top of page
  • Writer's pictureTimothy Henry

Episode #8: Conscious Leadership (Part 1)

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

What does Conscious Leadership mean? The path to becoming a conscious leader is about becoming S.E.L.F.L.E.S.S. - listen on to find out how!



Bhat, N., Sisodia, R. (2016). Shakti Leadership: Embracing Feminine and Masculine Power in Business. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Collins, J., Porras, J,. et al. (2005). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Random House Business, New Edition.

Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Scharmer, O. (2009). Theory U: Learning from the Future as it Emerges. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Wigglesworth, C., Mackey, J. (2014). SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence. Select Books Inc (US).

Mackey, J., Sisodia, R. (2014). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Harvard Business Review Press.

Sisodia, R., Henry, T., Eckschmidt, T. (2018). Conscious Capitalism Field Guide. Harvard Business Review Press.


Episode Transcript:

Timothy: Hello everybody, and welcome to Episode 8 of the Conscious Capitalists podcast. And here with my favorite partner in these journeys, Raj Sisodia. Hi, Raj.

Raj: You mean the only partner you got.

Timothy: Hurt me big. My favorite, nonetheless.

Raj: Good to see you again. These weeks go by fast.

Timothy: They do, don’t they? It’s amazing how quickly the time is flying in between doing these. And today, we’ve done the other four, the other three pillars. We’ve done purpose. We’ve done stakeholders and culture. And today, and the next couple of episodes, we’re going to focus on leadership. What does conscious leadership mean? So, that’ll be what we’re going to work on today, sort of an intro to that concept, talk a little bit about what we think leadership is, what does conscious leadership mean, and then really go into another famous Raj acronym. What’s the favorite acronym this time, Raj?

Raj: You want me to spoil the surprise already?

Timothy: Okay. Keep it as a surprise till later. We’ll surprise you, you got to listen further into the podcast if you want to hear what Raj’s latest acronym is when we get into this discussion. Well, maybe, let me begin by: what is leadership? On the one hand, for 2,000 years people have been writing and thinking about what makes great leaders. You go all the way back to Aristotle writing about leaders need to know thyself and everything else, and people try to define what do they think are those characteristics. Are people born with these things? Are they things that people develop? And starting way back then, it was, of course, the great man theory that you were sort of born a leader, and that if we studied enough about what those characteristics were, we’d know what a leader is. And so, leadership theory has been around for a long time. And I think at one level, the simple definition I love is from John Quincy Adams where he just sort of said, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

Raj: Yeah. And this may be the most written about subject of all and yet the least well-practiced of all. The number of truly exemplary leaders in the world even throughout history is not that many. And the part of it has to do with why did people become leaders. It was so rooted in power and ego. It was about becoming Alexander the Great ruling over, lording it over people, and that really is not leadership. I mean that’s tyranny and that has led to extraordinary suffering. So, good leadership leads to extra fulfillment, and joy, and flourishing. Bad leadership leads to untold amounts of human suffering and misery, and that’s been our history on this planet because of the kind of leadership that we’ve had, and so leadership matters always.

There are some people who say, well, we’re evolving as human beings and we’re much more conscious than we ever were, and we are more educated, and more informed, and more connected, and more intelligent, even so maybe we don’t need leadership. We’re all self-directing, self-actualizing beings. And I think that’s a misconception. Leadership always is important. It remains so, and I think even more so today because two things. I think one is all of the perils that we face and the massive challenges, existential challenges that exist out there, we are crying out for leadership. And secondly, the human potential has never been greater. Capacities of each of us at an individual level are far greater than they’ve ever been, but all of that has to be channeled into something constructive. So again, we start with the Drucker quote often in these cases because he expresses the idea so beautifully. So, he said there are only three things that happen naturally in organizations – friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else takes leadership.

But you can bring the most well-intentioned, intelligent, talented, caring people, put them in a room, come back two hours later, and you will return to friction, confusion, and underperformance till somebody steps into the mantle of leadership. The awesome responsibility of leadership, which is to say what are we trying to do here? What’s our vision for what is possible? And of course, a great leader is able to see beyond the horizon. They can see possibilities that others cannot even imagine. So, I think that’s one of the great traits of a leader is vision. And then, the ability to inspire others with that vision. And then of course, the more mundane but important ask of how do we get there. What’s our strategy? What’s our plan? How do we utilize each of our strengths and the resources that we have in order to achieve, or realize, or come closer to that vision? So, I think leadership is as important or maybe more important than ever this shortage of leaders is as acute as ever.

