Jim Dethmer believes that business success takes more than hard work, a vision, and luck. It takes skills like presence, awareness, and gratitude—just three of the many traits of conscious leadership. Together, these skills will build a strong foundation for you to be best positioned to support your team and your organization.
As an acclaimed leadership coach, Dethmer has helped 100s of elite leaders develop conscious leadership skills to succeed in business and beyond. He’s also a founding partner at the Conscious Leadership Group and is the co-author of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.
Dethmer’s wisdom inspires leaders to follow their genuine path towards success—and that success will only come with an open heart, a curious mind, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Finding Your True North Star
Many leaders aspire to find their True North Star—their ultimate purpose. Though discovering it can prove challenging, Dethmer says it exists for everyone. It just might not be quite what you had imagined.
“For almost all people on leadership paths, there is a True North,” Dethmer says. “You might not know what it is. You might not see it. But you’ll feel the True North when you walk the path for a while.” Eventually, you’ll realize that your True North emerged thanks to everything that occurred along the way.
Often, True North Stars only appear after years of experiences—through the ebbs and flows of life. Getting there will take learning, reflecting, and an honest understanding of yourself. “We bullshit ourselves a lot,” Dethmer says. “We live under ideas of what we ought to be. Our True North is what we actually are up to.” It’s a culmination of everything we have done and how we can use that to better the world. “When we discover what our True North is,” says Jim, “it’s incredibly powerful and liberating.”
And once you find it, Dethmer has the tools to shift your mindset into successful action that works. “Regardless of what your True North is,” he says, “leaders who are clear, devoted, and ruthless tend to win.”
“Shifting” Into Self-Awareness
Whether or not you’ve defined your True North Star, self-awareness will illuminate your leadership path forward. Without self-awareness, it’s impossible to know when you’re on the right track and when you need to shift your mindset.
Dethmer uses the phrases Below the Line—when you act defensive or closed off from input, ideas, and criticism, and Above the Line—when you’re open, curious, and eager to learn. “That’s the context of your consciousness,” Dethmer says. “Are you above or below?”
Most of our lives are spent Below the Line. “That’s natural,” says Dethmer. That’s being human. It’s how we stay alive and safe.” But as ambitious leaders, we can’t spend our entire lives in hiding. It’s from Above the Line—and being entirely within the present moment—where our best innovations, collaborations, and ideas emerge.
Leaders require self-awareness and the willingness to shift their state of consciousness. “To make this shift,” says Dethmer, “you’ll need the ability to locate where you are. If it’s Below the Line, that’s fine! The important part is identifying it and giving yourself a breath of acceptance.”
The next step is shifting your mindset from Below the Line and rising above it. It’s an often difficult task. But, as a conscious leader, you can acquire the ability to shift. It just takes practice.
How to Practice Conscious Leadership
After understanding the power of shifting and self-awareness, it’s time to put it into action—and that means practice. For Dethmer, these exercises don’t just happen once a day. They occur throughout the day, every day.
“I’ve got practices that support being present,” Dethmer says. “It helps to know when I’m not. Then, I can work on going back into being present.” He considers this conscious leadership practice part of his hygiene routine. But rather than brushing teeth or taking showers, it’s a way to optimize personal and professional wellbeing.
There are many ways for leaders to exercise their awareness and leadership skills. Here are a few practices that Dethmer recommends:
Meditation and Glimpses
Every morning, Dethmer meditates without fail. “It reminds me of the truth of what is,” he says. He also practices more than traditional sitting meditations. Several times during the day, he “glimpses.”
“It’s not so much about what you do in the minutes you sit,” he says. “It’s what you do in the momentary glimpses all day long.” During these glimpses, Dethmer takes a moment to refocus himself on the present moment.
By taking a quick “consciousness check,” he obtains insights into his current mindset. Is he feeling open or closed? Curious or stubborn? Ready to learn or shut off? If needed, this check-in snaps him into a better mental space.
Conscious Breathing Practices
“Breath is incredibly important to full aliveness,” says Dethmer. “When I’m in a contracted or reactive state, I breathe. Breathing shifts my blood and brain chemistry.”
Of course, breathing literally keeps us alive. It’s also an always-available tool that works quickly to bring ourselves back to the present. That’s why many—from business coaches like Dethmer to military elites like the Navy SEALs—preach the benefits of breathing techniques, like Box Breathing or Win Hof methods.
Gratitude, Appreciation and Acceptance
Dethmer regularly discovers that his clients are pretty unkind to themself. “They lack self-compassion,” he says. To counterbalance this self-destructive habit, he encourages people to engage in a loving-kindness practice—a type of meditation that focuses on radical feelings of love both for yourself and others. Dethmer engages in loving-kindness meditations for himself every day.
He also finds that his sense of kindness and love increases when he regularly expresses gratitude for moments big and small. “When I live in a state of appreciation,” Dethmer says, “the entire world shows up differently.”
As your own conscious leadership skills flourish, imagine how the world will show up differently. With tiny shifts, where will your True North Star take you?
The conversation with Jim Dethmer continues on the Leading with Genuine Care podcast. We talk more about conscious leadership, creating playful work cultures, advice on making mindful business decisions, and so much more! Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne.