Welcome back to my series on Conscious Leadership! In this series, I’m going to summarize some key principles from a book I read earlier this year: The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp. With this series, I hope to shed some light on the fast moving trend that is Conscious Leadership, and explain why you should consider integrating these 15 commitments into your existing leadership style or lifestyle, in general. If you haven’t had a chance to read Part 1 of the series, you can check it out here!

In Part 2 of the series, we are going to take a look at the first Commitment of Conscious Leadership: Taking Radical Responsibility!

COMMITMENT ONE: Taking Radical Responsibility

In Part 1 of this series we described the notion of Leading Above the Line or Leading Below the Line. The simple question leaders can ask themselves to determine how Consciously they are Leading is “am I leading below the line or above the line?

For Commitment # 1: Taking Radical Responsibility, the difference between leading above the line versus leading below the line is as follows:

Above the Line: I take 100% responsibility for the circumstances of my life and support others to take full responsibility for theirs.

Below the Line: I take more or less than 100% responsibility for the circumstances of my life and blame others for what is wrong in the world.

Source: The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Most people. after some honest thought, will realize that they spend most of their time below the line when it comes to being radically responsible. This is because we often blame others (taking less than 100% responsibility) or ourselves (taking more than 100% responsibility) for events that occur. Becoming radically responsible seems to be one of the more difficult shifts to make, but the results of committing to being radically responsible can be, well, radical!

Why We Deflect Responsibility

Each person has their own idea of what is right or wrong in the world. An idea of how the world should be. For example, I might think that others should respond to my emails in a timely manner. So when weeks have passed and I have yet to hear back from someone, I deem this as something wrong in my universe, things are not the way they should be, and I resist the reality that the person hasn’t responded. Because of this mindset, anxiety kicks in. This is a natural human reaction, as the ability to control and anticipate our environments is deeply ingrained in each of us. Each of us seem to have a mini addiction to control. And when something doesn’t go the way we anticipate or think it should be, when we feel out of control, our stress hormones ignite. Once this fear and anxiety kicks in, a common defense mechanism is to place blame. We do this because we see the world as happening “to us”. We are convinced that something outside of us must be responsible for this event. This “blame game” can be toxic, generating shame, guilt, and even more fear. It is obvious to see how this vicious cycle may cause harm to our relationships, our own well being, and our organizations. So what can we do about it? How can we escape the blame game and the consequences that follow because of it?

The Solution

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. -Robert Anthony


Take responsibility! When we take 100% responsibility, we locate the cause and control of our lives within ourselves. Instead of locating the cause outside of ourselves, for example: because of other departments, because of the client, because of the Democrats, because of the universe, ask yourself how you helped create the situation. We typically place control of our lives outside of ourselves and say life isn’t turning out the way it should because “they messed up”. This immediately denies us the ability to improve or change the situation since we clearly don’t think we have any control or responsibility for the situation in the first place! Note that Taking Responsibility isn’t, instead, saying “I messed up”. This is self-blame! So what is the best way to navigate this sticky situation?

Thought Experiment

Time for a thought experiment…straight from the book:

“What if there is no way the world should be or shouldn’t be? What if the world just shows up the way the world shows up? What if the great opportunity of life isn’t trying to get the world to be a certain way, but rather in learning from whatever the world gives us? What if curiosity and learning are really the big game, not being right about how things should be?…What if the big questions of life were not ‘How can we fix this?’ or ‘How can we keep this from happening?’ or ‘Who is to blame for this being this way?’ but instead ‘What can we learn from this since life is all about learning and growing?’ or ‘I wonder what this is here to teach me about myself and life’?”

So instead of resisting reality, you can choose to accept it. Instead of viewing events are things happening “to you”, try viewing them as things happening “for you” as an opportunity to learn and grow. Thus, whenever you hear yourself saying “should”, view this is a red flag that you are putting an absolute demand on reality, which, from experience, we know doesn’t turn out so well. Respond to things that you would have rather turned out differently by asking “What can I learn from this? How can I step up to the plate and take 100% responsibility for my reality? What did i do to help create this situation? What opportunity for growth lies within this experience?” After all, blame doesn’t help anything. The real aim is to find solutions and the best solutions can be found by persons or teams that are free from the guilt, fear, and shame that comes from the blame game.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrot. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. -Lao Tzu


If the last bit was a bit too new age for any of you, that’s fine too. The point is to move away from blame and the mindset of things happening “to you”. Instead, take 100% responsibility for your reality and focus on finding solutions over finding someone or something to blame.

Instead of playing the Blame Game you can discuss these questions with your team:

  • What happened?
  • How can we correct the results we got?
  • What do we want to happen instead?
  • How can we set things up so it can’t happen again?
  • What do we need to learn from this?
  • How can we improve what we do?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Conscious Leadership series, where we’ll dive into Commitment 2 of the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.