By: Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp
Reviewed by: Leah Parkhill Reilly
The Premise: The premise of this book is simple, every day as leaders, and as humans, we operate either “above the line” or “below the line.” Over the course of the 15 commitments, the authors outline how we can make more conscious and intentional choices and be “above the line” or take a reactive, protective or instinctual approach and remain “below the line.” This book will likely radically challenge your conventions about how you lead and work with others; it is truly about leadership on another level. Not for the faint of heart, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership requires you to be curious, courageous, and vulnerable enough to explore what elements of your own ego might be getting in the way of showing up in the best way for yourself and those around you. The benefit, however, (particularly if you’re finding that leading in your organization is a slog, a recipe for burnout, or feels like a win-lose pitched and political battle) is a tremendous new set of tools and ways of thinking to immediately apply.
The Bottomline: I’ve been a follower of The Conscious Leadership Group for a while (check out their models and videos on YouTube) and this book more than delivered on my expectations. I love any book that makes me reflect on my patterns of behaviour and confront them warts and all. Bottomline, I really enjoyed this book. The model of being “above the line” (open, curious and committed to learning) or” below the line” (closed, defensive, committed to being right) is deceptively simple and our own ego leads us to want to assume that we largely operate on that “above the line” level. However, as the authors tease apart the 15 commitments, you realize how incredibly unlikely that is and how much work being fully above the line in all aspects of life truly is. It’s very easy to fall into the model of being the victim, villain or hero in any given story or to feel like life is “happening to us.”
I already know that this is a book I will come back to again and again for the radical mindset challenge and the insightful tools. The authors themselves recommend sticking with mastering the first two commitments (taking radical responsibility and learning through curiosity) before venturing onto the remaining thirteen. As a coach, I can really see why; behaviour change is challenging, and this is next level behaviour change as it requires an elevated level of awareness and presence. Staying “above the line” requires having the presence to stay grounded, to tune into what is required in that moment and to lead from a creative space. When we drop below the line, we drop out of the present and into a story our brain may be telling us about the past or an imagined future, we drop into defensiveness and security seeking behaviour (aka we have a human moment). So, the adage of progress not perfection holds true here. The work associated with this book is challenging and long-term but highly beneficial.
Recommendation: Highly recommended for the reflective leader who is willing be honest with themselves, be open to feedback from others and have the discipline to do the work. This is a “must read” for any alumni of our Roundtable programs as this is truly about intentional leadership.