The Fundamentals of Conscious Leadership: What you need to know

The Fundamentals of Conscious Leadership: What you need to know

The OR Podcast

Conscious leadership. What is it? Why is it different? And why every leader and anyone responsible for leadership development should understand it.

Concious leadership, what is it and what do leaders and anyone in leadership development need to know? In this pod cast oi

Conscious Leadership – Interview with Steve McIntosh

In this podcast David talks with Steve McIntosh, co-author of ‘Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business’ about what conscious leadership is and why it matters, especially in todays world.

Steve McIntosh

Steve McIntosh

Steve McIntosh is the president of The Institute of President of the Institute of Cultural Evolution in Boulder, Colorado and has authored books like:

  • The presence of the infinite – The spiritual experience of beauty, truth and goodness
  • Integral Consciousness and the future of evolution
  • Evolutions Purpose
  • Developmental Politics
  • And co-author of Conscious leadership: Elevating humanity through business, together with John Mackey and Carter Phipps.

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Conscious Leadership Transcript

It’s an absolute pleasure. I really enjoyed the book by the way. Would you like to just take a minute just to introduce yourself what you do and kind of what led you to this collaboration on conscious leadership?

Sure, I’m a writer in the field of integral philosophy which is a philosophy that focuses on the evolution of human culture and consciousness through the coevolution of humanity and history. And I’ve been working in this field for about 20 years. I’ve had previous careers as an entrepreneur, a business executive, a corporate lawyer but integral philosophy and its impact in the world to try to help evolve culture. The main focus right now between myself and the boutique think tank, that I’m a co-founder and president of which mentioned the Institute for Cultural Revolution, Our focus is on overcoming hyperpolarization in the United States. And hopefully, you know, if we’re successful there, some of that work might also be helpful in other parts of the developed world that may be not as polarised as the US is currently, but certainly it’s a problem that every developed country faces to one degree or another. So, yeah, my background is in internal philosophy I’ve known John Mackey for, you know, the primary leader in this book. I’ve known him since 2013, he’s also a big fan of internal philosophy and it was really that field of interest that brought the three of us authors together.

Cool, interesting, interesting. So like conscious leaderships, what are the newer forms of leadership that’s emerged recently along with things like spiritual leadership and in terms of academic research volumes I kind of look this up and I find it quite interesting. And, you know, if you’re just starting to kind of it’s just starting to get interest there’s roughly about 2,190 research papers probably so far and actually that’s really low, for example spiritual leadership at the moment there’s roughly about 33,600 papers on that, servant leadership we’re talking about 54,500 research papers. And then when we go to things like transformational leadership we’re talking about 254,000 research papers. So for you, what is conscious leadership conscious of what and how is it different from other forms of leadership?

Yeah, that’s really cool. So one of the senses I got from the book is it’s kind of a systems thinking it’s seeing not only the business but the individuals within the business, all of the stakeholders and the wider kind of environment both the commercial environment, the capitalist environment if you like, but also why the global environment as a whole system and seeing it as a system and being a conscious part of that system and being there to do good within that system rather than just take from it, if you see what I mean, and that’s the kind of sense that I got from the book.

Sure, we’re certainly we’re informed by systems thinking we were all impressed with Peter Senge’s book, “The Fifth Discipline” that came out in the mid 90s and systems awareness and whole systems thinking is certainly an element of this larger umbrella the integral philosophy that I mentioned at the beginning but integral philosophy goes beyond what’s understood as systems thinking but certainly this recognition of larger systems and in a sense how the business world can be compared to an ecosystem wherein there’s an interdependence across the levels. That’s certainly informs our thinking at every level.

It’s interesting. So you say integral philosophy goes beyond that. In what way, how do you mean?

