17 Ways to Be a Better Leader
My favourite points from the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
Thanks to Michael Raspuzzi for the recommendation!
I’ve been working through this book for a few months. (My fast-paced brain gets a bit of anxiety from that statement). But it’s been one of the most impactful books for me because I was slow in reading, and more importantly, integrating its learnings into my life.
I remember Shiv Shukla told me something almost a year ago that has stuck with me since. “I spent a year reading 150 books. Then I spent a year reading 4. The latter year was better.”
The 15 commitments of conscious leadership was an experimentation journey for me. I tried a new way of reading books: a few at a time, over a longer period of time, where I tried to not extract takeaways but actions.
This post will contain some of the actions I took/am planning to take.
The philosophy of the book follows a simple framework: you’re either being a conscious leader or not. The “amount” of conscious or unconscious doesn’t matter as much as you determine which bucket you fall in [in the given moment].
It is easy to distort or make excuses for your position on a spectrum.
E.g., “I’m mostly being a conscious leader, but I’m leaning into an anxious bossy state slightly; so I’m somewhere in the middle”
By making it binary (conscious vs unconscious) you spark immediate reflection and self-awareness.
If you find yourself making excuses for your actions and travelling along a spectrum of labels, try to simplify it. Make a decision. It doesn’t matter what your exact coordinates are, just that you can accurately self-identify.
“Becoming aware of the state you’re in is the first step to shifting [your behaviour]”
Viewing things from an ‘energy expenditure’ perspective
I’ve tried to describe my experiences doing something through words like “drained” and “excited” vs “bad” and “good.” This shift has allowed me to locate patterns within my life that deplete my energy vs what’s fulfilling it.
Ask: ‘What data is powering my actions?’
When we operate on autopilot, we’re using old data. We’re not adapting to new situations that might be arising.
To lead “consciously” or “intentionally” we need to have the energy to adapt to new data/information. Energy management is a prerequisite.
Meditation + Yoga
Yes. This is a really basic recommendation. I hear it everywhere. And I’ve inconsistently integrated these into my life. Yet they have been key to my growth in my personal energy management.
Do you meditate every day? Exercise often?
If not ask yourself why. I’m sure you’ve heard it’s good. Why haven’t you built the habit?
Soak in the vastness of the universe…
“All drama in leadership and in life is caused by the need to be right”
Our brains make it super duper easy to want to protect our egos. We’re so caught up on our day-to-day lives and keeping our opinions afloat that we don’t often ponder the universe.
And when you think about it or listen to a podcast on it, the universe is MASSIVELY SCARY AND UNKNOWN.
I’ve always feared space, astronomy and anything that is far from earth because it’s so foreign that those concepts can hardly register in my brain.
Furthermore, if we look at the hyper short history of science, we realize how novel our ‘foundational ideas’ are. For example, we discovered the meteor that caused the dinosaur extinction during Bill Nye’s life 🤯.
By appreciating the little-we-know, it’s easier to remain open-minded about small things in your life. And it’s harder to subscribe to the story of being right, often.
Label physical spaces by utility
The book suggested a “responsibility corner” where you sit and take full responsibility for your contributions to a situation.
As a very spacial person (I’m heavily influenced by my physical environment), I LOVE this concept. Thus far, I have a reflection corner (I’m sitting in it now!) where I activate my flow state for writing, thinking and strategizing.
Some rules of thumb:
- Don’t send an email/message within 24 hours of being angry about something.
- Write out your thoughts (using a non-digital device; don’t be distracted) before making a large decision. Or even a medium decision. Sit on it.
- Don’t make drastic changes that affect people without consulting them. Sloooooow down.
- If you’re getting impulsive about the same things over and over, set a time in your calendar to think about this subject. Every time you get an impulsive thought, place it in the notes of your calendar invite to revisit later. It’s like setting an agenda for your future self while letting your present self enjoy the present.
- BREATHE. Calmness is advantageous for thoughtfulness.
The greatest gifts I’ve received in my life have been critical feedback (cookies are a close second). It’s allowed me to grow (in my behaviour and body fat in the cookie example).
I have had some oddly profound experiences at unexpected locations from this mindset. The subway. The organic grocery store. The public washroom next to the pharmacy. The Hudson’s Bay Christmas window display. The post office.
