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The 15 Commitments of CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP

When leaders are below the line, they are closed and defensive, and when they are above the line, they are open and curious.


Once leaders develop self-awareness and locate themselves accurately below the line, they create the possibility for shifting, a master skill of conscious leaders.

Shifting is moving from closed to open, from defensive to curious, from wanting to be right to wanting to learn, and from fighting for the survival of the individual ego to leading from a place of security and trust.

Creativity, innovation, and collaboration (all keys to high-level problem solving) occur best when we operate above the line. In fact, they don’t occur at all below the line, where it is necessary to be if your physical well-being is threatened and you need to fight, flee, freeze, or faint

Above the line leaders are more engaged and create environments with much higher levels of engagement among their team members.

For us, commitment is a statement of “what is.” From our perspective, you can know your commitments by your results, not by what you say your commitments are. We are all committed. We are all producing results. Conscious leaders own their commitments by owning their results.

In our experience great leaders pay more attention to how conversations are occurring than to what is being talked about.

Conscious leaders experience what is here now and respond in the moment. They are not trapped in old patterns. They are free to lead and serve others, their organization, the world, and themselves.


Becoming aware of which state we are in at any moment is the first key to shifting.


If I am in the To Me consciousness, I see myself “at the effect of,” meaning that the cause of my condition is outside me. It is happening To Me. Whether I see the cause as another person, circumstance, or condition, I believe I’m being acted upon by external forces.

We call this To Me mindset “victim consciousness”. Those operating in the To Me victim consciousness are constantly looking to the past to assign blame for their current experience. They search for answers that assign responsibility for the cause. The gateway for moving from To Me to By Me is responsibility surrender, or letting go, is the gateway to move from By Me to Through Me


To Me leaders think that the world should be a certain way, and if it isn’t, something needs to be different. The By Me leader chooses to see that everything in the world is unfolding perfectly for their learning and development. Nothing has to be different. They see that what is happening is for them. To do that, a leader chooses curiosity and learning over defensiveness and being right. The key to Through Me is that leaders begin to notice something beyond themselves.


Leading from Above the Line Leadership operates from one of two places: above the line or below the line. Above the line leadership is open, curious, and committed to learning. Below the line leadership is closed, defensive, and committed to being right. Leading from below the line is not wrong; it is a common state. As a regular practice, conscious leaders notice when they are below the line and choose to shift to above the line. The Four Ways of Leading model shows the states of consciousness leaders operate in: To Me, By Me, Through Me, and As Me. Leaders are well served by focusing first on the shift from To Me to By Me leadership.

COMMITMENT ONE Taking Radical Responsibility

Blame is a powerful motivator. Like its cousins guilt and shame, it is one of the most common forms of motivation used by leaders, parents, politicians, and clergy. Blame, shame, and guilt all come from the same source: TOXIC FEAR. The pattern is simple and predictable:

  1. Something doesn’t go the way we think it should.
  2. We become stuck in fear (often the anger that we feel is masking our fear).
  3. We blame others, ourselves, or the system.
  4. Relationships solidify around the roles of victim, villain, and hero.
  • Victims they complain, either overtly or covertly, subtly or loudly, that “this isn’t fair.”
  • Villains find fault and place blame
  • Heroes habitually over function and take more than their share of responsibility. in many organizations are promoted, compensated, and enshrined as examples of doing “what it takes” to get the job done but they also leave a negative residue: resentment and bitterness, along with low learning states, demotivation, and eventual demoralization. These toxic residues lead to high turnover and low innovation, creativity, and collaboration.

Self-blame is equally as toxic as blaming others, or circumstances, and it is NOT taking responsibility The opposite of blaming is taking responsibility. So the first step in taking responsibility is to shift from believing that the world should be a particular way to believing that the world just shows up. Second, we need to shift from rigidity, close-mindedness, and selfrighteousness to curiosity, learning, and wonder.


  • Taking full responsibility for one’s circumstances (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) is the foundation of true personal and relational transformation.
  • Blame, shame, and guilt all come from toxic fear.
  • Toxic fear drives the victim-villain-hero triangle, which keeps leaders and teams below the line.
  • This leads to high employee turnover and low innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
  • Conscious leaders and teams take full responsibility—radical responsibility—instead of placing blame.
  • Radical responsibility means locating the cause and control of our lives in ourselves, not in external events.
  • Instead of asking “Who’s to blame?”, conscious leaders ask, “What can we learn and how can we grow from this?”
  • Conscious leaders are open to the possibility that instead of controlling and changing the world, perhaps the world is just right the way it is. This creates huge growth opportunities on a personal and organizational level

COMMITMENT TWO Learning Through Curiosity

Four competencies trump all others as the greatest predictors of sustained success: self-awareness, learning agility, communication, and influence. Awareness and acceptance are the first two steps of all transformation.