Well, it looks at the evolution of consciousness itself. What does that mean for people to evolve their consciousness? Of course, there’s many lines of development or wish your consciousness could evolve, right? You can learn to play the violin and that would evolve your consciousness. But we also recognise that human history is evolving and what’s more evolved doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely better in every way but we can certainly see lines of development by which humanity is advancing by which we can claim that these are unequivocally good. You know, that a society that has slavery and a society that has liberal values that one is better than the other, right? A society where women and men are treated equally and there’s racial equality. That’s a more evolved society than one that’s not. So, we’re willing to say what’s better although not in a linear way, not in an absolutistic way but certainly not in a way that just says relativistic and says, everything is the same. So, we wanna improve our definition of improvement itself, you know and not be Eurocentric and not be overly hierarchical but at the same also recognise that if we wanna make the world a better place we can’t flinch from saying what’s better and you know, what’s less.

That’s interesting because what you’re actually doing there is that you’re situating both business but also the being, being a person within history. So a history of humanity, I suppose, over time and taking a perspective on that, how things have developed, how intellects developed, how, the way that we’re behaving but also how we operate as a system both politically but also in terms of business and personally, and I think that’s quite important. I think quite often, we kind of we’re so caught up in the moment we forget to think about the evolution of our thinking, the evolution of our practise and it can inform so much and help us make better decisions I think in the kind of the long run. One of the things that intrigued me I suppose is how both conscious capitalism, conscious leadership and this idea of the evolution of humanity are connected. So for you, what is the connection between these?

Yeah, that’s interesting. So, actually what you’re saying is we’re kind of stepping back from the polarisation that can occur as people start to look at different systems and they start to especially older systems, what do is they tend to fix on the bad things, the things that they don’t like and then their thinking becomes polarised about that. And so kind of in research terms, one of the things that you seem to be engaging in here is both a level of objectivity of pulling back from where I’m at trying to understand how I’m viewing the world. What my view worldview is trying to re-pull back from there to actually see things in a more objective, more evidence-based way, but also engage in appreciative inquiry. And that all of those things together start to bring up a different type of understanding about where we sit in terms of our evolution and to enable us to kind of guide our way forward rather than just stumbling into it. Is that a fair pricey of–

