, noted that attention has become an acute collective problem of modern life. We are becoming used to intrusive advertising everywhere — on our computer screens, on the free apps on our mobile devices, in the airport, at the gas station, and more. Crawford describes bus riders in Seoul, South Korea having coffee smells spritzed into the air and up their noses that complement the advertisement playing over the bus's sound system just before it stops outside a well-known coffee chain. Our distractibility in these public places is, to a great extent, understandable, but to what extent are we distracted in our private thoughts and conversations?

We are often distracted by our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Rather than seeing the negative quality of the distraction and trying to avoid being distracted, can we reframe the distraction as a messenger? Rather than getting so absorbed in the distraction that we miss the content, can we be present in the midst of the distraction, discovering how to navigate and learn from the distractions in daily life rather than trying to eliminate the them? We will explore being present in more depth in the chapter on living mindfully.

Reducing or reframing our distractibility and increasing our attentiveness requires greater self-awareness. I am reminded of the often-quoted phrase, "We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are." So, how can we increase our self-awareness along with our ability to increase our attentiveness? Getting to know ourselves better is an important first step.

The Johari Awareness Model, often known by the more familiar name the Johari Window, originally developed by California professors Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, remains an interesting self-awareness tool for understanding relationships with ourselves and others. Joseph Luft's book, Of Human Interaction, has been in my library for many years and provides a valuable explanation of the Johari Window. Imagine a window with four panes of glass whose sizes can be changed by moving the intersecting vertical and horizontal dividers. The four panes of glass or quadrants of the window represent awareness of behavior, feelings, and motivation and signify what is known to ourselves and others based on a self-assessment. The top left quadrant is the open or arena quadrant, representing what is known both to self and to others. The top right quadrant is the blind spot quadrant, representing what is not known to self but known to others. The bottom left quadrant is the hidden or façade quadrant, representing what is known to self but not to others. The final quadrant, bottom right, is the unknown quadrant, representing what is not known to self or to others. Assessment scores, when plotted on the window, result in quadrants or windowpanes of different sizes. For example, limited self-awareness may show up as narrow left-hand windowpanes and, where others can see our behaviors, could represent a large blind spot caused by low self-awareness. Conversely, we may keep hidden from others certain aspects within our self-awareness. Self-disclosure can increase the size of the hidden windowpane, demonstrating to others greater self-awareness.


Excerpted from "The Inner Journey To Conscious Leadership"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Paul Ward.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments, xi,
Foreword, xiii,
Introduction, xv,
Part I: Noticing What Is Going On, 1,
Chapter 1 Listening with All the Senses, 3,
Chapter 2 Learning Relentlessly, 19,
Chapter 3 Living Mindfully, 37,
Part II: Setting Intention, 53,
Chapter 4 Exploring Purposefully, 55,
Chapter 5 Thinking Possibility, 63,
Chapter 6 Committing to Action, 75,
Part III: Acting Responsibly, 87,
Chapter 7 Speaking Candidly, 89,
Chapter 8 Acting with Integrity, 99,
Chapter 9 Taking Responsible Action, 117,
Part IV: Organizational Leadership, 127,
Chapter 10 Conscious Business, 129,
Part V: Combining All the Practices, 155,
Chapter 11 All the Practices All the Time, 157,
Notes, 173,
Index, 185,

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