Timothy: Well, I think you’re so right, Raj. I mean one of the things that we talked about last time was about creating truly human organizations. And as we’ve discussed before, truly human organizations need truly human leaders. And Walter Robb, who was the co-CEO of Whole Foods for a number of years, had a quote that I liked which is “the leader you are is the person you are.” In a sense, it’s about the personal as well, about who you are as a human being. And an organization can never be more conscious than the level of consciousness that the leaders, or the humanity that the leaders bring to it, and …

Raj: That’s right, why developing yourself as a leader is the greatest duty and responsibility you have as a leader your level of consciousness, as you said, really impact everybody else.

Timothy: And yet at the same time, there’s also been different mindsets of what we’ve expected from leaders. In the 20th century, you could argue it was about competition, winner takes all. It was about being logical, rational, and being achievement oriented. And even in our leadership development, we thought about it in terms of skills or competencies, something we could train people on. And often, as you said, it became a very ego-driven kind of exercise. And I think that as we move into the 21st century, and we face these enormous uncertainties that businesses face today. Look at where we are today with the virus, and the political uncertainty, dealing with this kind of uncertainty takes a different kind of mindset of a leader.

It needs to be somebody who’s coming from the WE space and is thinking about how WE are doing as collaboration, shared winning, as much from the heart and mind, and being able to connect with people from an empathetic point of view, a lot of what we’ve talked about in terms of servant-leader type of things. And I think that that’s the challenge that leaders have today is how do we combine the heart and the mind together, so that we get the best of our people, and that’s what we need.

Raj: The image of leadership of the sense of what is a great leader. I mean a lot of that is still locked into our collective memory based upon what used to be. You look at movies and the whole vision or the ideal of a leader is General George Patton. Taking control, the strong individual.

Timothy: Well, my favorite example is saying take General George Patton and let’s put him in Silicon Valley in a startup over there and see how well that style would go. Like, oh, maybe not so well.

Raj: Well, I think there is a lag still because, so I would say it was rooted in the militaristic way of thinking. The business was kind of a version of warfare. I mean I think so much of what we do, the way we lead, manage, organize, motivate, etc., so much of that actually came from the military. Once corporate management are rooted in the armies, in the militaries of the world. That’s what we had as models. That’s the only large organizations have existed were armies, so we borrowed the command and control style of leadership, the hierarchical way of organizing, and all the language that went along with it, strategy, directives, and operations. So, that militaristic approach, which is rooted in the exercise of power, so there’s somebody sitting at the apex and everybody else is a foot soldier, or lieutenants, and so forth. And you basically direct the whole operations, so it’s all about power. And in those days, actually, if you go back 100 years, if you are not the founder of the company, if you go back leaders were not that highly paid, but they had tremendous power lie in an army, like in the case of General Motors, like a million people. So, it was all rooted in power.

And then, sometime around the 1970’s alongside with Milton Friedman and the shareholder value paradigm and the profit maximization and all of that, it went from military to mercenary. Leadership became about who can deliver the numbers, who can create the greatest amount of shareholder value and we don’t care how you do it, but just do it. So, it’s mercenary, hired hands, hired guns. You get hired from company to company based upon what you did there. You got promoted based upon what you did there. And again, the human cost of that, the environmental cost of that, all of that was not really factored in. So, that’s all about profits.

From power to purpose is the primary, profit as a primary service and I think now we’re in the age of mission-oriented leadership, it’s not about having a business with a mission, so much as having a mission with a business. You do something meaningful in the world. And for that, we need an economic engine to do it, so what’s the business model that allows us to grow and skate around that. So, we’ve gone from power as a primary driver to profit as a primary driver, to now purpose, of course, that needs to include the exercise of power, and of course, healthy amounts of profit in order to achieve that purpose. But I think that’s a significant shift that’s happened in the business environment, and therefore, also in what we expect out of leaders.

