Practicing conscious leadership requires internal reflection, the ability to be present, and an understanding of the roles that emotions and mindset play in the leadership process. Being a leader (possessing leadership skills) and the act of leading (putting the skills to practice) both influence the effectiveness of individuals in these roles. Conscious leadership is especially important in education. Educational institutions need leaders to lead by example, take responsibility, and provide support to their teams. Through this they can transform schools.
Conscious Leadership Overview
When educational leaders adopt conscious leadership, they create a positive working and learning environment. What is conscious leadership, exactly? Conscious leadership requires self-awareness and intentionality. Unlike many other leadership styles, conscious leadership emphasizes introspection while other styles focus on external improvements. When making a decision, conscious leaders can see multiple options, disregard their fear, and adjust their practices to do what is right—choosing the option that is best for all and causes the least pain. Conscious leaders:
- Practice equity and empathy
- Learn and grow personally
- Realize social responsibility
- Use values to guide strategies
How Conscious Leadership Can Transform Schools
Educational environments have many complex challenges that leaders need to solve—many of which were not an issue a few decades ago. These challenges include navigating funding and resource shortages, ensuring students feel safe at school, and maintaining attention in online classes, among many others.
Conscious leaders are able to embrace innovation and find creative ways to overcome these challenges. In order to do so, they must think beyond their personal preferences and existing educational systems, and consider what their school, teachers, students, families, and communities need.
By practicing a commitment to equity, social responsibility, and beneficial risk taking, conscious leaders can help make schools run more efficiently, feel safer, decrease dropout rates, and provide more opportunities for individualized instruction to support diverse learners.
Become a Conscious Leader Through Self-Awareness and Intentionality
After understanding what conscious leadership is, a leader can take specific steps to become one. Cultivating self-awareness and leading with intentionality are the first things leaders need to do to become conscious leaders. Next, they can practice three guiding principles of conscious leaders.
Self-awareness is the act of understanding the intent behind one’s own motives, feelings, and thoughts. Leaders must know who they are as people and as leaders—understanding what they are like at their best and worst, and then working for better outcomes. Once they know their own strengths, they can use them to motivate others. Self-aware leaders also understand how their actions affect those around them and are not afraid to ask for advice on how to improve. Educational leaders who are self-aware can help those in their institutions create better programs, teach at a deeper level, and create safe learning environments that work toward innovation.
Lead with Intentionality
Leading with intention requires a three-step process: notice, choose, and act. Notice the small things, like the emotional atmosphere in a room. Choose what decisions to make. Act on what needs to change. Conscious leaders go through this process with all of their decisions. In an educational setting, this could be seeing a gap in teaching outcomes, choosing how to improve them, and then putting measures in place to improve.
Practice the Three Conscious Leadership Principles
After becoming self-aware and intentional, conscious leaders follow three principles to continue to grow and make the best decisions.
Conscious leaders need to be humble and recognize their teams. In educational settings, leaders are there to help students grow in their knowledge and as people—a goal that requires a multitude of people working together. Recognizing the need for others’ help before making a decision will lead to better outcomes.
Forgive, Let Go, and Learn
Focusing on the present enables conscious leaders to move on from the past. If they have a rough experience with an individual, hey reflect on what went wrong and work toward improving the relationship.
Leaders need to remain open-minded during the decision-making process. Innovation is important in the educational system, and conscious leaders recognize others’ thoughts and accept criticism.
Expand Your Leadership Skills with American University
American University’s School of Education Online provides educational leaders with the tools they need to transform the educational system to benefit all learners. Students learn how to create access to education and, in turn, move toward a better society. Explore both the Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership (MEd) and the Doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership (EdD) and become a conscious leader.
ESchool News, “4 Challenges Facing School Principals Each Year”
Forbes, “5 Ways to Be a Conscious Leader”
Inside Higher Ed, “The Self-Aware Leader”
Medium, “Conscious Leadership, ‘Social Washing,’ and the EdTech Market”
Online Learning Consortium, “The Conscious Leader: Applying Lessons Learned to Post-Secondary Education”
The New York Times, “What’s the Biggest Challenge for Colleges and Universities?”