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Book Summary – The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success

In this book, the authors Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp explain the difference between conscious leadership (leading “above the line”) and unconscious leadership (leading “below the line”). They present a road map you can use to identify where you stand, and to shift above the line to achieve long-term, sustainable success. In this free version of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership summary, we’ll outline the concept of unconscious vs conscious leadership, and what the 15 commitments are.

Living & Leading Above the Line

What’s Unconscious vs Conscious Leadership?

Consciousness is not a state of development but a state of mind which you can switch in/out of. At any point in time, you’re either living/leading consciously (above the line) or unconsciously (below the line).

When you’re above the line, you’re aware of your inner/outer worlds, the thoughts, feelings and desires in yourself/others, and are open to possibilities. You recognize your role in creating your circumstances, and ask questions like “What can I learn from this?” or “How am I creating or perpetuating this situation?” This allows you to find creative and sustainable solutions.

When you’re below the line, you’re in a survival mode, narrowly focusing on perceived threats and stifling your creativity. You blame external forces and ask questions like “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why can’t they get it?” Your results/successes are not sustainable in the long run.

It’s normal to fall below the line, since humans naturally become defensive when we perceive a physical or psychological threat. The key is to recognize when you’re below the line, and make a conscious decision to shift back above the line. The 15 commitments below help you to do just that.

Context vs content. The context of your words/actions (where you’re coming from) matters more than the content (what you’re talking about). You can talk about your child’s studies or your company’s results from above the line (by being open and curious) or below the line (by being self-righteous and judgmental). Often, issues can be resolved naturally just by shifting the context of your conversations.

Shifting Your Consciousness from “To Me” to “By Me”

The authors present 4 states of consciousness built on Michael Bernard Beckwith’s concepts: “To Me”, “By Me”, “Through Me”, and “As Me”. The 15 commitments below focus on the shift from “to me” to “by me”, since this is the easiest and most productive shift.

To Me: We attribute our circumstances to external forces, and blame our failures/frustrations on the economy, incompetent team members, an inconsiderate spouse, etc. We’re preoccupied with questions like “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why can’t they get it right?” In this state, we’re operating below the line.

By Me: We recognize our role in creating our own circumstances. We approach things with curiosity and openness, asking questions like “What can I learn from this?” or “How am I creating or perpetuating this situation?”

Here’s a visual summary of conscious leadership (leading above the line) vs unconscious leadership (leading below the line):

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership summary - overview

Embracing the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Use these 15 commitments (sets of behaviors/mindsets) to know where you stand at any point in time, and to stay above the line to achieve long-term, sustainable success. We’ll now share the sample details for Commitment #1, and briefly outline the remaining commitments. Do get our complete 21-page book summary bundle for similar details, examples and tips for all 15 commitments.


The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership summary - commitment #1

Under the line: Blaming & Judging

• When things go wrong, our first response is usually to blame something/someone else. When the company loses a top customer, Sales blames Production for missed deadlines, Production blames Purchasing for a lack of raw materials, and the CEO blames the leaders for not working together.

• Blame is triggered by fear. It creates resentment and distrust that hurt an organization’s morale, productivity and results.

• At the heart of blame is the perception that there’s a “right” way for things to be. So, if things aren’t right, someone/something must be at fault.

• The blame game involves a victim-villain-hero triangle. The villain assigns the blame, the victim feels unfairly treated, and the hero steps in to save the day. This is unhealthy because: (i) the underlying issues aren’t addressed, (ii) the hero takes on too much responsibility and eventually burns out, while (iii) others accept less than their full share of responsibility.

Digest these powerful tips in minutes with our summary & infographic!

Above the line: Take 100% responsibility (no more, no less)

• Shift your perspective so there’s no need to blame yourself or others. Accept that the world doesn’t work the way you want it to. Things are not “wrong”; they’re just the way they are. Shift from indignance and self-righteousness to curiosity and openness.

• Instead of blaming external factors, explore the internal causes (e.g. your own assumptions, fears, actions) that could’ve contributed to your situation. Ask yourself: What can I learn from this? How could I have helped to create or perpetuate this situation? Are there similar behavioral patterns in the past? What facts may I be avoiding? What do I truly want? How can I take full responsibility for the situation?

• Once you stop blaming and start taking responsibility, it helps others to do the same. A manager was contemplating his staff’s poor performance. He realized that he may have contributed to the situation by failing to set clear expectations or point out the shortfalls. He shared these insights with his staff, taking full responsibility and inviting her to do the same. This allowed both sides to learn and move forward without blame, shame or guilt.