Timothy: Yeah. In a sense, HOW really does matter. How you show up as a leader, and how you role model, what’s good behavior here, and how you connect to people to bring out the best. In an essence, Amy Edmondson’s work at Harvard around psychological safety, leaders create a psychologically safe environment where people feel that they can take risks, they can accept challenges, and not feel that it’s all about did I do what I was told, but rather can I experiment because today’s world you really need to be able to do rapid prototyping. You need to be able to experiment very quickly, what works and what doesn’t work, get the feedback, really accept that sometimes failure is a good thing, and that it’s a learning experience.

Raj: That’s the growth mindset right that Carol Dweck has written about, and many companies including Microsoft have used this to create a culture in which everybody is growing. And therefore, has the permission to fail, and then the encouragement to fail at things.

Timothy: So, I think that that sort of leads to talk about what happens when this leadership word hits the consciousness word, and you put them together, what do we think is different, and why do we call it conscious leadership? Raj, what do you think is different?

Raj: So, I think it’s having a broader conception of what is the role of leader. I think consciousness is about waking up, seeing the bigger picture, seeing how things are interconnected and interdependent. Understanding the impact that we’re having on the world and being aligned with the desire to have a positive impact on the world. So, that which is unconscious, if you don’t become conscious in your leadership, that means you are operating from unconscious impulses. You are reactive. You are being triggered. You are acting in a defensive way, and so forth. So, as Carl Jung said, unless you make the unconscious, it will direct your life. And you will call it fate. Who is driving your car? Are you driving your car or is it being driven by all of these random influences that you happen to accumulate over your lifetime? I think that is the real journey here.

Timothy: I love that, Raj, because I think it partly plays to this shift that we’re making between leadership being a doing, leadership does something to leadership being a being. So, it’s more than knowing. It’s really about emotion more than cognition. It’s about spirit maybe more than matter. I mean I think that’s Fred Kaufman’s definition that he was playing with in his book, Conscious Business. But, it’s about the being aspect AND about doing and knowing.

Raj: It has to start, as we said, inside out. There’s an inner game and an outer game. So much of leadership work is focused on the behaviors that we want and the skills and competencies. This is all sourced from somewhere, and we have to work at that source level because the appropriate behaviors and skills will emanate, so combination, again, of being and then doing, the right kind of doing.

Timothy: So, having said that, I mean, well, let’s stop the surprise. You’ve been holding everybody in attention.

Raj: I would say before we get there, I mean I would also say when we talk about conscious leadership is about having an expanded perspective about it. What is the role of leaders and what are we trying to do? And for me, the epiphany came when I met Bob Chapman, and praised his leadership and how they think about it at their company, Barry-Wehmiller. And when he said the leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to us, that the way we lead impacts the way people live, which means what happens, I used to think it’s about what happens 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday what a great experience, you are purposeful. You are treated with respect and dignity. You’ve got empowerment and freedom, and all of the great things. But the fact is the way we lead impacts the way people live. So, they’ll go home and treat their children and family in a certain way depending on what we have created at work and what we have taught them about leadership.

So, an expanded perspective to say it’s, first of all, the stewardship of the lives entrusted to us is not just about saying how can I use this army of people to achieve our goals, it’s about saying how can I, with these people, go to a better place, take them to a better place, help them develop and evolve as human beings as they are meant to. Then, how do we make sure that, emotions are contagious, and how do we make sure that there’s positive contagion coming out of what happens at work with what happens at home. So, I think that expanded perspective, I think our friend, Kip Tindle, phrases it well. He talks about the power of your wake.

So, when you are riding in a boat or a ship, you look behind and there’s an enormous wake that you’re leaving, but most people are focused on where they’re going, so they don’t pay attention, but that wake has consequences for other ships around you and also for the life underneath the surface, so we have to pay attention to our wake, and recognize all of the impacts that our leadership is having on people’s lives. And once you do that then you can set about making sure that we are all positive impacts. That we have any of those so-called negative side effects.