That’s beginning for sure. I would say that, a lot of business leaders, because they’re pragmatic, right? They don’t wanna get involved in the culture war become, you know, tools of either of the extremes or however many extremes we might identify but the trouble right now, at least I can speak for America. And I certainly watched the news about what’s happening in Britain and in Europe, but I’m just speaking in terms of America, we have this intense culture war, right? That’s been going on for over 50 years, really but intensified the hyperpolarization the political polarisation the last 30 years has been significant. And it’s almost a symptom of that polarisation in that culture war we’ve recently had to endure the Trump administration which has in some ways accelerated history because the people who were spoiling for a fight in a sense, got it on both sides. And so this turbulent time right now and all these demands being placed on business, all of the the cultural warriors who would like to use the world of business as a battleground understandably. It’s a challenge to progress a business people who typically would like to or many at least would like to be non-committal or try to be centrist or try to be just relativist about it. And, all of those options are increasingly not viable. And part of the reason is that with the intense polarisation, it’s a little bit like if you trying to find the centre of a strong magnet, right? You’re pulled to one side or the other, and at least at this time in history, centrism, like used to be possible in America is really no longer, there’s no cultural barrier there. So, rather than promote centrism which is in a sense moving back to the middle of a kind of a technocratic modernity, we’re suggesting a viewpoint which, it begins as a viewpoint, but leads to a form of cultural identity that it tends to transcend and include progressivism on the best of it while it’s transcending the worst while including the best we call this the post progressive or integral perspective. But, cultural intelligence as an operative way of using this perspective is it something that people need to adopt a new worldview to use? What we’ve tried to do is make the idea of cultural intelligence, which is detailed in the back of the book. It’s mentioned in the last chapter and included in the appendix. What we try to do with this viewpoint is give it a handle, make it operational in a way that anybody can use it as a pragmatic tool. Any leader who’s interested in not being, you know captured and having their higher purpose devoted to some other higher purpose, that they may only be tangential to their business as higher purpose. That ability to be able to navigate that smoothly and not be clenched in opposition to any one form of cultural demand that’s a new leadership skill that’s just emerging. If you Google cultural intelligence, you may see both of the older definitions of it, which had been promoted by certain consultants or as reviewed in the Harvard Business Review Journal. For them I would say the cultural intelligence is more about a business manners. Like when, you know, an American go to Japan you’re supposed to present your business card by bowing. And I mean, it’s more than that, but it’s very much about how not to be a provincial, you know naive person when you’re dealing with international business relations. And that’s certainly worthwhile. And I would say any culturally intelligent person would be aware of that dimension of it but we take it to a further level where we’re talking about recognising the competing values that are in the different worldviews, that create the marketplace not only of ideas but increasingly are roiling, you know, the marketplace products and services. And it’s an ability that you know I could give you soundbites to describe it, but it’s ultimately something that does take some consideration and some practise and it takes some self reflection on how the worldview, these competing worldviews, traditionalism, modernity and progressivism right now, the major proponents of those worldviews seedy, other worldviews primarily for their pathologies, right? They see religious traditionalism as some kind of mythic fairytale, or they see progressivism as some sort of, you know, illiberal wokism right. Or if you’re a progressive, you see modernity is simply sort of greedy capitalists who were indifferent or socially Darwinistic, right? So, these negative characatures that the proponents of each one of these worldviews these people who wanna fight the culture war, that they have innocence created these blinders where you can’t see the downside of your own worldview. And you can only see the, you don’t see the the downsides of the other worldviews that ability to recognise that to recognise your own worldview. One of our intellectual influences is the developmental psychologist Robert Kegan, and Kegan has a method a simple method that he talks about what he means when he talks about psychological development or what we would call the evolution of consciousness. He talks about the ability to make subject into object meaning that a worldview that used to have you, you could still have that worldview, you can still use it but you can evolve yourself when you can step outside that worldview and see it from the outside as well. So that was what was once your entire subject that you had to kind of convert all meaning to fit within the parameters of that subjective awareness by being able to step outside of it effectively in seeing it from both perspectives both in and out that gives you the ability to both see how, in some ways you’re captured by it but also do appreciate why your intuition may have or your philosophical predilections may have drawn you to that worldview in the first place. I mean it, again, it’s not about rejecting your values. We’re not trying to change people’s values as much as we are to expand the scope of what they’re able to value, right? We just wanna add to their values and perhaps even aluminate these pathologies more clearly to the partisans of these different worldviews.

Which is what a good educational system would do anyway is help you to learn how to see your own values and question your own values and see whether they’re contingent or not. One of the things that I’m finding fascinating about what you’re talking about. So from my background, so I’m a psychologist. My interest is to do with uncertainty and how people and organisations deal with uncertainty. And one of the things that kind of comes out of a lot of that research is about paradoxes and how human beings deal or largely don’t deal with paradoxes, so that we quite often work as human beings we’re not very good at noticing them. We tend to polarise things, and we jumped from one path, one side of the paradox to the other side of the paradox, without even recognising that that’s what we’re doing quite often. And the centrism that you were talking about quite often and this is kind of a personal view can be almost an abrogation. It’s like, I can’t cope with this. So I’m just got to sit in I’m gonna be political and sit in the middle of all of this. And I’m not suggesting that’s what everybody’s trying to do but from an emotional point of view it can actually be a kind of a mechanism for trying to deal with this as opposed to what you seem to be describing of that kind of metacognitive state and we’re talking about levels of obstruction, and being able to, see ourselves in the system, see the system be able to progressive move out but still hold on to everything that’s in there. And one of the things that we certainly a lot of the research that I’ve been involved in around paradoxes is that ability to be able to hold at the same time, both sides of the paradox. Firstly, see it hold both things as saying, both of these can be true, even though they’re paradoxical now then how do we work within that in a way that actually moves us forward without actually flipping from one thing to another which is kind of the thing that you seem to be kind of describing that’s typically going on. And I certainly you see it politically.

Paradoxical leadership.