Here are all the 15 commitments of conscious leadership in a nutshell:
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership summary - the 15 commitments

Here’s are the other 14 items at a glance. Do get our complete version of the 15 commitments of conscious leadership (get full book summary here) for more details.

2. Learn with Curiosity

• Do commit to learning and growing your self-awareness. See every interaction as a chance to learn.
• Don’t insist on being right, protect your ego and validate your view.

Learn how to catch yourself “drifting” or being defensive, and to make a physical and psychological shift.

3. Experience all Feelings Fully

• Do feel all your feelings. Locate the sensations in your body, identify and feel the emotions through to completion, then release them.

• Don’t judge, deny, suppress, and/or avoid your feelings.

Learn to use your head, heart and gut to make better decisions. Find out how to identify your key emotions (their associated sensations & meaning), and release such that your emotional energy can flow freely.

4. Communicate with Candor

• Do speak unarguably, truthfully, openly and with awareness. Listen consciously so others can also express themselves candidly.

• Don’t withhold truths (facts, feelings, views) or speak manipulatively.

Learn what it means to speak unarguably with candor, and to practice conscious listening.

5. Stop All Gossip

• Do end all gossip. Talk directly to the people with whom you have an issue, and encourage others to do the same.

• Don’t gossip or listen to gossip.

Learn how to use the “clearing model” to clean up past gossip, restore trust, collaboration and creative energy.

6. Live in Integrity

• Do acknowledge authentic feelings, express unarguable truths, keep all agreements and clean up broken agreements.

• Don’t withhold truths, fail to take full responsibility or keep your word.

Learn how you can become whole with an unbroken flow of energy, being congruent and on purpose.

Get our full summary and infographic for more tips and examples!

7. Give and Receive Appreciation

• Do Live in appreciation: fully give and receive appreciation.
• Don’t feel entitled to what you think you own/deserve, or get resentful when things don’t go the way you expect.

Learn how to give masterful appreciation and receive appreciation.

8. Thrive in Your Zone of Genius

• Do live in your zone of genius where you can express your full potential, and help others to do the same.

• Don’t limit yourself in the zones of incompetence, competence or excellence.

Learn about the 4 zones, how to find your zones of genius and leverage your genius.

9. Energize Yourself with Play and Rest

• Do incorporate play, rest, ease laughter and improvisation into your life. Honor your rhythms of rest and renewal to maximize your energy.
• Don’t take life too seriously, constantly struggle and exert effort.

Learn various strategies/approaches to to incorporate play, rest and laughter in your work/life to maximize creativity, ease, energy and productivity.

10. Explore Opposite Viewpoints

• Do become aware of the labels, meaning and stories that you create. See that the opposite of your story can be at least as true.
• Don’t believe your stories as the absolute truths.

Learn how to challenge and reframe your perspectives.

11. Find Approval, Control and Security from Within

• Do find approval, control, and security within yourself.
• Don’t seek approval, control, and security from external sources.

12. Have an Abundance Mindset

• Do believe that you have enough of everything
• Don’t believe in scarcity and play a zero-sum game.

Debunk 3 toxic myths about scarcity and embrace an abundance mindset.

13. Treat the World as your Ally

• Do see everyone/everything as allies to help you learn/grow.
• Don’t see everyone/everything as obstacles and adversaries.

14. Collaborate for Win-for-All Outcomes

• Do create win-for-all solutions.
• Don’t focus on win/lose (competing) or lose/lose (compromising) outcomes.

15. Become the Resolution Needed

• Do be or become the resolution that you see missing in the world.
• Don’t respond to problems with resentment (blaming others) or apathy (doing nothing).


For change to occur at an individual, team or organizational level, you must overcome your resistance or fear of uncertainty. This can only happen if you have (i) a compelling vision for the new future, (ii) strong dissatisfaction with the status quo and (iii) a clear idea of the first steps to take. The 15 commitments above will help you to facilitate positive change.

Do get our complete version of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership summary in text, infographic and audio formats for a more detailed explanation of all 15 commitments, and deeper insights on how you can apply them in work and life.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership - Book summary bundle

Other Details in “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership”

The underlying principles and concepts of conscious leadership are repeatedly reinforced across the various chapters, along with fun illustrations to bring the ideas to life, and samples of additional tools used by the authors (e.g. the Integrity Inventory, the “genius email” template). Do get a copy of the book for the full mojo, get our complete book summary bundle for a detailed overview of the concepts and tips, or check out more resources/details at


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Lead consciously above the line to achieve long-term, sustainable success!

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