Timothy: I think that’s so right. And it shifts a little bit of the focal point of leadership from it’s all about me and my ego, and what I can get as a leader, and the power entity of it, to that stewardship element of this; it is a privilege and a responsibility to be a leader. I often ask leaders, when I’m working with them or coaching them, two questions. One is a variation on the wake question which is what is your legacy as a leader? What do you want to be remembered for beyond just whatever financial success the business had. And in a sense, what is that wake you want to leave behind. If you can design the wake, what do you want it to be? Well, he really got the numbers, and he was a jerk, and he stepped over people, but he got the numbers. Like, wow, that’s a wonderful legacy. NOT.

Raj: My girlfriend, Neha, calls it triple vision, where we need to always hold triple vision on everything we do, so it’s me, we, and world. So, what often happens with conscious leaders and highly purposeful people is they forget about the me. So, much can be externally focused; servant-leader means I’m going to sacrifice myself and pay the ultimate price in order to make sure that something great happens in the world. The fact is if you don’t start with me. So it’s me, we, world and I need to heal me in order to serve we, and so we can impact the world in a positive way. Heal me, become the whole leader, a whole person that I’m capable of being, so that I can then serve everybody connected to my company, so that we can then have a positive impact on society. So, I think that broadening of vision, and that also includes immediate short term and long term. What do I need to do in each of those domains? So, I think that’s a broader canvas for leaders to think about in terms of making sure that they’re not neglecting themselves in the process. Just like we said, companies are their most important stakeholder. Leaders are their most important stakeholders as well.

Timothy: Well, I like that because it also leads to another element of that which is when we talk about conscious leadership, we’re not necessarily talking about somebody being soft. or lacking firmness, or strength of character. I could argue in some ways that really good servant-leaders, they’re in the marketplace to win. They’re competitive. They want their business to be successful. It’s not a tradeoff between how I show up and the success of the business. It’s, maybe they care even more in some ways. They’re fiercely driven to see the organization achieve their purpose. The purpose matters .

Raj: A big point on this, it’s about people, purpose, and performance, a healthy coexistence with each other because without performance we cannot take care of the people all of those have to go together.

Timothy: Yeah. It’s firmness and strength of character. And so, again, we don’t want to get into this soft versus firm versus, no, being a servant-leader, having this kind of conscious leadership orientation still means you make hard decisions.

Raj: Of course.

Timothy: It includes making hard people decisions sometimes. Tough love.

Raj: Bob Chapman, again, expresses it this way that he draws a parallel between leadership and parenting. Parenting, leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to us as is parenting. And that doesn’t mean always saying “yes.” That includes tough love and saying “no” is the right thing to say at times, so holding people to standards and so forth.

Timothy: I think ultimately those leaders have a sort of paradoxical combination of sort of deep personal humility, and yet at the same time, intense professional will. You still have to have that will to operate and its inspired from a different place that doesn’t go away in terms of it being a necessary, if not sufficient quality of being a really good leader.

Raj: Yeah. I think that’s, well, we can get into now the qualities to cultivate as a conscious leader.

Timothy: Perfect. So, that means you’re going to unveil the, we’re going to have the big unveiling now of the acronym of the day.

Raj: So, yeah, acronym here is SELFLESS. A conscious leader is SELFLESS. So, what do we mean by that? What is the opposite of selfless? It is selfish. So, if you’re a selfish human being, what does that mean? If you become a leader and you’re a selfish human being that means is you’re going to look at everybody you lead and see them as objects for your success. You’re going to use all these people to help you realize what your dream is. And that makes you a tyrant. That is not a leader. That’s the definition of a tyrant. Somebody who uses other people, people they lead around to achieve their personal goals. So, a true leader has gone beyond even self-actualization, which is the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is self-transcendence as Viktor Frankl talked about, there’s a level beyond self-actualization which is self-transcendence, that I am now above the collective self. By the way, that has to include me because if I’m not healthy I can’t serve, but it has to be broader than that, so selfless.

And it kind of builds on servant-leadership to an extent, but it goes beyond that. And so then, it stands for the qualities. It starts with strength. That’s what you were just talking about the number one quality leaders have to be strong, and they have moral courage. They have to have grit. They have to have resilience. They have to be able to withstand all of the criticism and negativity, etc., that’s going to come. If you try to do anything meaningful in this world, you will encounter resistance. So, you have to be able to face all of that conflict with resolve, strong, so strength is extremely important.