One of our favorite models is the “Drift/Shift” model. We love it because it so represents our experience and the experience of many leaders. At the top of the model is presence. Presence is the state of being here now in a non-reactive, non-triggered way. When a leader is present they are totally available to the moment and to what the moment is bringing to them. In presence they can be with what is occurring without being distracted by their personality, drama, anxiety, blame or beliefs about scarcity. In presence a leader can be with others, really be with others. They can listen, empathize, confront and create. In presence a leader can innovate, improvise and respond from their highest self, their genius. When two people in a relationship are in presence they can co-create, play and problem solve with incredible dexterity. Presence is the space from which intimate partners can really experience connection and intimacy.


When something happens we “drift” out of presence. Instead of being in the flow or in the zone, in peak performance, we are now just off. The issue for leaders is not “will we drift?” We will! The issue is how long do we stay in a drift before we shift. Everyone drifts, not everyone shifts. The shift move we want to introduce you to at this point is wonder.

Wonder is a very different experience. It is not about figuring anything out. It begins with a willingness to explore and step into the unknown, which involves taking a risk and letting go of control—not an easy commitment.


All information falls into three buckets:

  1. What I know
  2. What I know I don’t know
  3. What I don’t know I don’t know

When it comes to self-awareness, conscious leaders spend their time in the unknown by opening themselves up to feedback. One of our favorite and most reliable forms of feedback is results.

Commitment is not about willpower but instead devotion.

Commitment 1 and Commitment 2 are really the foundation for being a “By Me” leader. Commitment 1 says I’m done blaming and complaining and I see myself as the source of my experience. Commitment 2 says I value learning over being right. I value growing over the survival of my identity. I choose curiosity and wonder. These two commitments open a world of possibilities.


  • Self-awareness and learning agility are known to create sustained success in leaders—they form the foundation of conscious leadership.
  • Conscious leaders are passionately committed to knowing themselves, which is the basis of their willingness to live in a state of curiosity.
  • At any point, leaders are either above the line (open, curious, and committed to learning) or below the line (defensive, closed and committed to being right).
  • Being “right” doesn’t cause drama, but wanting, proving, and fighting to be “right” does.
  • Even though conscious leaders get defensive like everyone else, they regularly interrupt this natural reactivity by pausing to breathe, accept, and shift.
  • The issue is not whether we will drift but how long we stay in a drift before we shift.
  • There are two kinds of shift moves: those that change our blood and body chemistry (such as conscious breathing and changing our posture) and those that change our consciousness (such as speaking unarguably and appreciation).

COMMITMENT THREE Feeling All Feelings

Feelings are one of the universe’s greatest gifts to human beings. They add richness and color to life. When emotions are understood (they are simply sensations occurring in and on the body), enjoyed and released (locate, describe, breathe, move, and vocalize), and wondered about with curiosity (what is this here to teach me?), they are a leader’s essential ally.


  • Great leaders learn to access all three centers of intelligence: the head, the heart, and the gut.
  • Resisting and repressing feelings is standard operating procedure in most organizations. Feelings are viewed as negative and a distraction to good decision-making and leadership.
  • Conscious leaders know that feelings are natural and expressing them is healthy. They know that emotion is energy in motion; feelings are simply physical sensations.
  • The five primary emotions are anger, fear, sadness, joy, and sexual feelings. Knowing how to express them all of the way through to completion helps us develop emotional intelligence.
  • Each primary emotion has a unique energy pattern and set of sensations in and on the body.
  • Every feeling we experience invites us in a specific way to grow in awareness and knowing.
  • Repressing, denying, or recycling emotions creates physical, psychological, and relationship problems.
  • To release emotion, first locate the sensation in the body (“What are the bits doing?”), allow or accept the sensation (“Can I allow or even welcome these sensations?”), and then match your experience with your expression (“What sound or movement does this sensation want?”).
  • Conscious leaders learn to locate, name, and release their feelings. They know that feelings not only add richness and color to life but are also an essential ally to successful leadership.

COMMITMENT FOUR Speaking Candidly

For us candor is a simple yet profound commitment to reveal and not conceal. Our commitment is to reveal our stories, holding them lightly and expressing them lovingly. At any moment we are either choosing to reveal or to conceal. When we choose revealing we’re choosing trust. When we choose concealing we’re choosing control. Trust is rooted in love and control is rooted in fear. We believe love-based organizations win over fear- based organizations.