And they incorporate a lot of these polarity management consultants in the contributors to the anthology. And I have written quite a bit about polarity theory in my philosophy work. And it applies directly to the conscious leadership I would say a lot of it has to do with understanding that things which are valuable, things which attract both our self-interests and are greater than self-interest have what might be called at least by analogy, energetic properties, right? They motivate us, they draw us, they create demand, they create desire, right? But the values are not static or they’re not simply objective. We’ve known that since Play-Doh right? So, but that understanding the way value energises individual psychology, the way it energises human organisations the way it creates political will is a newly emerging field. Right? So what we might even try to begin to recognise is that you know, by loose analogy of physics of value or an examiners examination of the energetic properties as it relates to the motivation of individuals and the motivation of organisations and groups. And when we look at that, those energetic properties one of the things we begin to discover is that when it comes to especially the more intrinsic the value that that value is in a sense its value creating proposition is linked to a complimentary value. So, the good example would be real and ideal, right? Being a realist creates value, but a certain you know, idealists are needed to imagine how we can make things better. And ideally those two value creating concepts or approaches or perspectives are in a relationship of ideally challenge and support, right? Whereas idealism needs to be challenged with realism if it’s gonna be effective, right? But the same way realism could become cynical if there’s not some idealism challenged to keep making things better, we can also say the same thing about liberty and equality, right? Like any one of these polls, part of the the physics of this, these value circuits, if you will is that the one pole without the influence of the other can become pathological, right? So another value polarity that’s very useful for leaders to understand is competition and cooperation, right? That I would say that that is a permanently recurring or indestructible form of value relationship whereby cooperation without any individual excellence, without any incentive to try make things better with individual initiative that can become group thing. It can become static and pathological likewise competition without any sense of larger whole or constraining agreement it can become doggy dog and become pathological in its own way. But in especially in an organisation that values performance recognising that these two forms of value creating approach really ideally need each other they need to be in this deliberative or relationship of challenge and support. And so this is highly abstract and conceptual but it becomes very pragmatic quickly when we understand the challenges of paradoxes as you say, the simple paradox between the building and the protecting functions of an organisation, right? The paradox between accounting and marketing, right? That these ideally need to recognise that they’re mutually interdependent. And if they’re fighting with each other, I mean there are a certain amount of challenge, a certain amount of tension or opposition can be very important to this to the working of this value system but without also a degree of support, then that challenge becomes, you know it pushes the poles apart as opposed to leaving them in this relationship of a creative tension.

Well, tension actually creates a gradient and it creates energy. It also creates the place where things like innovation, creativity also come from, and it’s critical and quite a lot of organisations try to get rid of tension and trying to create a kind of a place of status quo or a place where everything’s fairly comfortable and things can just happen whereas without recognising the importance of tension, which is–

So just kind of a challenge here about this idea of conscious leadership. Is it not just a kind of a call for people to be more aware, more conscious or is it these conscious leadership really a thing?