Timothy: Yeah, I was thinking about that. I’ve been a CEO in a professional service firm, and I was talking to somebody else who had been worldwide co-chairman of a very big professional service firm. And we were talking about the fact that in that role, nobody comes to you with the good things that are going on in the business, in partnerships. People are going to come to you all the time with the problems. And your ability to keep your center and have that strength of character, that grit, that resilience in the face of having people bring you a lot of issues and challenges that they have, because they can’t deal with them, or where there are conflicts they can’t resolve. You’ve got to be able to be strong enough to stand up and help address those. So, the first S is strength.

Raj: Yeah. And I think those two are very key qualities which is personal power. We have to cultivate personal power as a leader. All of us have to, really, and what does that mean is it’s not positional power. So, you get power from your title. But the day that title is gone, you have zero power. But, if you have power that emanates from within from you being connected to your essence for your higher purpose, and you’re drawing upon the source in a way for this thing because you are doing something that is in harmony with what’s needed in the world and what’s your true destiny and purpose in this life. You have access to that incredible power, so cultivating personal power is that whole distinction between power versus force. Well, there are a lot of leaders who have power over people, not power with.

Timothy: Right.

Raj: It’s power with people. For you to become strong doesn’t mean other people have to become weak. For you to have more power doesn’t mean you steal power from others. So, it has to be have power with. So, how do you cultivate personal power? A big part of this journey is knowing your values, using those values to make aligned decisions, knowing how to draw healthy boundaries, leaning into necessary conflict in a way that’s honest, and curious, and accountable, and compassionate. Those are some of the things that that’s a journey, I think, for us to go on. And I think it’s interesting that I find conscious leaders who are generally very nice human beings, who have a spiritual side to them and so forth.

Some of them, and maybe many of them, are uncomfortable with the exercise of power. Somehow power is seen as a corrupting thing, right. And therefore, they may not be as much in their personal power as other leaders are who are sort of militaristic and hard charging. I think what we need to do is to empower conscious leaders. Have them more in their personal power. As Peter Senge has said “power and virtue need to go together.” And unfortunately, in the world, they very often do not. Another quote I came across yesterday that I will share here. ‘That separating church and state was a good idea, but separate power and consciousness is not’. You think about that. Power and consciousness need to come together. Again, we need to empower conscious leaders and make sure that they cultivate enough strength, because that strength is then deployed in service of something noble beyond just shareholder value for one particular company.

So, that is the S in SELFLESS. Then, the E is energy, enthusiasm. It takes a lot of energy, obviously, to be a leader. It doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert and jumping on and hopping around on stage like a mad monkey. But, you still have to have tremendous energy, and I think leaders draw upon that because they’re connected to conscious leaders, and they have a sense of meaning and purpose, and that gives them energy. Energy and enthusiasm that goes with that. And the, the third letter, L is love. Your conscious leaders have to come from a place of love and care. Their primary motivation has to be rooted in love. You have to come from love. Think about the strength and the love, the S and the L. Strength without love is tyranny. We had lots of leaders in the last century on the global stage who were extremely strong leaders who almost destroyed human civilization, Hitler, and Stalin, and Mao, and we had no shortage of those guys. Strength without love. Love without strength is ineffective. It doesn’t get anything done. It’s passive. So, we need strength and love together. And that’s like Martin Luther King said we must be tough minded and tender hearted, that combination. So, the leaders who embody that combination, Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela, King, they shifted the world for the better.

Timothy: Well, it’s also interesting, Raj, is that the opposite of love is fear. And to the earlier point about psychological safety, a leader who doesn’t bring their love to the, or their caring to the workplace, what are they bringing then? They’re bringing power, and position, ego, and fear, and that’s never going to bring out the best in your people. And going back to just being very pragmatic about innovation, and the ability to experiment and learn quickly, which is so critical to business success today, if people don’t feel safe, and they don’t feel cared for, then they’re not going to be at their best. And that emanates from the leader who creates that atmosphere around them. And so, that idea that the leader is someone who cares, and I just think it’s just a human thing. We want to work with people who care about us. Who wants to work for someone who thinks they don’t care about me. I’m just a means to an end for them. It just doesn’t work. As human beings, we want to work in groups or teams where we feel there’s caring and appreciation.

