Taking Radical Responsibility: Commitment 1 of A Conscious Leader

Throughout 2017, I'm going to be exploring and digging deep into the book "The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success" by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp. The first Wednesday of each month I will share and discuss one of the commitments, with a bonus commitment showing up mid-month on occasion. 

So what is conscious leadership?

I would bet that you've worked for, or are currently working for, a leader who was closed off, defensive, and always had to be right. A temperamental leader who accomplishes his or her goals at the expense of their health and the well-being of those around them.

This is the way of the unconscious leader. Unconscious leaders aren't necessarily unsuccessful. In fact, they can be quite successful by how we tend to measure success--financial wealth, authority, and power. But they tend to be unsuccessful at home and in the relationships that matter most. They become only partially present to their children and spouses as a result of the fast-paced world they've created for themselves. They're successful at work, but lack any deep, loving connection with people that they would say "matter most to them." That, to me, isn't success at all.

Most leaders I know are unconscious. 

A conscious leader, on the other hand, is open, curious, and committed to learning. They operate with a calm demeanor and have an awareness when they begin acting defensive and temperamental and have the wisdom to shift to a more productive way of being. Conscious leaders slow down to the speed of life, and understand that success at work without success at home and in their closest relationships isn't success at all. They make wise hiring decisions at work and take serious the art of creating a team and culture where every participant can thrive.

Conscious leaders lift those around them to new heights. They help guide and protect those under their care, and create environments where creativity, innovation, and collaboration can flourish. These are the leaders everyone dreams of working for, yet finding one often feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

We need more conscious leaders. We need you!


The better way to lead.

Why aren't there more conscious leaders?

I believe it comes down to fear. When we lead from fear, we lead from a place of needing to be right, to be validated, to be successful. Failure becomes our worst enemy, and as a result we start to grasp onto things in an attempt to control and manipulate everything to our liking. 

While at the same time, this fear is sending us running from responsibility. If something fails, it has to be someone else's fault. After all, "we did everything in our power to ensure success..." 

Fear is killing off great leaders, knocking them unconscious and over-bearing when they were created to be powerful and transformational.

What conscious leadership teaches us is that there is a better way to lead. You can choose to lead from a place of faith, trust and hope. You can choose to lead from a place of surrender, of letting things be as they are.

Not only does leading this way promote your own health and well-being, it allows others around you to step into their own unique genius and bring their best selves to the table. It inspires creativity, collaboration, and engagement -- which in turn drives productivity, performance, and profit. Conscious leadership isn't just good for your health, it actually boosts your bottom line. It creates families that thrive and communities that are strong.

Leading consciously is the better way to lead.

With that, let's dig into Commitment #1!

Commitment 1: Taking Radical Responsibility


Commitments of the Conscious Leader:

I commit to taking full responsibility for the circumstances of my life and for my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. I commit to supporting others to take full responsibility for their lives.

Commitments of the Unconscious Leader:

I commit to blaming others and myself for what is wrong in the world. I commit to being a victim, villain, or a hero and taking more or less than 100% responsibility.


Responsibility is more than just self-blaming.

Self-blame is still blame, and blame is what we're trying to get away from as conscious leaders. Yet most leaders think that taking accountability and responsibility means that they absorb all the blame when things go wrong.

The problem with blame, even the self-directed type, is that it encourages hiding and passive behavior. It allows those you are leading to avoid taking their own responsibility for what goes wrong. It even allows you, the leader, to hide. If the leader continually lets everything fall on him, those under his care never really learn from their own mistakes and shortcomings and your leadership will suffer.

Self-blame is just as toxic as blaming others.

Taking radical responsibility means everyone involved takes 100% responsibility, while keeping blame, shame, and guilt completely off the table.

Most leaders believe that total responsibility should equal 100%. So if there are 4 people involved who all played an equal role, each person would be assigned 25% of the responsibility. Seems reasonable, but it doesn't work that way. Person 1 is going to believe Person 4 should take the majority of the responsibility because they showed up late to most meetings. While Person 4 believes Person 1 should take the bulk of responsibility because they micro-managed the entire project. It becomes subjective and arbitrary, and becomes an futile exercise in blaming.