  • Leaders and teams have found that seeing reality clearly is essential to being successful.
  • In order to see reality clearly, leaders and organizations need everyone to be truthful and not lie about, or withhold, information. They need candor.
  • Candor is the revealing of all thoughts, feelings, and sensations in an honest, open, and aware way.
  • Speaking candidly increases the probability that leaders and teams can collectively see reality more clearly.
  • Withholding is refraining from revealing everything to all relevant parties.
  • Withholding also decreases energy in leaders, which often shows up as boredom or lethargy in them and relational disconnection in the team.
  • Rather than withholding, conscious leaders practice revealing. They reveal not because they are right, but because they wish to be known.
  • Through this transparency, they create connection and open learning.
  • Conscious listening is one of the most important skills for effective leadership: by identifying our listening “filters,” we can let go of them and become fully present to the expression of the other person.
  • Conscious listening takes courage: we must listen for the content (head center), the emotions (heart center), and base desire (gut center) being expressed by the other person.
  • It is best to start with candor in relationships only when you have a shared commitment to it, along with the necessary skills, including being able to speak unarguably

COMMITMENT FIVE Eliminating Gossip

Conscious leaders recognize the cost of gossip to their organizations and shift so that expression is done instead with candor and authentic feelings. They free up creative energy and collaboration, which can’t exist while gossip is present.


  • Even though gossip has long been a part of office culture, it is a key indicator of an unhealthy organization and one of the fastest ways to derail motivation and creativity.
  • Gossip is a statement about another made by someone with negative intent or a statement the speaker would be unwilling to share in exactly the same way if that person were in the room.
  • Gossip is an attempt to validate the righteousness of a person’s thinking and is below the line; it is not a comment designed to serve the person being discussed.
  • People gossip to gain validation, control others and outcomes, avoid conflict, get attention, feel included, and make themselves right by making others wrong. In short, people usually gossip out of fear.
  • If you gossip, clean it up by revealing your participation in the gossip to everyone involved.
  • Use the issue-clearing model as a tool to separate fact from story and to learn to speak directly to one another.
  • When leaders and teams learn to speak candidly with each other, they benefit from the direct feedback about issues within the organization that otherwise could derail creative energy and productive collaboration.

COMMITMENT SIX Practicing Integrity

We believe that integrity is essential to conscious leadership. It is foundational. In fact, we contend that without it, there is no conscious leadership. Most of us would agree that integrity is important to leadership, but our view is that integrity goes far beyond simply “doing the right thing.” It is living a life of wholeness. Conscious leaders who are in integrity are whole leaders. Whole leaders have a better chance to create teams and organizations that operate in integrity and to lead them to creativity, production and success.


  • Integrity is the practice of keeping agreements, taking responsibility, revealing authentic feelings, and expressing unarguable truths. It is essential to thriving leaders and organizations.
  • Integrity is not defined here as conforming to a moral or ethical code, but rather as facilitating wholeness and congruence.
  • Integrity is an unbroken flow of energy and life force, congruence between what is experienced and expressed, and alignment with life purpose.
  • Organizations have a natural flow of energy, but when it is interrupted by integrity breaches, leadership is dampened and employee engagement decreases.
  • Conscious leaders are masters at managing energy, which leads to an organizational culture that is alive, engaged, passionate, on purpose, creative, innovative, intuitive, clear, visionary, playful, relaxed, and refreshed.
  • There are four pillars of integrity: taking radical responsibility (Commitment 1), speaking candidly (Commitment 4), feeling all feelings (Commitment 3), and keeping agreements (Commitment 6).
  • Conscious leaders are impeccable with their agreements. They make clear agreements, keep them, renegotiate them when needed, and clean them up when broken.
  • Integrity is fundamental to conscious leadership and successful thriving organizations.

COMMITMENT SEVEN Generating Appreciation

Appreciation allows us to recognize the unique gifts of both others and ourselves. It also supports the expansion of what is most valuable in individuals and organizations. Conscious leaders become masters at giving as well as receiving appreciation and are committed to showing gratitude even in the midst of great challenge and conflict.


  • Committing to appreciation, along with avoiding entitlement, helps leaders and organizations grow value and connection in the workplace.
  • Appreciation is comprised of two parts: sensitive awareness and an increase in value.
  • Entitlement arises when rewards and benefits become an expectation instead of a preference.
  • Living in appreciation has two branches: being open to fully receiving appreciation and being able to fully give appreciation.
  • For most, it is more difficult, and people are more afraid, to receive appreciation than to give it. To avoid receiving appreciation, people strategically deflect it.
  • Masterful appreciation is sincere, unarguable, specific, and succinct.
  • Appreciation allows the unique gifts in the community to be recognized.