Raj: We will do extraordinary things in those settings. I mean people will achieve extraordinary things for a leader who they think really cares about them. And in order to be a leader rooted in love, you have to love yourself, right. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself, which means that you also need to heal yourself because you cannot come from a place of love and care for others until you heal yourself because if you’re carrying around these inner wounds usually rooted in childhood experiences and traumas. We all have some level of PTSD. Things happened in each of our lives. Life is difficult enough, so if you haven’t processed that, and if you haven’t healed those traumas then you will be coming from a place of fear, and from a place of triggering, and set off an amygdala hijack.

Timothy: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s that me-we continuum. It’s a continuum from the me to the we as a team, and as a leader trying to do that well requires a certain level of self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Raj: Which also will include vulnerability, right, love yourself and love others. You’re going to be willing to be open with them and be vulnerable with and show where you need help or your challenges that you face.

Timothy: Yeah. Which leads to the next letter, F, which is flexible, that ability to be vulnerable, flexible, that ability to move and shift appropriately, and have that fluidity of how you think and how you empower and enable your team is, I think, an important part, and hence the F in the SELFLESS.

Raj: Right. So, you show up with the right energy for that situation, so you’re cultivated, as you know, I wrote a book called Shakti Leadership which was about integrating the masculine and feminine. So, that’s kind of the strength and the love, if you will, not to generalize. And it’s not talking about men and women. It’s just talking about masculine energy, feminine energy. I mean that’s kind of rooted in certain sets of things, so it’s about integrating those. And then, we also have a further two dimensions, which is kind of the higher self and the child self. So, there’s the wisdom, the parent side of ourselves, or the divine side, and all the wisdom, the purpose, the meaning, the sense of other, interconnectedness. And then, there’s the joy and sort of sense of wonder and curiosity that comes from the child energy.

The healthy adult human being is one who has integrated all of these. So, you’ve got the healthy parent, the healthy father in there, strength, courage, focus, resilience, discipline, structure and the healthy mother, compassion, empathy, unconditional love, caring, inclusiveness, forgiveness. Then, you have the wise elder energy, meaning purpose, big picture, systems thinking, AND the curiosity and joy of a healthy child, the fun. Without that, you don’t get innovation. You don’t get creativity. So, you need to cultivate all of those, a phrase we use; ‘the wise fool of tough love’. You become the wise fool of tough love, which means you’ve cultivated all four of those energies. And you have within you all of those. You develop and I develop, like my tendency might be always to come from wisdom and loving, which means I need to dial up my toughness and my foolishness because we, all of us have some defects.

But I can do that. There are ways I can cultivate those things and become conscious of them. And now, it’s like I’ve got a full set of golf clubs, and I encounter a situation and I know if I show up with toughness here, it’s only going to make it worse. I need to show up with love or I need to show with wisdom, or I need to just lighten the atmosphere. That’s the flexibility.

Timothy: Well, I love the fact that some of these, what people would call spiritual traditions are actually now getting anchored more in the science of adult development, the work of Kegan and Lahey around vertical development of human beings, of adults. How do adults develop? What are the stages adults go through as they literally grow up? And often we start to think about that in terms of you’re a level 4 and I’m only a level 3 or I’m a level 5 and you can’t understand me because you’re a level 3. And the reality is that you want somebody who’s balanced across all of those levels. So, I like that the way you just blended that and saying that a fully functional adult is someone who’s able to be very comfortable working across multiple levels, and that’s really important.

Raj: Yeah. And I think if you look at the greatest leaders that we admire, I mean Dalai Lama embodies to me the wise fool of tough love. He’s incredibly wise, and then he’s always giggling, and saying, and playful, and of course, he’s incredibly strong dealing with Tibet all these years, and loving. So, it’s all of those. I think great leader, Gandhi was like that, too. So, that’s the F.

Timothy: And now, the next, L is long-term orientation. So, this is where you start to say someone who’s got a vision and is able to look over time, and connect the things we’re doing today to the direction of the true north that we’re trying to, and communicate that very, very clearly, and come up with tangible plans of how they’re going to connect what’s going on today to that long-term vision.