Well, sure. There’s conscious capitalism, right? The book which John Mackey coauthor, Rajendra Sisodia, which came out in 2013 has some tenants, and it’s fairly systemic. It’s not simply a call to be good like I said, there are the four tenants of conscious leadership as they were laid out in that book. And as they were worked out over 30 years of developing this Whole Foods Market and as well as my leadership and business experience and harder fits our coauthor’s experience, these are our the four tenants, let me just tick them off. Right? So there’s a higher purpose, which means that it’s not just a mission statement or something idealistic that is just on the wall and nobody really pays attention to, conscious leaderships putting this idea of put purpose first, like the first chapter of “Conscious Leadership” emphasises how wherever there’s an exchange, wherever there’s a voluntary exchange there’s value being created and wherever there’s value being created then there’s some intrinsic connection that value can be associated with or traced back to. And that intrinsic making the world a better place. The goodness of that is really the higher part of the purpose, which serves as a kind of energising force within the organisation right? Everybody, these Maslovian needs for self-actualization are something that everyone needs regardless of their level of personal achievement, I would argue. And, being able to, let’s call it metabolise the energy of an authentic higher purpose fulfils the self actualization needs while also fulfilling the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy for people who work in companies. So, the idea that every human organisation needs to find and work with its higher purpose, to make sure that everybody in the organisation, not just everybody within it, you know the employees or the investors, but also the people who are the stakeholders of the organisation. So higher purpose is the first tenant. Second tenant is stakeholder integration and that’s been worked out by Ed Freeman of the University of Virginia. He’s done quite a lot of academic work on stakeholder theory. It’s still developing, there’s still aspects of it that are aspirational. But the idea is that, you know not only are you concerned about your investors, sort of Milton Friedman idea of what the business’s purpose is but you’re concerned about everyone the business comes in contact with flourishing and this isn’t, again some idealistic green washing it’s really, it’s something that conscious leaders do their best to take to heart, right? Even in the face of the irony. And that means that your stakeholders are certainly your investors, right? Are certainly your employer your employees but also they’re the larger community, also your suppliers, right? Also the environment, right? Every, element of the world that your business impacts is a stakeholder and working to make decisions and implement policies that take the interests of the stakeholders into account, right? Seeking what John Mackey likes to refer to as win, win, win, right? It’s not just the win win of two people who agree in a business transaction but there’s larger win a win for the larger society or a win for the environment, or a win for the general public who may not be the customers of the business. So this larger conception of stakeholder integration and who the stakeholders of the business are isn’t just good for having integrity and using being a virtuous leader. It’s also good for the brand. It’s good for the bottom line of the business. And while if you undertake it merely for instrumental purposes, then the cynicism behind that will eventually show you’ve got to actually take it seriously and believe in it with your heart in order to make it happen. Part of it is, and this is something that John Mackey has taught me is that when it comes to seeking win win wins you’re always dealing with a transactional compromise right? Inevitably it seems like, okay in this situation it’s give or take. We on one side means a loss for the other. And, what he recommends is that it’s almost like a way of seeing like a perspective that looks to go beyond the give or take and tries to think of something that’s new and better. Now, the examples, the sterling perfect examples of this are few I mean, many of us could say, there’s plenty of situations where there was a business deal and everybody came out better, including, you know the employees and the public. And then sometimes we can say there’s a third thing that’s created. So for example, if you’re a phone maker right? In 2005, and you’re trying to decide between price and quality, right? That’s a sort of a trade-off mentality but then we have the iPhone, which is like a third thing which is certainly more expensive but it’s a whole new category it breaks the category of this give and take or win and lose and creates a win win win for everybody and people that weren’t even thought of by creating whole new industries and whole new forms of business and culture. So this idea of win win win. It’s very important. It’s a operationalization like I said it. A way of taking a hand handle on stakeholder integration and putting it in colloquial terms that leaders on the ground can think about when they think about how they’re dealing with other people or how they’re making business deals. And then the other two tenants are I mentioned higher purpose, I mentioned stakeholder integration and there’s also conscious leadership which is what the book Conscious Leadership really is about in other words. And then the fourth one is conscious culture, you know having a culture where people are working with these principles of higher purpose and win win win. And so when conscious capitalism came out in 2013, John was on the circuit, he talked to a lot of people. And more of the questions that he got most frequently was you have a chapter in there about leadership but we’d love to know more, right? This field of leadership is seemingly inexhaustible category in the publishing industry. People just can’t get enough of it. And so he was asked about it and thought that he really needed to write a book about that. And so he suggested that myself and Carter Phipps that the three of us joined forces to write the book to make it both accessible and useful to the average business person or the average business user, but also with some creative new ideas and some intellectual integrity and a sort of a loose connection to the integral philosophy that the three of those share.

Yeah, I think, I’ll just go to the first of those ideals about a higher purpose. So I think quite a lot of people in business, quite a lot of leaders, but employees within organisations feel that their purpose is just to get the next task done and to get home. And, then there comes this question of, right. Okay, so what are we talking about here about a higher purpose and how on earth do we move from this position of my job is just my, my purpose is just to get through the day and to get this thing done and to get home into something that actually starts to move cultures, that starts to move business into a more useful societally and globally useful place. I don’t know what you think.

