Tools for Conscious Leaders

What would the world be like if we focused on connection and curiosity,
rather than competition and fairness? 

Transformational executive coach Kaley Klemp invites leaders to ponder this and other questions in her private and group coaching. Klemp, coauthor of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership and other books, will be one of the speakers at the upcoming Conscious Entrepreneurs Summit in Denver next month. Klemp also coauthored The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Relationship with her husband Nate Klemp, a philosopher and founding partner of Mindful.

Klemp invites the executives she works with to blur the lines between public and private, professional and personal. Her clients have seen her book about leadership being equally about marriage, she says, and her book about marriage being equally applicable to cofounders working together to build a business. 

It’s all about “taking 100% responsibility for whatever is happening in our lives,” Klemp says, noting that if we are struggling in one area of our life, it will likely show up somewhere else. It’s important to recognize that we are all creators of our own lives, while at the same time surrendering to that which we cannot control. Klemp acknowledges the dangers of taking on the victim role or villainizing others, but also those of taking on the “hero” role – always being the savior of others. One who takes on the hero role, she explains, takes on more than 100%, allowing someone else not to take responsibility, and in the end creates a situation that’s unsustainable. Instead, “It’s being able to say ‘I get to be the creator of my life experience’ and . . . claiming the creative energy that’s available.” 

Instead of seeing something in their lives as being right or wrong, Klemp encourages her clients to simply get curious, to be more interested in listening to oneself or others, than to try to troubleshoot or problem-solve. Once one aspect of your life feels “off,” Klemp says it’s important to get curious and look at where that might be and what effect that gap might be having on your life. For example, if you’re feeling lonely, you might look at the time and energy you are putting into connecting with others. Getting curious and asking questions, rather than going into blaming modes or letting the inner critic take over, is ultimately a more productive path. 

What Is Conscious Leadership? 

Conscious leadership is about asking questions about the impact you’re making, about your purpose and about meaning. Conscious leaders are more interested in how to serve than how to lead. It’s about listening, being curious, and asking questions. It’s taking the stance of, “What does it mean to be more interested in learning than being right?” This new generation of executives is more conscious of the impact they are having and what the effects are of what they are doing. In her coaching and her book, Klemp offers some tools for more conscious leadership – and living.  

Staying Above the Line 

The 15 Commitments is structured around the idea of encouraging leaders to stay “above the line.” Above the line, Klemp explains, you’re in a place of conscious creation, taking responsibility but also working in cooperation, from a perspective of abundance and possibility. Below the line, on the other hand, brings up a mindset of scarcity and thus competition, the sense that there’s not enough for all, and one has little power over what happens in their life. While it’s normal and very human to drift below the line, approaching it with curiosity, rather than judgment or apathy, is crucial to rising above it again. Knowing the ways in which you often drift below the line, you can more easily and quickly catch yourself and turn it around. 

Working With Others 

Another tool Klemp recommends is seeing others as allies – even those who anger or irritate you. Instead of focusing on your response, ask what lesson can be learned. Again, get curious: what can I learn here? How does this person serve to teach me? 

In a time when many are still meeting virtually, Klemp also stresses the importance for teams to feel connected. She advises using some time to “let people be people” by allowing for casual time to chat and catch up. Also, she advises creating a culture that embraces candor over gossip and politics. Being curious, again, is essential. Be curious about the other, but also be willing to let the other be curious about you; this can be an important step in building stronger connections as well as learning more about yourself.

Take an Intentional Pause

In the retreats she hosts for executives, Klemp finds one of the most valuable aspects of is usually providing time and space for an intentional pause where leaders can take stock of their values and priorities, away from the demands of their busy lives, to re-orient themselves to what’s most important to them. Clients can use this time to do a “whole-life audit,” to tune into what’s working and what’s not, and where they might be “drifting” below the line. 

More Conscious Relationships: The 80/80 Marriage

Klemp also sees many of these tools as applying to healthier, happier marriages. “All the work we do on ourselves personally shows up with how we lead. All the work we do as a leader, as an executive. . .  shows up in our families,” says Klemp.

In The 80/80 Marriage, she and her husband and coauthor discard the idea of the “50/50 marriage.” 

“It’s not about scoring points to see who wins, it’s about passing the ball back and forth to win together,” Klemp says. The tools of becoming both conscious and curious can also be used here. Klemp believes that, instead of keeping score, people in a committed relationship should be asking:

  • What do I give to this relationship that’s valued? 
  • Am I looking for opportunities to catch you doing something good?
  • Am I letting you into my inner world?

Similar to how one might do a self-inventory of what might be missing in your life, it’s important to monitor for what she calls the “slow fade” in a committed relationship. The slow fade is something that subtly indicates that something is breaking down or in need of attention; it is the result of “miscroscopic movements” that can eventually create a chasm. Some examples of the slow fade are:

  • Confiding in a friend instead of a partner 
  • Not making quality time to be intentionally together
  • Keeping your partner out of the loop on your own inner journey by not sharing how you’re evolving spiritually and intellectually

Klemp recognizes that sex, especially when there is a major discrepancy in desire, can be a real point of conflict. She advises partners practice “radical generosity” in their relationships, including in the bedroom. For people who struggle with sexual desire discrepancy, she recommends using a structure – as in planning for intimacy at specific days and times – in order to take away some of the tension. 

The Enneagram 

Another tool Klemp employs is the Enneagram personality system, which breaks down nine different personality types. She finds that it’s insightful in helping her better understand why someone might do what they do, and how she might find ways to shape her interactions with them. It also gives her insight into herself, her motives, and places where she has both strengths and weaknesses. The Enneagram, she says, “provides a profound shift in awareness.” Klemp offers a course and other resources on this tool at

The conversation with Kaley Klemp continues on the Leading With Genuine Care podcast. We talk about where her “soul home” lies, the “zones” that everyone should be aware of, and why your zone of excellence changes over time, as well as more about the Enneagram and why she finds it so invaluable. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne.

Check out my website or some of my other work here.