Like a lot of people I have been struggling with exactly what to look for in our current presidential candidates that would help me to decide which way to vote.
I feel doubt that what I’m getting from the press—or even what I will be getting from the debates—won’t help me to make the informed decision I would like to make.
Yes, I can learn all about how many tweets a candidate sends in an hour, how much money they have made and how they made it, what size their various body parts are, whether they’re healthy or not, made their income tax returns public or not, and even whether they wear expensive clothes—er, jackets or not.
But none of it helps me to discern overall which candidate I actually want to give my vote to. I need a more unbiased, non-inflammatory way of measuring their suitability for this role.
I also need a way to validate and help me to scrutinize my subjective, gut feelings.
Thankfully, I recently heard a dharma talk by Fleet Maull—Buddhist teacher and author—in which he provided a description of the characteristics of a conscious leader, that helped me to find what I was looking for.
While I don’t expect that our presidential candidates be conscious or mindful in the sense that they have a meditation practice, I know now that I want to vote for the one who I think has cultivated the seven traits of a conscious leader that Maull outlined in his talk.
I found these characteristics—or the absence of them—to be clearer recommendations for leadership than anything else that has been presented to me thus far:
1) Presence: A conscious leader has developed the capacity to be fully present in an empathetic way, with both themselves and with others. They have also examined, accepted and made friends with their entirety as an individual—“the good, the bad and the ugly.”
“Any part of ourselves that we have not made friends with or that we are…obscuring or excluding we project out onto the world. The same violence that we are doing to ourselves we will [therefore] do to the world and to others.” ~ Maull
2) Emotional Intelligence: A conscious leader has the capacity to be aware of, control, and express their emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. In practical terms a conscious leader is “…aware that emotions can drive behavior and impact people positively and negatively. They have learned how to manage those emotions—both their own and others–especially when under pressure.”
3) Resilience: A conscious leader has the ability to bounce back from challenging situations physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. She/he is a warrior—not in the sense of making war—but in the sense of basic human bravery when it comes to never giving up on themselves, and removing anything that is an obstacle between themselves and others. They have the capacity to “find their way back to responsive rather than reactive modes.”
4) Integrity and Ethics: A conscious leader must have both integrity and ethics.
According to Wikipedia: “Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards. In ethics, integrity is regarded by many people as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”
According to Maull: “Integrity is having your insides match your outsides, and without you cannot lead.”
5) Radical Responsibility: A conscious leader takes 100% ownership for every circumstance that has occurred in their life and recognizes that leadership is not about either self-blame or other-blame.
“A [conscious] leader addresses the only salient question: “What am I going to do?” This thing… is in my lap now and I either let it take me down or I find some way to …move forward.” ~ Maull
6) Radical Possibility: A conscious leader is able to step out of survival mode and out of fear based psychology altogether, and access the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state Maull refers to as the “State of Possibility.”
“In that [the State of Possibility] almost anything is possible. It is the place from which we are the most creative and innovative.” ~ Maull
7) Mastery: A conscious leader strives to transcend “good enough” and does not accept the status quo. They understand that “good enough” is what allows the world to go where it is going. For a conscious leader, “mastery is not an end goal, but a principle that informs their life as lifelong learners.”
For many, deciding which candidate to vote for is a matter of party loyalty, policies and platform. Others find what is promulgated by the press, what is predicted in the polls, and how a candidate performs in the debates to be helpful as well.
I, however, was looking for a way to understand and evaluate the person behind all of that and, thanks to the seven characteristics above, as well as to Maull’s particular description of them, I feel I have found a way to do it.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Erin Lawson