Raj: Right. And that can actually go, it needs to go even further. So, what is the time horizon of most leaders? The typical CEO lasts, what, three or five years, I think, in a public company, somewhere in that area.

Timothy: I think it’s 4.25 years, something like that.

Raj: Well, somewhere in that range. Now, if you’re a leader who’s just looking at it as, I finally made it to CEO, and this is my chance now to accumulate as much as I can before I’m out of here then you’re going to have a short time horizon. You’re going to do things in the short term in order to achieve those numbers and make your stock options worth something and so forth. And you are knowingly going to plant seeds for future destruction and future harm because you have that time horizon and yourself, looking at only your selfish interest out of that. A true leader is one who’s thinking beyond their own career, to be sure. They’re setting up the company, and I forget which author wrote about that, but they said the success of a leader needs to be judged by the success of their successor. In other words, how do they set up the company to be successful outside of their own tenure there, and that’s what happens after they’re gone, so certainly that are the minimum.

But beyond that, we need to think in terms of developmental decades, if not centuries, as you know there’s the tradition in some of the native tribes in the Iroquois Confederacy in the northeast of the U.S. here, which was that anybody who became a chief had to think about every decision considering the next seven generations to the extent that we’re able to gauge that, but that’s the idea. It’s way beyond your lifetime. You’re playing a long game here. You’re playing kind of an Infinite Game as Simon Sinek’s new book is called. It’s not just about winning narrowly defined in this time period, it’s about the ability to continue this company, and continue doing the great things you are doing, we’re doing them indefinitely.

Timothy: Well, I think Jim Collins gave an interesting example. He said the difference between clock builders and time tellers. And this idea that a good leader leaves behind clocks that will exist long beyond the time they’re there versus a more short-term focused leader is like telling people the time, not enabling them to have that other capability. It’s what I like to refer to sometimes as ‘Responsible Stewardship’. And I do think it’s an interesting challenge over what responsible stewardship means today, and particularly the time horizons because I do think that there’s one argument that brings the seven generations question, we’ve got to be thinking about the seven generations when we make a decision, and then very practically, the medium term, the next three to five years, where do I want to bring this organization, and keep that focus there while not getting lost in the pressure of the short-term.

And a strong leader with a long-term focus manages to resist a lot of, there’s a lot of pressure that comes, especially now in the time of coronavirus and costs are what they are, but revenue is going away, a lot of pressure right now to make some short-term decisions. But if one is looking with a stewardship and a responsible stewardship mindset, and you’re looking out over the next two or three years or five years, and how do I make sure this organization’s thriving in that timeframe. I’ve got to find some balance there and being able to hold both those perspectives is what I think really is an incredibly important characteristic of a long-term oriented leader.

Raj: Right. And that then connects to the remaining three I’ll just mention together, so it’s E, emotional intelligence, S, spiritual intelligence, and S, systems intelligence. They all go together. Let’s start with systems first because that not only involves thinking long term in terms of time, but also understanding that everything is interconnected and interdependent. And what are the consequences, all of the consequences, of these decisions that we’re making, and how do we make sure that every part of the system that we are part of ultimately thrives and recognizing that this planet is one system. And that, of course, every system is nested within a larger system. we need to understand at a deep level how all of these things function together. And make sure leaders actually have that capacity. And they won’t teach it in business school, by the way, I think this is almost like malpractice.

Timothy: I’ve seen it manifested in some companies where I work, for a client right now, we’re having this discussion about the difference between complicated and complex. There are complicated problems, and in sense complicated problems can be solved. With a linear mindset we just work away, and we will solve the problem. When you get into the world of systems, you get into complexity, and you get into a place where maybe there are non-linear approaches that need to be taken. The Otto Scharmer, or Joseph Jaworski Theory U approach of listen, if we could figure this out, we would, but we can’t. So, we need to really shift the mindset we bring to problem solving to say we need to understand the system, and we need to get multiple points of view in the room. We need to be thinking about multiple different scenarios. And it’s a different way of problem solving. So, this systems level thinking is really about dealing with very complex problems that can’t be solved linearly.