COMMITMENT EIGHT Excelling in your Zone of Genius

Genius equals juice. The more we live and work in our genius the more the juice of life is flowing through us into the world. As many have said, it is not our failure that we are most afraid of but rather our magnificence. Conscious leaders face the fear of stepping fully into their magnificence. They embrace their magnificence, live and work in their genius and give their gift to the world.


  • Conscious leaders build an organization that allows all team members to realize their full potential—and they support and inspire others to do the same.
  • People tend to work and live in four zones: incompetence, competence, excellence, and genius.
  • Conscious leaders are committed to maximizing their zone of genius, where their full magnificence and creativity can be expressed without hesitation.
  • Unconscious leaders get stuck in the zones of excellence, competence, and incompetence, never living up to and expressing their extraordinary brilliance.
  • The Upper Limits Problem, named by Gay Hendricks, identifies the fears and beliefs that keep people from stepping into their zone of genius.
  • We can program our nervous systems to allow for greater happiness, fulfillment, and relational connectedness.
  • Becoming aware of our unique giftedness, as well as the environments where that is most valued, (the Best Stuff Exercise) helps us spend more and more of our time thriving.
  • Conscious leaders who spend time with team members to assess, understand, and appreciate their own unique genius qualities and talents create organizations that excel on all levels.

COMMITMENT NINE Living a Life of Play and Rest

Possibly nothing we teach is more mysterious, more resisted and more transformational and healing than the commitment to play and to maximize energy through honoring the rhythms of life. This is one of the great lessons children have to teach all leaders committed to consciousness. They are masters of this commitment and beneficiaries of its gifts.


  • Creating a life of play, improvisation, and laughter allows life to unfold easily and energy to be maximized.
  • Play is an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and suspends self-consciousness and a sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.
  • An imposed nose-to-the-grindstone culture will lead to higher levels of stress, guilt, employee burnout and turnover.
  • Energy exerted with this type of “hard work” is wrought with effort and struggle, whereas energy exerted through play is energizing.
  • Most leaders resist play because they think they will fall behind if they aren’t seriously working hard.
  • Organizations that take breaks to rest and play are actually more productive and creative. Energy is maximized when rest, renewal, and personal rhythms are honored.
  • Conscious leaders who value and encourage an atmosphere of play and joy within themselves and in their organizations create highfunctioning, high-achieving cultures.
  • Workaholism is just like any other addiction, and it is an epidemic in the corporate world.

COMMITMENT TEN Exploring the Opposite

When we let go of the righteousness of our beliefs that drive us to live in the drama triangle, we open to curiosity and align with our deepest desires. We live our lives free of “shoulds” and “have tos” and enjoy both great freedom and peace.


  • Exploring the opposite means being open to the notion that the opposite of your story (thoughts, beliefs, opinions) could be as true as or truer than your story.
  • It is not the issue itself that causes pain, but your interpretation of it.
  • Conscious leaders take responsibility for being the labeler of their experiences and their life, and they learn to question all their labels.
  • Conscious leaders practice simple ways to question the beliefs that cause suffering, starting with “Is it true?” and “Can I absolutely know it is true?”
  • The turnaround exercise allows leaders to practice shifting their beliefs from knowing to curiosity.
  • When conscious leaders let go of the righteousness of their beliefs, they open to curiosity and align with their deepest desires.

COMMITMENT ELEVEN Sourcing Approval, Control and Security

What if everything in this moment in your life is actually whole, perfect and complete? What if you are lacking nothing? Not just what if you believed you lacked nothing (which is a mind game) but what if your actual experience in this moment was that nothing was missing? How would you be? This commitment suggests that there is nothing missing— no lack—and that conscious leaders experience this moment by moment as they live and lead in the world.


  • Humans have core wants of approval, control, and security. All other wants are versions of these three basic desires, which show up in a multitude of ways.
  • Security is about survival, approval is about belonging and being part of something, and control is the ego’s last resort if it cannot achieve security through approval.
  • The challenge is not in having approval, control, and security, but in believing that they are missing. This causes people to seek these core desires outside themselves—somewhere “out there.”
  • The “If Only . . . I Would” exercise can help leaders wake up from the trance that their happiness is located outside themselves.
  • It’s not the wants but the “wanting” of something different that leads to an unsatisfying life.
  • All leaders at any moment are operating from one of two experiences: either they think they lack something and seek to get it from somewhere or someone, or they believe they are already whole, perfect, and complete and move in the world from love and creativity

COMMITMENT TWELVE Having Enough of Everything

For individuals committed to conscious leadership, the belief and experience of sufficiency creates a profound shift in their relationship with others and with life. These leaders shift to living life from a place of enough; not just for themselves, but for everyone.


