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Elevating consciousness in business leaders: connecting personal development to positive impact

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posted on 2023-10-18, 01:39 authored by Tatiana Donato TrevisanTatiana Donato Trevisan

Against the backdrop of climate change, a global pandemic and emerging social issues, the need for leaders who use the power of business to solve societal challenges has become increasingly urgent. However, little attention has been given to the underlying processes that shape the development of such leaders. Conscious leadership is an emergent construct, which refers to leaders who have a deep commitment to making a lasting positive impact. The uniqueness of the conscious leadership stems from its connection to adult developmental theories, as conscious leaders operate from high levels of consciousness and choose a path of personal growth and wholeness in life. This research  investigates conscious leaders’ developmental processes through the theoretical lenses of Loevinger’s theory of consciousness development and correlated frameworks. The dissertation is comprised of three articles (thesis by publication), bookended by introductory and overall discussion chapters.

The first article combines theory and frameworks on consciousness development together with existing conscious leadership literature and moral values-based leadership theories to propose an integrated framework for conscious leaders. Developed through literature review, it aims to address an absence of academic research on the conscious leadership construct. For conscious leaders, the capacity to transform the world around them into a better place happens concomitantly with them becoming the best version of themselves, or evolving to the highest levels of consciousness.

The second article investigates the catalysts, patterns, and underlying processes involved in conscious leaders’ development, based on a qualitative study with 30 conscious leaders worldwide. It proposes the conscious leader’s development model, with three key processes, Know, Align, and Transcend, that together comprise an archetypal journey of development and transcendence revealing the motivation for creating a positive impact in society. Additionally, the paper shows that such a journey requires the development of two kinds of intelligence: emotional (EQ) and spiritual (SQ). Through this model, the article contributes to the contemporary leadership literature by expanding our understanding of the micro-processes underlying the development of a higher purpose in business leaders.

The final article presents a case study with a business institute that aims to identify the activities and interventions that business schools can utilise to develop leaders who strive to have positive impact in society. Collecting data via 59 interviews, documentary analysis, and participant observations, the paper suggests that disequilibrating experiences, together with appropriate holding and internal environments, can help to develop conscious leaders. Based on constructive developmental theory, the article offers a novel model of the learning mechanisms and competencies that can support business schools to be a catalyst for developing such leaders.

Overall, this research contributes to the conscious leadership and leadership development literature by offering an integrative approach that results in leaders who serves themselves, others, business and society. It concludes that the process of developing as a conscious leader involves a journey of personal growth and finding wholeness in life.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: The conscious leader framework -- Chapter 3: Connecting personal development to positive impact: the journey toward conscious leadership -- Chapter 4: How business schools can help to develop leaders for positive impact: lessons from a unique MBA -- Chapter 5: Discussion -- Appendices


Thesis by publication

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Business School

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Debbie Haski-Leventhal

Additional Supervisor 1

Sarah Bankins


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