By Jackie Roberge

The words “mindfulness” and “consciousness” are increasingly appearing in contemporary leadership training programs and organizational discourse, and for good reason. These ancient concepts and coupled practices have wide reaching, empirically validated and impressive workplace outcomes, such as improved decision-making, a reduction in destructive leadership behavior, stress, turnover intention and more.

We have, however, witnessed the well-intentioned transformation of these two terms (mindful leadership and conscious leadership) into misused buzzwords, and want, therefore, to bring additional clarity to the definitions of and differences between them.

While there are many different and valid definitions and opinions out there, we at Mindsmatter adopt the following:

Our Definition of Conscious Leadership:

Conscious leaders seek to make a positive impact on the world, in large part, by intentionally helping others grow and derive meaning from their work, while living and leading with an acute awareness of the deep and complex interconnectedness and interdependence of all beings and their environment.

Our Definition of Mindful Leadership:

Mindful leadership falls under the umbrella of conscious leadership and is one component, or practice, supporting conscious leadership.

A mindful leader is committed to the development of their internal state in order to live more fully in the present moment. Mindful leaders practice staying present through deeply attending to the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and context of each moment. (To note, in our book on vertical growth, we further elaborate upon this definition. If you’d like a free summary of our book, we invite you to let us know via We will happily email one to you).

1) More on conscious leadership:

  “We often describe unconscious leaders as reactive. They react from a “story” about the past or an imagined future, and their personality, ego, or mind takes over.”

― Jim Dethmer, author of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success

1.1) How to become a more conscious leader:

Incorporating decades of work with international executives, this book on conscious leadership offers a practical framework for how to become a more conscious leader. The framework involves exploring, befriending, and choosing when to shift thoughts, emotions and coupled behaviors in order to generate socially responsible actions. The authors create a simple tool for checking if a behavior is conscious or unconscious: 

A black line. 

We invite you to watch this short video on the powerful line:

2.3) Mindful Leadership Practices:

Mindful Leadership practices are pragmatic, actionable tools that bridge the gap between mind training sessions (such as formal and informal practices, described above) and the real messy world of leadership.

While both formal and informal practices have undoubted, scientifically proven benefits, there are no guarantees that doing these two practices alone will make you a better leader. These need to be transferable to real life challenges, shifting from unconscious patterns and reactions to deliberate, values-based responses.

Without this bridge, mind training practices will not necessarily foster mindful leadership. Embodying presence, increased self-awareness and the nine attitudes above when faced with difficult emotions is the hallmark of a mindful leader. This embodiment involves going beyond the conditioned reactive reflexes that unconsciously govern our behaviors, in order to instead act from a place of deep self-awareness, emotional regulation, and values alignment.

This mindful leadership foundation can be thought of as the soil from which conscious leadership can then grow.

For more tools developing the self-awareness critical for becoming more conscious, we invite you to read Vertical Growth – How Self-awareness Transforms Leaders and Organisations