Including the stakeholders who don’t even know that their stakeholders is going to this.

Certainly, well, in other words, the stakeholders, the people in academia who see the business world with a jaundiced eye, right? Some of the more progressive academics who see capitalism and economic freedom which I would rather prefer to talk about it ’cause I think economic freedom could be compatible with a Scandinavian style welfare system, right? So the economic freedom is a much better way of talking about it because you can locate it among the liberal values of modernity which are a major emergence in human history which we need to preserve, right? There’s no real freedom without some degree of economic freedom. So those who would decry capitalism because they look at certain rogue actors or certain you know, perhaps the level of the business world which is at this form of culture, I described modernity, right? Modernities emergence from one moral system as traditional moral system loses its authority as the progressive moral system attempts to sort of fill that vacuum with an alternative moral system. And there’s this tug of war, at least in America on the modernist mainstream about which kind of morality they want to have allegiance to. But from our perspective, from the perspective of cultural intelligence, both are necessary, right? That we need progressive values to be a more caring and moral country that we need traditional values to make it and to inculcate fair play in a sense of duty and honour self-sacrifice. These values are not incompatible from the perspective that sees them in a developmental trajectory in history and recognises that there were an interdependence part of that larger interdependent cultural ecosystem. That gives us the ability to recognise how the higher purpose ideally ought to be informed by all three, if not more of these value systems. Again, if we want to have a more conscious company we have to become more conscious as leaders. If we want to be more conscious leaders, one of the most direct and effective ways that we can do that is by expanding the scope of what we can value and cultural intelligence, as we describe it in the book. And as I describe it in greater detail in my other books, it’s a practise, it’s something pragmatic and it does have both a handle you can use immediately but it opens up into a direction of personal development which is a lifelong pursuit and something that is my heart purpose.

Yes, yeah. I find the whole thing fascinating actually, of moving from not just the inner game of personal development but actually moving out into cultural awareness but cultural intelligence, as you put it into the connecting these ideals, ideas of having a purpose that goes beyond just transactional, a transactional purpose into doing good in the world.

I mean, in American politics, at least there’s really hardly any common ground left. Like trying to find a common ground is a little bit like approaching it like it’s a bad marriage and we just need to get him into counselling and realise that they’re in this together and they just need to compromise. That sounds good. But from our perspective, from a developmental perspective that’s a wrong strategy rather than seeking common ground. We’re trying to stake out higher ground. And we claim that it’s higher because it’s this overview perspective that can recognise the interdependence that’s impossible to see without this overview. And, so that’s a big part of what we understand to be this practise of conscious leadership.

And it’s a good strategy actually, because as you kind of move up in levels of abstraction it’s quite often easy to start to get to get agreement as we start to move up in levels of abstraction,

Sure and if a lot of leaders recognised their duty to be good leaders is to be personally developing, right? That’s almost like a cliche now in the business world. So what we tried to do is say yes, personal development, absolutely every leader if they’re gonna be responsible and in the moment leader, they want to be doing that. But that your individual consciousness is tied up with the culture of which you’re a part, both the culture of your company and the larger culture to which you identify in the society at large within the media landscape and political landscape. So understanding that if we’re gonna make business a greater force for good in the world overcome those who criticise it for good reason then we need to evolve, not just our personal awareness or our personal consciousness or a personal character we need to work with the larger cultures that we are a part of and actually begin to understand that it is possible to think in terms of cultural evolution. And this is not an imposition again, we’re just trying to expand the scope of what people can value. And that’s a sort of gentle persuasion. It’s certainly not social engineering or any kind of political coercion, but we do believe this is the key to not only making the business world a better place but also the society at large.

