Lead with “Conscience” to Develop Strong Relationships in the Workplace

Published: Jun 01, 2018
Modified: Apr 09, 2024


As leaders, we need to cultivate many qualities as we try to attain the most rewarding relationships with our internal and external stakeholders. When we lead with CONSCIENCE, we can continually improve 10 leadership qualities—each representing one letter of the word “conscience.” Leading with CONSCIENCE can make the difference between dealing with a constantly changing workforce and relying on a stable and satisfied team.

Leading with CONSCIENCE means doing the right thing and feeling that in your gut. This works well in relationships with others, since it breeds trust and mutual respect. Even more to the point, it works well in the relationship you have with yourself, as conscious behavior results in mindful decision making and therefore a much greater sense of inner calm.

10 essential qualities for today’s leaders

Leading with CONSCIENCE should serve as the foundational driver in all our leadership actions. As an acronym, the word “conscience” provides guidelines on implementing the concept it represents:

Communication. Everyone who has held a leadership position knows how important communication is. The must-do’s in communication are to keep it clear and simple, keep it short, and be honest, authentic, and respectful.

Open-mindedness. While the chauvinism or prejudices of others may aggravate us, we have a tendency to overlook our own. Work on keeping an open mind by questioning your stances, thinking twice before disregarding options, and realizing there are always choices when making decisions.

Nimbleness. The pace of life has accelerated to such an extent that it’s practically incomparable to how our forebears lived in the beginning of the 20th century, or even before the Internet. Nimbleness is critical for leaders who want to continue expanding their horizons.

Serenity. It’s hard in a performance-dominated world to unplug from the daily craze for a while. For some leaders, it requires a conscious effort to schedule time for serenity. Although this may look different for each of us, it usually has some common elements, such as absence of stress, quietude, and peaceful surroundings.

Collaboration. Being able to work with others cannot be overlooked in leading with CONSCIENCE. Whether you are enamored of teams or not, make sure you include others in your decision-making processes and actions so that they feel involved.

Inspiration. Leaders know that a lack of inspiration can lead to lack of action and, consequently, lack of success. Finding inspiration for yourself is therefore essential in working up the desire and determination to perform. To inspire others, recognize that every person is inspired in a different way. Identify the specific need and address it as appropriate.

Excellence. Most leaders are ambitious people who strive for excellence in their work. When performing with excellence, we don’t just honor our own standards—we express utmost respect to the recipients of our efforts.

Nobleness. Leaders will admit that, all too often, the easiest way to accomplish a goal is not the noble way. Doing the right thing can be hard or unpopular. Yet if you aim to lead in a way that lets you live with yourself, you will be on a path to continue doing the right thing.

Conscientiousness. When employees consider their leader a conscientious person, they may be inspired to display the same behavior. They will feel a sense of trust in their leader for taking responsibility for tasks and ensuring they are completed in the most responsible way possible.

Empathy. In a world driven by revenues and bottom lines, empathy seems counterproductive. Yet it can be the critical element in how a leader is perceived. When employees know their leader understands the issues they deal with, they appreciate that kind of empathetic behavior and are more willing to invest effort and perseverance on the job.

Leading with CONSCIENCE is critical. It’s beneficial to our personal and professional well-being as leaders, and it’s the leadership style to which the Millennial generation seems best able to relate. Millennials, our current and future stakeholders, have it within their power to focus their decisions, careers, and investments on one major goal: making the world a better place.

About The Author

Joan Marques, PhD, is dean and professor of management at Woodbury University in Burbank, Calif. She is author of Ethical Leadership: Progress with a Moral Compass (Routledge, 2017), Leadership and Mindful Behavior: Action, Wakefulness, and Business (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), and other books on mindful leadership. Learn more at JoanMarques.com