Introduction to Conscious Leadership: Where did I put that box?

Introduction to Conscious Leadership: Where did I put that box?

storage boxes

Hannah Butler, Knowledge Exchange Director for EMCC UK, shares her learning journey, as well as resources, in the area of conscious leadership.

Hannah Butler, EMCC Knowledge Exchange Director, talks about conscious leadership with guests Paul Byrne of The Leadership Circle, Karim Hirani of BTS Coach, and Joel Monk of Coaches Rising.

I met Karim Hirani (BTS Coach) around 8 months ago, when I first started my role with EMCC UK. In our first meeting I was struct by Karim’s quiet, thoughtful, and so very present approach to our conversation. I left the first meeting as though I had been in therapy, yet we had clearly focused on strategy throughout. He talked about conscious leadership, a subject I had read around over the years, so I had some knowledge. However, I was slightly short of where I would like to be to hold a conversation with anyone, let alone Karim. He suggested conscious leadership as something we might introduce to our members, and I told him, ‘Count me in!’

Over the last two months I have read books (Karim and Jerry’s specifically) and research articles, and watched countless YouTube clips. This short piece walks you through my learning journey to give you an insight into my conscious leadership travels, and invites you to take your own.

It has been an eventful year to say the least; many of us have struggled and triumphed throughout. Conscious leadership offers us a choice in how we show up, and this choice determines how we feel about the outcome we are faced with, and in some cases adds into or determines the outcome. Watching the Conscious Leadership Group on YouTube was my starting point.

Where am I? Indeed where am I? This question was the first one I was presented with, and I immediately began to ask myself the question through a number of lenses. Knowing I like to wrestle with a questions in my map of the world before I invite any client to wrestle with theirs, I explored it through the lenses of family, work, volunteering and friendship.

This broke down into a simple idea for me, and in the words of my dear friend Auriel Majumdar, ‘Am I still playing in the puddles?’ Or am I sat on the windowsill looking outside at the other kids, wishing for something else? As it turns out, I am above the line through many lenses, splashing in bright yellow wellies. Though I have to say in some areas I felt close to tipping point, and recognised this is a piece of deep and deliberate practice for myself.

Suzanne F Ward (2016) describes conscious leadership as a way of ‘conducting responsibilities’ as a leader. This suggests that leaders choose how they go about their interactions and business, in a practised craft of conscious leadership. Working consciously, we can see how this might bring wonderful rewards in terms of personal, social and economic return. Ward describes conscious leadership as a combination of science and art, where the delivery of organisational outcomes is entwined with human experience, and is therefore symbiotic. If we are to move towards the ultimate good, people and business outcomes might benefit from being viewed as mutually beneficial.

Change is inevitable; nothing stays the same; life, work, family and friendships are not static. They are like the earth – ever revolving and evolving. Rapid change is a symptom of modern society, or so we are told. It is faster, more complex, more ambiguous. Anderson and Anderson state: ‘Change is happening everywhere; its speed and complexity are increasing; and the future success of our organizations depends on how successful leaders are at leading that change. In today’s marketplace, change is a requirement for continued success, and competent change leadership is a most coveted executive skill’ (Anderson & Anderson, 2010).

Is it? Is it really? Or is this a story we tell ourselves, increasing our suffering and depleting our ability to cope? Anderson and Anderson (2010) also tell the story of the benefits of conscious leadership and adopting mindful approaches to work with people and business in this VUCA environment.

The 4 Greatest Coaching Conversations (Conner & Hirani, 2019) provides an alternative approach to developing our consciousness: BRIT – Be, Relate, Inspire, Think. Be, as in being, the conscious self, was my first chapter. I enjoyed the part where Conner and Hirani described two conversations, one ‘in the box’ and one ‘out of the box’. In the box (below the line), the coachee might describe feelings of boredom, frustration, anxiety, etc. Out of the box (above the line), the coachee might describe feelings of energy, confidence or clarity. A box rather than a line. I explored this metaphor and reflected on coaching conversation with my clients both in and out of the box. What works for me, the box or the line? in truth BOTH!

My final thoughts are: How I might use this learning to support and enable clients? One metaphor I often use is that of a shelf with boxes on it. The shelf holds the story (the line), with boxes full of content, some tightly sealed, some open and bursting, some barren and broken, some so heavy the shelf is wobbling. As I wonder, I ask is the shelf a metaphor for ‘the line’ and the boxes contain what brings us life, energy, joy, and what depletes us.

I guess the question and the beautiful challenge is – where is the shelf? How and where do we hold our shelf? And what work do we do when a box happens to fall? What are our tightly sealed boxes, and what boxes are as light as a feather filled with joy?

So I invite you to investigate conscious leadership and explore your shelf and boxes. Go out, get your wellies, on and play.


Anderson, L. A., & Anderson, D. (2010), Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results Through Conscious Change Leadership. San Francisco: Pfeiffer

Conner, J., & Hirani, K. (2019), The 4 Greatest Coaching Conversations. London: Nicholas Brearley Publishing

The Conscious Leadership Group (15 November 2015), Locating Yourself, A Key To Conscious Leadership, retrieved from YouTube

Ward, S. (2016, Vol 104), The Art and Science of Conscious Leadership, Aorn Journal, 383-385

Image: Samantha Hurley