Navigating Chaos with Conscious Leadership

Let’s face it. Shit’s gettin’ real-- fast.

On a daily basis, each one of us faces the reality of living through systemic collapse of most of our social, economic and environmental systems. The topic itself is not fun to dwell upon or even let pass through your consciousness as a fleeting possibility, but the reality of our situation is clear. And it falls upon those of us in roles of leadership to be diligent and cognizant of how we lead and the impacts of our actions on those we lead.

Let’s break it down. We’ll start with Conscious Leadership. What is it and why should you care?

I stumbled upon the term “Conscious Leadership” while completing my YTT training last year. As a yogi, I adhere to the principles of ahimsa (do no harm) and seva (service) and I embrace CL because it puts those two principles at the forefront of how I lead, both philosophically and logistically. I am a highly strategic thinker and I’m always looking at my actions through the lens of ahimsa and seva.

Nataraja, from the Deep Space room at the MAPS conference in Denver, 2023.
Nataraja, from the Deep Space room at the MAPS conference in Denver, 2023.

I asked AI to give us a little definition of Conscious Leadership and it’s shockingly good:

Conscious Leadership is a leadership approach that emphasizes self-awareness, authenticity, and a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of individuals and systems. It involves a shift from traditional hierarchical and command-and-control models to a more inclusive and holistic way of leading. Conscious Leaders are mindful of their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and they strive to create a positive and nurturing work environment that encourages the growth and well-being of their team members.

Yogi Seane Corn, a renowned yoga teacher and activist, has made significant contributions to the concept of Conscious Leadership. Through her work, Corn promotes the idea that leadership is not just about external achievements but also about inner transformation. She emphasizes the importance of self-inquiry and self-reflection for leaders to develop a greater understanding of themselves and their impact on others. Corn encourages leaders to cultivate compassion, empathy, and authenticity, recognizing that true leadership stems from an alignment of one's values, beliefs, and actions. By integrating principles from yoga and mindfulness practices into leadership, Corn advocates for a more conscious and heart-centered approach that fosters both personal and organizational growth.

My Leadership Journey

I began stepping into leadership roles in high school and college as a highly competitive soccer player. I was on the Olympic Development team and also the captain of both my high school and travel teams. I then wandered into coaching briefly in college during the summer months. I’m wired to lead from the team perspective and my role then, and now, is to make sure my team has what they need to succeed and are always encouraged to accomplish their goals through kindness and support. I’m so glad the writers of Ted Lasso encompassed all of this in their narratives, it’s a joy to see on the big screen.

Transitioning into a leadership role in the corporate world in an emerging technology sector now, after just completing a degree in Yoga and Religion studies is a wild, yet oddly logical evolution. I’m now using my leadership skills on a daily basis; including 25+ years of leadership with the formal training of contemplative wisdom traditions focusing on yoga and Buddhism, specifically Tibetan Buddhism and the Sacred Warrior framework created by Chogyam Trungpa. I say all of this to ground my thesis in a context others can research, explore and make their own if it resonates.

On an evening walk, decompressing after a very stressful day and enjoying the beauty of a very rainy and green Colorado summer.
On an evening walk, decompressing after a very stressful day and enjoying the beauty of a very rainy and green Colorado summer.

Why now?

When I arrived at school in the fall of 2021, we were all just emerging from the pandemic. In class, we read a book called Sacred Instructions and we began exploring our collective trauma and the fact that we all, as a collective, just experienced an immensely traumatizing event that we are not talking about nor are we processing the trauma we experienced. The increase of crime, anxiety, anger, depression and more are directly correlated with our inability to address or process the trauma we experienced. I wrote an essay at the time about this topic if you’d like to explore the concept deeper.

And here’s the thing, we now have compounding traumas stemming from the multitude of environmental and social chaos we experience on a daily basis. On any given day, we are processing mass violence, devastating storms, disruption of normal weather patterns, violent protests, wars and the collapse of truth and news. Not to mention the removal of our personal freedoms by politicians and lawmakers.

We must understand, as leaders, that the people we are charged with guiding are, at any given moment, navigating a chaos stack that is massive, intense and unpredictable, not to mention any personal traumas or dramas. Our actions as a leader, the things we ask our employees to do and how we ask them to accomplish these tasks, have a powerful impact on the people we lead.

Are we leading through kindness and empathy? Are we understanding that our people are coming to us with a whole host of issues and not speaking of them because we are “in a professional setting”? Are we taking the time to reach out to our coworkers when we see they are struggling and just offering the space to vent and process? Do we know what’s happening in our employees lives beyond our daily meetings and work conversations?

Or are we compounding the anxiety and uncertainty our employees are feeling on a regular basis with leadership styles from a bygone error that are designed to push people to produce and meet quarterly goals to satisfy shareholders and leadership? Are we cognizant of the impacts of our actions on the people we lead everyday-- and do we even care?

Headmaze sculpture at the Naropa Contemplative Space at the MAPS Conference in Denver, 2023.
Headmaze sculpture at the Naropa Contemplative Space at the MAPS Conference in Denver, 2023.

Simon Sinek talks about the “Infinite Game” and how the old mentality of meeting shareholder expectations and leading according to short term goals is destroying many companies and organizations from the inside out. Are we, as leaders, playing the Infinite Game? Are we ensuring that we are leading our teams towards a larger, long term vision and guarding their mental health so they can still be with us as we go towards that beautiful goal on the distant horizon?

I work in an emerging technological field that is brilliant, beautiful and an absolute dumpsterfire some days. We are simultaneously building the future of the internet with decades-long timelines to reach fruition while also deploying this freshly created technology to solve problems we face today. Our technology is misunderstood by most of the world, including many working within the industry, as we transition from the extractive and destructive world of web2 into the sovereign and decentralized world of web3.

Those of us in leadership roles in web3 must begin to come to grips with this multi-layered reality we are living within. We must hold space for the trauma our employees are living through on a daily basis. We must hold space for our teams to take actions towards a distant horizon while also keeping leadership at bay by meeting short term goals. We must do all of this with kindness, empathy and long-term strategies that encompass the whole human approach to the people we are charged with leading.

At the end of the day, we are not just employees working at an organization. In web3, we are building regenerative systems that will emerge in the collapse of late stage capitalism. I imagine many of my colleagues do not want to have this conversation, a conversation those of us in impact spaces are freely versed in and conduct on a daily basis. Our technology matters because it IS a solution in the face of systemic collapse. That’s why getting the tech right now matter so much. As our systems continue to fail, something must rise up through the ashes. The metacrisis is here, it’s in our faces and our leadership to bring this technology to fruition and to the masses is ONE solution to systemic collapse.

My desire is for the leaders in this industry to take a long hard look at how they lead and look at our Infinite Game. Hold space for your employees to process their reality. Create multiple strategies to keep your team moving towards the big picture goals. Support the people you lead in their humanity with kindness, empathy and compassion.

Time is not our friend. We are in the chaos and must lead accordingly. We are on a collective, whole human journey together, my friends and we need to step up and lead like our lives depend upon it, because they do.


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