There’s a lot of stuff in this because what we’re asking leaders to start to look at is themselves, their impact on other people, the other people, the system that we’re in, the purpose of the organisation that they’re leading and developing, how it sits within society, how it sits within the system of the planet, I suppose. And that’s a lot, it requires quite a wide cognitive bandwidth, I suppose to be able to kind of engage on because it’s not just engaging on one thing it’s moving from inside the individual right out to massive global issues. You know, we’re just in this conversation we’re talking about political systems, for example but there are lots of other systems of food systems of just goes on and on and on. And what I’m interested in is how can you go about convincing leaders who’ve got a day job to actually engage in something that requires a significant, as I say a significant cognitive bandwidth to even start thinking about?


What does that mean, right? In other words, okay higher purpose. Let’s think about that. You know, I may have thought, I may have a mission statement but how can we that mission statement alive, right? Lead with love. What does that mean? You know, what are the different elements you know, gratitude and acceptance and without being St. Francis, right? I mean, we’re all humans and being a leader is a tough job especially in a demanding economy and you know in a rough business and people that you may be stakeholders may think that your soft for having a conscious leadership perspective and that that gives them a licence to take advantage of you. Right? So, obviously these things need to be integrated in a way that is aware of these larger forces. That again, works this polarity of real and ideal that I talked about, right? So the “Conscious Leadership” book, it’s very idealistic but we’ve tried to connect it back to the real. We’ve tried to make it operational for the leaders who have their hands full and who don’t have time to go on a 30 day silent retreat to consider their consciousness. Right? But at the very least if you’re leading an organisation the duty, you know just the basics of leadership competence is to be able to stand outside of your day to day, do not be in a reactive mode all the time to think long-term to think strategically, to think about things that you normally are in your awareness and the pressing day-to-day concerns that you have and conscious leadership, as well of the many of the other different forms with different quality I’ll admit. But, there are many different ways that those who are in the field of leadership are trying to describe what a better leader is. And certainly some of these idealistic conceptions enter into what it means to be a better leader even if your main concern is just operational excellence.

Yeah and also the question of what kind of world do I want to be part of? And what sort of world do I want to be helping to promote and create and that I’ve got a sense that I’ve got agency within that process I think is kind of an important perspective in this. And the other thing is, I think for leaders or anybody listening, is that as our awareness expands as we become more conscious, we become more conscious. We have greater latitude to become more aware to become and it’s an increasing process. And I think John talks about an emergent process the conscious leaderships in a moment–

It’s like exercise like the more you exercise on a regular basis, the easier it is. And when you’re first getting started, it’s hard. You have to use a lot of willpower to drag yourself to do it but after a while, you know, there’s a momentum and you just do it as just, you know, in course because it makes you feel good. It’s intrinsically valuable for its own sake but it also makes you a healthier human.

Yes, yeah. And it starts to develop a series of habits that then just kind of get their own energy and start going themselves.

True, true and When we were thinking around titles for conscious leadership one of the titles that we liked the publisher didn’t like it but the title of 12 virtues of a conscious leader, right? And virtues, or this idea of character development one of the ways they’d been characterised is habits of the heart. And so the way of talking about these practises of stakeholder integration and higher purpose these are in a sense habits of the heart that can be practised and inculcated and made part of your psychic muscle memory, if you will. So that when the stress hits the fan and you’re under big stress, these will come naturally. They’ll just be habituated into how you act it’s who who you are, who you expect yourself to be. If you expect yourself to be a conscious leader when you’re tempted by the, you know outrageous fortune, then you’ll be able to perform under pressure in a way that has long lasting integrity which is ultimately has to be the best way to deal with any crisis, regardless of how it may seem in the present.

And there’s certainly a lot of research evidence to back that up that you look at the way that the military the emergency service and things train for disasters, train for crisis situations is it gives you greater latitude and an ability to be able to be adaptable in those situations, if you just suddenly plunked in it and you haven’t built up that muscle as it were. And the way of thinking in the way of being able to work your way be able to see it clearly first and then be able to develop maps through the situation that creates greater levels of adaptability, so–

Aside from the beginning, let me just add that. If you decide from the beginning that you’re gonna do the right thing. Now that might not always be evident, right? What that is I mean, there’s certainly complexity, but if you know that you’re gonna try your best to see what the right thing is and do it it makes leadership a lot less complicated, right? You don’t have to scheme and think and apply you’re just gonna do the right thing, come what may. And that is the best way to navigate through difficulties even if it means that you need to start over ultimately dedicating yourself to leading with integrity as we in chapter three, it’s the best strategic strategy, the best instrumental strategy regardless of its intrinsic worth.

