Like most people, I catch myself thinking about future events or rehashing past experiences, usually chiding myself for making poor choices. This ebb and flow between past pain points and future affairs lead us everywhere except where life is actually lived: in the present moment.
Corporate executives, leaders of small businesses and nonprofits, educators, civic and community leaders, and even parents all make thousands of choices each day to be conscious leaders—living and leading in the present—or unconscious managers, living in a world of routines and to-dos.
What distinguishes the two? To answer this critical question, let’s first examine the attributes that separate managers from leaders.
Managers vs. Leaders
Managers focus on routines, checking off to-do lists while ensuring that subordinates are toeing the line, completing tasks, and adhering to policies and procedures. Managers are responsible for schedules, project completion, doling out duties, and dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
Leadership, on the other hand, encompasses planning with vision, communicating with impact and influence, taking prudent risks, and genuinely engaging with others from a place of potential, synergy, and unity. Leaders understand their responsibility more from a vantage point of possibility rather than a rote completion of tasks and adherence to budgetary constraints.
Leaders encourage greatness in others by sharing their knowledge, experience, and aspirations while creating an environment where others are motivated and excited to participate.
Consciousness vs. Unconsciousness
The second major differentiation lies in the contrast between consciousness and unconsciousness, or being “asleep at the wheel.” When you are aware of being aware, you step into consciousness. Your choices are made from a state of awareness. With this shift comes the opportunity to choose differently and to wake up to the reality of potential and possibility.
When you step into consciousness, you are immediately brought into the present. Being present as a leader opens the floodgate to genuine human connection. Others will feel your presence energetically as a visceral current inviting them to participate and be heard.
This evolving leadership process creates an opening for collaboration, participation, and a shared sense of purpose. We, as human beings, want to live with purpose and love. Leaders can change the world one interaction at a time, just by living in the present. Are you?
Here are four crucial signals that you’re still operating from an unconscious mindset instead:
1. Your professional life feels unfulfilling and empty. If you sarcastically describe your leadership duties as “just another day in paradise,” you probably aren’t invested in your own well-being. Either the profession you’ve chosen, or the company you’ve joined is the wrong fit. Or you’ve decided to go through the motions and just make it through your workday. This is not living; it’s enduring.
2. Your mind and heart are disconnected. Sure, it’s important to develop a sharp and insightful mind. But when the mind and heart are disconnected, you operate in a limited and myopic state of being.
Most leaders don’t talk openly about love, compassion, and understanding as core organizational tenets. Yet caring for those you lead means being present with them in a genuine, authentic, and even vulnerable manner. Do you actually care about the people you lead? Your employees, associates, students, or children will know if you don’t.
3. You regularly find yourself living in the past or future. How often does the false-ego voice from within raise a red flag as it warns, “Watch out!” or “What if they find out you’re fearful?” or “Don’t say that!” or “That meeting will be a failure.” All of these moments, and more, are emblematic of living your life in the past or the future.
4. You blame others for their negative involvement. As leaders, our experiences with others are, in fact, mirrors of our own behaviors. For example, if you witness someone being lazy or irresponsible, don’t accuse and attack them for this observed negativity. Rather, ask yourself, “What have I done to contribute to this person’s lack of energy or purpose?”
Many times, we go through the routine exercise of managerial duties, unaware of how we are acting, which ultimately leads to blaming everyone other than ourselves. Be present and know that what you do is important, but how you do what you do is the difference between being mediocre and amazing. Show others how to do it! It will generate far more results than casting blame.