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Erik Larson: Why Conscious Leadership Works

Life is a quest…Leadership is a quest.

No matter how successful we are in our current life and work, each of us is capable of creating a more joyful and unbridled future…but to do so means we have to courageously challenge and expand our own behaviors and beliefs from time to time. Luckily, we are not the first humans to travel such a quest path.




A Courageous Journey of Ego & Joy

Indeed, 4,000 years of human quest tales, from The Epic of Gilgamesh, 2,000 BC, to the recent Lego Batman Movie, 2017, provide us best practice tips, both pragmatic and humorous, on how to embark on a successful Hero Quest. Recent discoveries in neuroscience and psychology validate these ancient adventures as tales of human ego and mind development. That is the true gift the writers and poets wanted to give us: mindful guidance on how to live a more joyful & productive life.


Benefiting from such ancient wisdom and new mind science is what existential psychotherapist and conscious leadership expert Erik Sean Larson built The Hero Quest model to do. The workshop material is grounded in expanding your ability to more consciously move from a REACTIVE TO A CREATIVE LIFE & LEADERSHIP MINDSET – in order to better navigate our increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.

 Conscious leadership

Hero Quest Lessons on Living a More Joyful Life


Hero Quest Lesson #1: Life Requires Us To Move Through Adversity


Hero Quest Lesson #2: To Better Deal With Adversity, We Must Expand Our Mind


Hero Quest Lesson #3: Good & Bad News: Our Mind is Built to Expand, But It Doesn’t Make It Easy


Hero Quest Lesson #4: Expanding Our Mind Requires Us To Honor and Own Our Ego Strengths & Weaknesses


Hero Quest Lesson #5: Expanding Our Mind Allows Us to Create More JOY for Ourselves & Others


The Hero Quest is really a journey of Conscious Leadership. As for why Conscious Leadership works:


“The function of a leader within any institution: to provide that regulation through his or her non-anxious, self-defined presence.” – Edwin Friedman


In more simple terms, what Friedman is saying is that conscious leaders create better results, because when the “stuff “ hits the fan they don’t lose their “stuff “as fast as everybody else does.


Quest on…with reason, virtue and strength in order to create more joy and results for you and those around you…



Hearing More Conversations About Conscious Leadership


On barstools and around conference center high tops, I am hearing more conversations about conscious leadership and what it means and why it is important. And, it’s not due to me leading the conversation in that direction – well sometimes it is. And to be fair, sometimes the conversations are focused on emotional IQ or authentic leadership or servant leadership, but in the end all of these concepts are really just about how to be a more conscious leader. Conscious leadership is really just more aware leadership – more aware of what goes on in our heads and what goes on between us and other folks.


What these hard charging men and women mostly say about their experience with conscious leadership is something like, “When I first began to do it, I didn’t think it was going to work.” “Seemed like just soft skills to me.” Or something along those lines.

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So why try something, if they were skeptical of it in the first place, I would then ask. In one way or another, each of these leaders revealed the deep responsibility they feel for the success of their organizations’ voyage – and to honor that responsibility have concluded that any time and energy spent on being a better version of themselves was worth the old college try and could possibly be a leadership force multiplier.


Later in the conversations, my fellow leaders always get to what “it works” means. They say things like, “I am less reactive and more creative lately.” “ I’m fueling less drama at my company and at home.” “ I am not afraid to confront bad actors in my company. “ “I am feeling more contented and less burned out. “ “ We are being more productive with less stress than ever before.”


Sounds like good leadership DOING stuff to me. But of course, I would say that, I’ve already drank the conscious leadership Kool-Aid. The rubber hits the road, when the conversations move into just how the heck do you practice more conscious leadership…how do you add that tool to your life toolbox. Some of my conscious leadership conversation partners talk then about how they’ve begun mindfulness practices like mediation or prayer or journaling. But others talked about more deeply using their most trusted peers to keep them self-honest or about working with a counselor or clergy to go deeper. Still, others simply said one day it just clicked that they could do their job a new way – that the old ways of DOING could be upgraded from within themselves with new ways of BEING.


The short answer for adding conscious leadership practices to your toolbox is:

  1. Figure out how the heck to simply be more aware of your inner dialogues and your outer dialogues – figure out what works for you and commit to DO & BE it more often


Practicing more conscious leadership is really as simple and complicated of proposition as that.


Conscious Leadership: Is simple in that a leader’s increased awareness practices open up new ways to communicate, inspire, create, relate and make important stuff happen -- all good stuff that leaders attempt to make happen every day.


Conscious Leadership: Is complicated in that increased awareness about what is going in our noggins, e.g., ego stuff & belief stuff, can get bogged down quickly, with a seemingly slow return on investment.


The simple awareness payoffs are a no brainer – pun intended -- and clearly worth making happen. So let’s look at the complicated stuff: why is it worth doing the hard work of honoring our own inner ego strength & weaknesses and old beliefs and stuff? And why am I getting into more and more interesting conversations about stuff like ego and drama triangles and contentment?


I’ll let the “Oracle of Omaha” answer that for us. In his 2014 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffet focused on the pragmatic power of conscious leadership. In, what was his 50th shareholder letter, Buffet and his longtime partner, Charlie Munger, stated that the 4 traits they look for in leaders to do business with are:


  1. Trustworthiness: Be consistent -- a clear communicator -- compassionate
  2. Skill: Possess technical skills, strategic thinking, project management and relationship building skills
  3. Energy: Be self-aware and imbue energy & enthusiasm into your actions
  4. Love for The Business: Embody passion for the company, its people, and a desire to grow both


In these 4 essential traits of great leaders, Buffet and Munger laid out the essential DOING skills they know are important for making good stuff happen. But if you look again at their 4 traits, you’ll see that strengthening any of them requires a leader to do the hard work of honoring their own BEING strengths & weaknesses. That is the essential promise of conscious leadership: honoring our BEING story increases are ability to enhance our DOING story. Simple and complicated as that. And with that, I’m off to find a barstool somewhere and engage in my next conversation about leadership DOING & BEING that really works or maybe just about how the kids are DOING & BEING.


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Who is Erik Sean Larson?



Erik Sean Larson, MA, LMSW created the Hero Quest model to distill the wisdom of his 20-year journey as an existential psychotherapist and conscious leadership expert. Erik only does workshops that create laughter, tears and “get it done” insight. As a psychotherapist, Erik guides individuals and couples dealing with loss, trauma, and addiction. As a leadership consultant, Erik helps leaders from small and medium sized businesses increase personal meaning and business results. Erik lives in Michigan on a 40-acre farm, sharing adventures and challenges of ego & joy with his wife, Angele, their two children, a few chickens and a smart dog.

Copyright © 2018 Erik Sean Larson

Tags: Leadership
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