Everything in life leads to an adventure. Everything and everyone can give you a gift (intentionally or unintentionally).
Physically Locating Feelings
I’ve thought of feelings as these mushy-abstract-thingies that I generally don’t pay much attention to.
However, I shifted to focus on the physical attributes of my feelings, and it’s really aided in my self-awareness. (E.g. “I feel nervousness (butterflies) in my stomach”, “I feel anxious in my chest”, “I feel impatient in my trembling legs”, “I feel joy on my face”)
Pretend to be an elderly couple at the zoo
But with your mind…
Learn to observe. Be mesmerized by what is appearing in your mind. It’s like seeing a big giraffe at the zoo. It’s interesting.
I find the mental model of literally imaging my parents or grandparents at the zoo helps me know what mentality to observe my thoughts with.
Mirror your complaints about others to yourself
Ask “how is this true about me?” “how am I feeding into this complaint?”
Using complaining about other people or things as a trigger to reflect on your place in the situation. Let FOX, CNN and the world of media play the blame game. You play the self-awareness game (and maybe some sudoku because it’s very fun).
Share your experience, not your opinions. “I am having a thought…”, “I have this feeling…” , “I am not resonating with…”
In these cases, someone cannot argue against your thought, feeling or sensation occurring. They are happening.
The opinion formed around these experiences is an arguable thing, however. “I think we should do…” “Based on my feeling the action we should take is…” “I am not resonating with this so we should change it to…”
By sharing an unarguable thought you are keeping the discourse open. By sharing an arguable thought, you are sharing your opinion and you’re adding labels to the conversation (and you might gain the desire to be right).
Realize that life is better when you’re on top of things… right away
DO NOT WAIT FOR LATER. YOU WILL FORGET. DO NOT GIVE YOUR FUTURE SELF EXTRA OBLIGATIONS.
Make your calendar your adopted child. Keep it groomed. If you get a deadline, add it to your child right away. If something interesting is said during a meeting, put it inside your child to remind you to revisit it. If there is a question you want to ask someone in your next interaction, find this person within your child and note the question there.
OK this is getting weird…
Moral of the story: stay on top of your crap. If you can’t do this simply, try eliminating most of your productivity garbage.
If Ben Franklin can be a printer, scientist, founding father of the US, inventor, philosopher, founder of UPENN and every other job in Philadelphia at the time with a pen and paper… you can do most things today with a simple to-do list. Or calendar child.
Aggressively smell candles
Train yourself to appreciate the details of life.
Examples of ways you can achieve this:
- Eat cookies and try to observe every freaking flavour locked in that cookie
- Exercise and count every muscle contraction
- Grab some books and rub the paper. Notice the differences in paper across different books.
Check the weather… we’re not in the wild savannah
Our brains are wired to have the “if others approve of me they won’t kill me” mentality.
Yes, it feels like a dramatic way to put it — but there is $700B industry built on drama and entertainment sooooooo clearly drama works.
Thinking in extremes, and also realizing places like Canada get snowy and cold, might help your brain consciously realize human life has evolved.
Fill-in-the-blanks for what’s missing in your life
This is an exercise directly from the book I liked:
“If only ___________________, I would have security/control/approval”
What is the blank? What’s stopping you?
Think about it.
Are you living life as a human being or human doing?
Life as a human doing is productive. Life as a human being is fulfilling.
Quotes I like
“What is right doesn’t need to be defended. The equation 2+2 = 4 doesn’t require us to fight about its validity”
“People are giving us feedback all the time and the vast majority of it is never verbalized”
“Value growth over the survival of your identity”
“Breaking agreements with yourself undermines integrity just as much as breaking agreements with another”
“It is actually not the issue that causes the pain but your interpretation of it. Life doesn’t come with labels.”
“Humans have three core wants: approval, control and security”
“To experience scarcity, you must be outside of yourself and the present moment — anticipating the lack of something in the future or harbouring the lack of something from the past”
“Willingness to change is very different from knowing how to change, or further still, truly wanting to change.”
Ultimately, I think the ideas in this book can be derived from the practice of meditation. So if you will start somewhere, start here.