Yes, definitely. And I could talk about this all day. So I’ve got kind of almost final question here. So the Institute of Cultural Evolution, what is that?

It’s like I mentioned it’s a boutique think tank founded in 2013 the headquarters are here in Boulder, Colorado where I live but the directors and the senior fellows and the people who were involved in the organisation live in various parts of the US. our main focus as a think tank is to help America grow out of its hyperpolarization right? That as we describe in detail on our website, culturalevolution.oregon in our books, that the hyperpolarization that is creating significant dysfunction in American politics society is the result of cultural evolution. It’s, you know that our societies become stretched out through growth and that this points to further growth as the really the only solution to this wicked problem. So we advocate for that I mentioned this idea of post progressive politics, right? Politics that’s not anti progressive but that is able to stand outside the progressive worldview and see it for good and bad and see how it can be harmonised and resolved and made more congenial and in interdependence with the other forms of established culture that it currently rejects and challenges. So this think tank, we do in 2021 we’re launching this post progressive project which will include a media hub. We’ll expand the number of senior fellows. We hope to influence the media. It’s really a politics of culture. Once we can build us a more visible political movement then certainly we hope to have influence on political leaders. But at this point, we’re trying to create a home for the politically homeless those who don’t wanna embrace the right but have a hard time fully identifying with progressivism. We, saw an all or nothing proposition on this post progressive perspective that we advocate includes those who are more oriented toward the right and a more oriented toward the left. So there’s still plurality, but it’s within a context wherein these inevitably recurring sides like I talk about polarities being indestructible while the polarity of people who wanna fix what’s wrong and those who wanna preserve what’s right. That keeps showing up in every human polity. So that’s an indestructible polarity. We can rather than thinking that one side is going to permanently vanquish the other it’s better to work with that polarity and recreate it at this level of higher ground that I described which is what this post progressive project of building a political movement within a new agreement space and a new perspective on culture. That’s what we’re about at the moment.

Fascinating, really fascinating. Brilliant. So last year, two books, well done.


That’s not being fit. So what next for you?

Well, the building of the Institute for Cultural Evolution we just hired a high powered executive director. I remained the president of the organisation but we’re going to, we now have some funding we’re seeking more funding to help build this political movement. And this inclusive perspective we wanna be even more inclusive than progressivism by not just including those who have been marginalised or oppressed, but including the people who think differently from us and integrating the values of traditionalism modernity and progressivism into a larger whole. So building this organisation and helping to create the visible public movement that it stands for is what’s next and I’m pursuing that with as much passion and energy as I can right now.

Yeah, which sounds like a lot conscious politics by the sense of it next book. Brilliant. Thank you so much, Steve. For a while I know it takes a lot of energy, doesn’t it? Yeah, fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed this, Steve thank you so much for your time.

I appreciate it. I look forward to seeing it and thanks again for your interest.

So where can people find you and the Institute if they’re interested?

Sure, well, the Institute’s website is right? Or you could just Google Institute for Cultural Evolution and we’ll be available. My work as an author [email protected] and people can see videos and read excerpts from my various books and get a sense of my body of work there. But the Institute for Cultural Evolution is where I’d love to point people to first and invite them to sign up to our email list to receive updates on what we’re up to. And if they’re so moved to become sustaining members of our fledgling political movement.

Brilliant, yes. I think it’s something that’s needed, not just in America but globally looking at some of the things that happen politically. That’s brilliant. Thank you so much for your time, Steve. I’ve really enjoyed that thank you.

Okay great, me too.

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page