Consciousness, unconsciousness and leadership

Jul 10 2008 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

I'm experiencing a deep sense of sadness as I reflect on an event at the recent G8 summit meeting in Japan. The event was a six-course lunch followed by an eight-course dinner where the agenda was - hang on to your hat, and take a deep breath - famine and the global food crisis.

First, some details.

The participants were served 24 different dishes during their first day at the summit just hours after urging the world to reduce the "unnecessary demand" for food and calling on families to cut back on their wasteful use of food.

The dinner consisted of 18 dishes in eight courses including caviar, smoked salmon, Kyoto beef and a "G8 fantasy dessert".

It was accompanied by five different wines from around the world including champagne.

African leaders, including the heads of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Senegal who had taken part in talks during the day, were not invited to the function.

Oh, and the dinner came just hours after a "working lunch" consisting of six courses.

I can't help but think that this is a metaphor for the unconscious, hypocritical and insensitive behavior many leaders and managers manifest when they espouse values that purportedly support the well-being of their organizations and then engage in the sort of excesses and unethical behavior that only undermines their integrity, respectability and credibility.

Betrayal and mistrust are rampant in the corporate world of today. Take, for example, corporate bosses who paint a rosy picture of the future and then show thousands of workers to the door, piling the work on the unfortunately individuals who remain. Or those who urge employees to take care of their health and then denigrate them for using the gym on "company time" while expecting them to work 70-hour weeks.

Then there are those leaders who drive their organizations into the ground financially and walk away with huge bonuses and severance packages for doing so, while employees walk away with nothing.

These and many other examples of daily betrayal are creating a pervasive atmosphere of mistrust in the workplace.

The excessive spending and lavish consumption of the G8 participants points to the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness when it comes to living life by taking the high road, to living life by following one's inner moral compass and to living life from a place of serving others.

There are four basic levels of consciousness:

  • Not conscious - instinctual, follower
  • Subconscious - habitual, robotic, reactive
  • Conscious - aware, intelligent, conceptual, reflective
  • Superconscious - intuitive, guiding, truthful, loving, universal

The behavior of the G8 folks is one of being unconscious - allowing one's lower-level, ego-driven, base, instinctual, selfish and blind desires to have free reign, completely unaware of the consequences for the community and for humanity.

It's not about arrogance. It's not about greed. It's not about politics. It's not about contempt for others.

It's about being conscious! Awake! Aware! It's about the fact that no one - NO ONE - said, "Wait a minute! What are we doing here! Something doesn't feel right to me!" No one!

That's unconsciousness. That's being disconnected from our True and Real Self. Unconscious.

Consciousness is about spiritual (not theological, not religious) intelligence, about the fundamental principles that govern the behaviors of our leaders.

It's about honesty, sincerity, self-responsibility and self-awareness. It's about living one's core values - assuming one has core values - and has thought "consciously" about how they live their core values at 9:00 Monday morning. It's about integrity. It's about walking the talk. It's about being a business person and human being at the same time. It's about taking the high road.

Consciousness is about viewing my life, right here and right now, from the 25,000-foot level and asking "What am I doing right here, right now?" "Who am I being, right here, right now?" "Am I acting in alignment with my core values?" "Is there harmony between what I think, say, feel and do, and if not, why not, and how can I create that harmony for myself and for the good of the order?" "What am I thinking about and what do I think about what I'm thinking about?" "Am I 'going along to get along' even though I know it's inappropriate?"

Consciousness is simply about being decent right where I am. That's who successful and truly respected leaders and managers are. It's simply about having and showing character, and working for the highest good of all concerned right where I am. That's what successful and truly respected leaders and managers do.

Consciousness is about showing up, authentically, in integrity, and acting to make the workplace, and the world, a better place - for everyone right here and right now, even if it's uncomfortable and inconvenient. Pure and simple.

Consciousness tugs on our sleeve consistently as we reflect on the following questions:

  • How aligned am I with my core values?
  • When my colleagues, bosses, direct reports, clients, friends, and family observe my behavior, do they consistently observe me "walking my values talk?"
  • Do I ever act in a way that others might perceive as arrogant, haughty, egotistical or greedy? If so, do I care? If not, why not?
  • Do I show concern for my fellow man(generic) at work, at home, at play, when I comment on the world at large, and when I'm out and about?
  • At what level of consciousness do I live my life most of the time?
  • Have I ever spoken up when I felt I needed to tug on someone's sleeve about their inappropriate behavior?
  • Do I gloss over unethical or immoral workplace behavior as the "cost of doing business?"
  • Do I exhibit the change I'd like to see everyone else exhibit?
  • Have I ever betrayed another person? Have I ever been betrayed? How did I feel in either or both event(s)?

So how conscious are you?

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.

Older Comments

On the contrary. I believe that many business and political leaders are indeed arrogant, vain, greedy and contemptuous of others. I'm sure they're perfectly conscious of the effect they have on the world around them. And they just don't care. I think you let them get away far too lightly.