Raj; And what every company faces those, and we all face those collectively. So, we have to make sure. Otherwise, we are part of the problem. We are adding to all of the challenges that we face if we don’t take a systems lens on it. And then, the other two emotional intelligence, of course, we don’t need to explain very much, but knowing yourself, and interpersonal, inner awareness about your own emotional state, and then how do you, on the interpersonal intelligence as well, and those are essential qualities. In Daniel Goldman’s work and many others now, that’s pretty much front and center, we’re recognizing, we used to only care about IQ. Usually, as the smart people became the leaders, they could deliver the numbers, but now we recognize eight or nine kinds of intelligence.

The good news about this is the recognition, of other intelligences like spiritual intelligence; understanding all the meaning and purpose in our life, and so that deeper connecting, being connected to a deeper source, whether you are religious or spiritual, however you think about that. The great news about all of these last three years, unlike your IQ, which is fixed pretty much at birth, you’re born with a certain genetic capacity for analytical intelligence as far as I know but it can only go down or you can sustain it by making sure it stays sharp, but these other three can be grown by leaps and bounds. You can increase your emotional intelligence dramatically as with the other two as well, and they ultimately matter more, and they can be developed.

Timothy: Well, the emotional intelligence one I like because it comes back to the me and the we question. In essence at one level when Goldman’s talking about emotional intelligence, he’s talking in a sense about my own self-awareness and my own self-management, how good am I at doing those kinds of things. And then, there’s the we element, which is my empathy, the ability I have to sort of have empathy and social awareness of how others are feeling. And the relationship management, how do I create good, positive relationships with the people around me. And so, it’s again to the me and the we woven together. And when we think about those as important leadership qualities that’s what we mean by the emotional intelligence and the me and the we.

Raj: Yeah. And then, I think systems thinking brings in the world as well, so it’s me, we, world, again. All of those …

Timothy: It goes right back to that. And then, I know we’ve both had time with Cindy Wigglesworth, and her book on the spiritual IQ, and the idea of spiritual intelligence. And how would you summarize that, Raj, as opposed to let’s say emotional intelligence?

Raj: Well, I think it’s understanding the role of meaning and purpose in our lives. I think to me that’s sort of the essential aspect of spiritual intelligence that there is something that motivates us, drives us from a deep place we don’t quite understand it. You don’t have to believe in heaven or hell. You don’t have to believe in reincarnation as people in India do and many others do. And yet, there’s still something within us that is transcendent. That says it’s more than what we see in the material world. It’s more than your lifespan. There’s something, we are wired to care, and we are wired also for transcendence to think about the bigger picture beyond what is immediately going to impact us, narrowly, in our lifetime. So, there is that spiritual hunger that exists inside most of us, hunger for meaning and purpose or transcendence, or grace.

It is the source, most potent fuel we have inside us, but we never tap into that because we just tap into the material needs and the survival needs and all of that. What really causes people like [inaudible] others, anybody who does great things in the world, they are driven by something deeper.

Timothy: Yeah. I think at one level, it is in a sense that this switch from living in an egocentric kind of way where our level of awareness is very tight around the me and my needs to, in a sense, whatever one wants to call it, one’s higher self, higher presence, higher power, spirit of life, God, the sense of God, human beings across the centuries in our spiritual traditions have one thing constant, which is that evolution; the dying to that small self and growing into that larger sense of self where truth and goodness, and empathy and compassion come much more naturally. And you sense that when you’re in the presence of someone who’s a little more on that side than not.

Raj: Sure.

Timothy: And that in itself creates a lot of trust, and connection when somebody authentically is coming from that place, you sense it.

Raj: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Timothy: Well, Raj, that’s been a great acronym for us, SELFLESS. And we’ve gone through basic definition of leadership, what we think conscious leadership is, and then some of the traits that exist around it. And next time we’ll delve a little deeper into all of this. But, thanks so much for your energy and enthusiasm today.

Raj: Thank you, Timothy. I always look forward to our conversations. It’s the highlight of my week.

Timothy: Wonderful. So, thank you, everybody, for listening and if you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to reach us on our website, There’s a little form where you can submit your feedback. And as always, feel free to click the subscribe button on whatever device or service you’re using to listen to this podcast. Thanks so much. We’ll see you next week.



bottom of page