Shortcut that discussion and encourage everyone to assume the position that they are 100% responsible. It's the fastest, most productive route to working through any problem.


The 3 Steps to Radical Responsibility

  1. Shift from believing the world should be a particular way to believing that the world just shows up. When we believe the world is unfolding in a way that we don't think it should, it strikes fear in us. And it's out of that fear that blame, shame, and guilt arise. We want to find something or someone to blame for things not going as planned. Instead, believe that everything just is, and the world is showing up as it's meant to.
  2. Shift from rigidity, close-mindedness, and self-righteousness to curiosity, learning, and wonder. You can let go of all the drama in your life and leadership simply by letting go of the need to be right and for things to go a certain way, and instead view the world from a place of curiosity and wonder.
  3. Assume that the world/God/universe isn't just benign or agnostic, but is actually for youThis third step isn't necessary to shift into taking radical responsibility, but it can super-charge the shift if you're able to believe that everything that's happening to you isn't just a neutral event, but a "custom-ordered curriculum for our highest development as people and as members of teams of organizations."

Imagine what your business, family, or community would look like if we were all able to make the shift to taking radical responsibility? To being able to see that the world is unfolding just as it should, and is creating for us the opportunity to learn and grow and develop into our highest selves.


Applying Radical Responsibility To Your Everyday Life and Leadership

The most valuable shift I have made is learning to see that the world is for me. When everything seems to go wrong and fall apart from what I had planned, I now try to assume the position that there's something for me to learn and grow from.

I still slip into unconscious leading all the time, but each day I'm able to shift into being conscious a little faster, easing my stress and anxiety and giving me peace and a clear mind.

Here's how you can also apply radical responsibility to your everyday life.

  • When things do go wrong, go to the extreme in blaming. Blame everyone and everything overtly. Assume that you have 0% responsibility for what's happening in your life. In going to the extreme, you're able to see how false or misguided many of the narratives are that we play in our minds. You can see how unproductive being unconscious really is.
  • Then step into the position of 100% responsibility. Reel back the blaming and assume the position of curiosity and desire to learn. Assume that everything is happening as it is so that you can learn something valuable.
  • Ask: "what am I suppose to learn here? What actions did I take or not take that led to this situation? Is this an issue that keeps showing up? What am I doing to allow this problem to persist? Is there a pattern I can learn from? How can I demonstrate 100% responsibility for this issue?"
  • If others are involved, share with them what you learned and how you are taking 100% responsibility for your missed actions. Invite them to do the same.
  • Stay in the space of curiosity and learning. As soon as you start reverting into placing blame on anyone or anything, stop.

It's going to take time to build a culture in which this level of trust is evident. In so many organizations and families, there's the underlying fear that any mistake made, no matter how big or small, is going to lead to punishment. So naturally, people avoid taking ownership and seek ways to blame others in an attempt to self-preserve.

As a leader, you must go first. Don't tell others to take radical responsibility. Show them how it's down. Set the example through your actions. Teach over and over and over again that mistakes happen, and the most important thing we can do is learn from them. But we can't learn from them if we're unwilling to take responsibility for them. 

You can tell you have a culture of responsibility-takers if the questions they ask resemble these:

  • They ask, "Am I willing to learn whatever it is I need to learn about this situation?" rather than "Who participated in the chain of events that led to this?"
  • They ask, "Am I willing to see all others involved as my allies?" rather than "Who dropped the ball?"
  • They ask, "How can I play with this situation?" rather than "Who's going to fix it?"


Moving forward, make the commitment to radical responsibility:

I commit to taking full responsibility for the circumstances of my life and for my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. I commit to supporting others to take full responsibility for their lives.

I'll see you next month to discuss commitment #2: Learning Through Curiosity.

Go and encourage!