  • Conscious leaders experience their lives as having enough of everything: time, money, love, energy, space, and resources.
  • The scarcity belief that there is “not enough” causes leaders to focus on making sure they get what is “theirs.”
  • The myths that feed scarcity are that there is never enough, more is better, and it will always be this way.
  • Conscious leaders notice this focus on the toxic myth of insufficiency and shift from a mentality of scarcity to one of sufficiency.
  • To unwind scarcity, conscious leaders notice their reference point and check in with themselves, actively challenging their beliefs.
  • Conscious leaders can practice checking in with their experience in the present moment, bringing attention to the physical body, and noticing the abundance of each moment.
  • To those committed to conscious leadership, the belief and experience of sufficiency creates a profound shift in their relationship with others, work, and life.

COMMITMENT THIRTEEN Experiencing the World as an Ally

Conscious leaders look at life through the perspective of learning and growth. They wonder about how everyone and everything; especially challenges and potential obstacles—are actually allies in their development.


  • Conscious leaders commit to seeing all people and circumstances as allies in their growth.
  • Unconscious reactive leaders view other people and circumstances as obstacles to getting what they want.
  • Most leaders start with this reactive mindset: they are convinced they will feel happy once they get what they want and if they can’t get what they want, it’s because others are standing in their way.
  • Rather than seeing all people as allies, unconscious leaders think either/or: “people are either with me or against me.”
  • This does not mean that competition is nonexistent, but that even competitors are supportive catalysts for growth and that adversaries can be extremely beneficial.
  • Challenges create the positive pressure often needed for conscious leaders to expand beyond the comfort zone and into their full magnificence.
  • Conscious leaders are able to shift out of the state of comparison to see everyone and everything as equally valuable.
  • This perspective recognizes that all people and circumstances are allies in learning and growth.

COMMITMENT FOURTEEN Creating Win for all Solutions

When conscious leaders experience an issue, problem, dilemma, or challenge, they explore possibilities with open curiosity and from a foundation of sufficiency and support to arrive at win-for-all solutions.


  • Win-for-all solutions are a goal of conscious leaders and organizations.
  • Conscious leaders commit to moving beyond the zero-sum game into a creative solution that serves all.
  • Unconscious leaders see situations as win/lose and create a culture that promotes competition and compromise.
  • Win-for-all solutions require the building blocks of the other conscious leadership commitments, providing a concrete example of how conscious leaders integrate all the commitments into a way of being in the world.
  • Within an organization, win-for-all coaching questions help create a culture that supports and encourages everyone.
  • The energy resulting from win-for-all collaboration allows solutions to be implemented quickly.
  • A win-for-all culture allows an organization to thrive as creativity, collaboration, vision, and achievement are optimized

COMMITMENT FIFTEEN Being the Resolution

Commitment 15 combines the mastery of several of the other commitments. As we become proficient in shifting from To Me to By Me consciousness, we move through our work and personal worlds seeing that everything is whole, perfect, and complete just as it is. There is no lack or problem. We can express our creativity in response to invitations from life to move what is in our world to even greater beauty, alignment, productivity, efficiency, and grace. For conscious leaders, this creative contribution flows effortlessly from the center of who they are. They are the resolution to what is missing in their world.


  • Being the resolution means that conscious leaders recognize what is missing in the world and view that as an invitation to become what is needed.
  • When unconscious leaders grow weary of an intense version of the victim-villain-hero triangle, they often shift to an “indifferent” experience of drama, characterized by apathy and resentment.
  • Many unconscious leaders, who have spent their entire careers problem-solving, delivering results, and pulling people along, often feel drained and want to disconnect.
  • Team members who don’t feel heard by unconscious leaders stop caring about making changes and give up on creating solutions that could benefit the organization.
  • Conscious leaders see what is missing, not from a perspective of lack, but of opportunity. They then follow a calling to respond to the perceived need.
  • Being the resolution takes place only from a conscious leader’s whole body YES!
  • Being the resolution incorporates the mastery of living from several of the other commitments and, once mastered, allows conscious leaders to move the world to greater beauty, alignment, productivity, efficiency, and grace


(V X D) + FS > R = C

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