Conscious Leadership with Jeffrey Deckman

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

In this episode, Jeffrey Deckman discusses the importance of being a conscious leader and how to have an engaged workforce.

After the Interview:

About Jeffrey Deckman

Jeffrey is a nationally recognized thought leader and award winning author on the next evolution of leadership: Conscious Leadership. His recently published book: Developing the Conscious Leadership Mindset for the 21st Century won a total of four national and international Stevie Awards® and is an Amazon best seller in the Occupational and Organizational Psychology category. He also won the 2021 International Business Awards bronze medal for ‘Innovator of the Year’. His background is one of a serial entrepreneur who has bootstrapped 2 multi-million dollar companies; several non-profits and multiple political organizations. Since 2005 he has been a leadership and organizational performance consultant and leadership coach.

Jeffrey is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and regularly publishes on the blog. Jeffrey is also a stage 4 cancer “thriver”; a dedicated student spiritual teachings and a Reiki Master.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast, host and executive coach Allison Dunn. Our guest today is Jeffrey Deckman, is a nationally recognized thought leader and award-winning author of the next evolution of leadership. His recently published book, developing the conscious leadership mindset for the 21st century, won four national and international Stevie awards, and is an Amazon bestseller. Jeffrey is the member of the Forbes coach Council; he regularly publishes on the blog. He is also a stage four cancer thriver, a dedicated student of spiritual teachings and a Reiki Master. Jeffrey, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Jeffrey: Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Allison: Me too. I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation. What would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners today?

Jeffrey: Ah, increase employee engagement by engaging the employees first. Don’t expect them to come to you.

Allison: So increase employee engagement by you first going to the employees to engage them. Right?

Jeffrey: And Stephen Covey had that great quote, you know, Seek first to understand then be understood. And I find the same thing is true with engagement. If, if you want your employees to engage you engage them first in a real way. Not plastic, you know, see the human in the human? And, yeah, make it real and authentic. And they’ll respond.

Allison: Yeah, I’m just curious. Like, if, if I was your employee, what would be a way that you would do that with me?

Jeffrey: Conversationally, you know, the only time we’re boss, and employee is inside that particular building, or in that particular relationship, were to meet each other out in a supermarket, we just be a couple of folks that are trying to feed our families and have a good day. And I think that’s really the key is, like I said before, you know, see the human, and engage people that way, and only fall into the hierarchy or authority, authority roles if you need to. And even then, try to avoid that. I think most time you can avoid confrontation by just having good conversations.

Allison: I think it’s such wise advice. And one of my favorite sayings, and you know, it’s not a quote that I’ve done, it’s a quote that drives that home for me, is no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. And they can do that is to engage in conversation. So, I love that. Yeah. I forget who said that. I wish I could tell you I use that quote, all the time. And I should, I will have my homework will be to find out so I can give appropriate recognition to who’s just going to Brainy quotes and type that quote, and then they’ll tell you that it’s attributed to right.

Allison: I’m sure. And I never give anyone credit. I’m like some brilliant person said, yeah. All right, whoever that brilliant person is. Jeff, would you be willing to share if there’s any interesting stories or anecdotes about how you came up with the idea of starting your own business?

Jeffrey: And tell me to, oh, gee, I started my first business 40 years ago, believe it or not, you know, I wasn’t seven. I was. I was 26. And what happened was that in the cable television industry. I was working my way up through that very quickly. And what happened was, I moved so far up in the organization that I out paste, my ability to have the maturity or the diplomacy or the political skills, not sure which one it was to go to the next step. And I had a conversation with a new boss that I had, and it was clear he was taking the place corporate, and I had about 40 people that were working with me and we had good relationships and he wanted me to be dishonest with my employees and I refuse to do it.

 So, when I was his office was walking distance from mine was a couple blocks away. And if you had asked me that morning, if I’d ever start a business, I would have said never. And from the time that 15 minutes, walked back to my office, I said I must go if I if I think I You know how to run a company better than this guy does, I should probably call my own bluff. So, I partnered up with a guy and we built a company that did pretty well, we can up to four and a half million dollars in revenue in seven years and offices in four states and the cable television industry, and it crashed.

So, I had a bankruptcy at age 30, with a wife and two kids. And so, then I started another company, even though that was insane. But I had $17,000, I started another company, and I took the lessons I learned from the first company. And I sold that company at 20, a week before its 21st birthday. So had a good run. And I sold that to go into the business that I’m in now, which is to help small to medium sized business owners build their company quicker and easier than I built mine. So that’s my story in a nutshell.

Allison: And your launch of your second company was it also in the cable industry?

Jeffrey: It actually started in the cable industry, but I knew I wanted to get out of that. And I saw the telecommunications industry was first being born. That was in 1987. So, I got to ride the entrepreneurial wave of the cable television industry. And then I got in the entrepreneurial wave of the telecommunications industry. So, I built a telecommunications integration firm. So, we built large scale computer networks, the infrastructure, the copper, the fiber, the coax, that type of stuff. All throughout New England.

Allison: Fantastic, good. Well, thank you for doing that. I’m sure I benefited because that’s where I was raised. Right. Wonderful. You say that there’s a really big difference between today’s workers and workers of the past and must just spark that as a conversation. That was smart.

Jeffrey: Well, you know, we currently have the five most independent minded generations, literally in the history of humanity in the workforce. And none of them want to be told what to do without knowing why none of them want to show up and shut up. They want to be engaged; they want to be respected. And that is challenging a lot of the traditional leadership models that many of us have been trained in that command-and-control top down.

You know, big decisions are made at the management level, and then filtered down. And that model was successful through the industrial age, but we’re not in the industrial age, we don’t have a workforce that is willing to just go along and do what they’re told they want to engage their minds. So, the challenge is, how do we develop new leadership models to catch up and get ahead of the current level of consciousness of the modern worker. And that’s all the work that I do is I help leaders transform from command-and-control top down to leaders that communicate, collaborate and facilitate. Because it’s all about maximizing the human capital. If you get the human capital, right, the financial capital is going to show up for you.

Allison: In your experience, have you found that there’s leading industries that have adopted this more quickly and lacking industries where the opportunity is ripe to think about their leadership style?

Jeffrey: You know, big companies that are on the cutting edge of whether it’s big tech or Big Pharma. Those companies have a workforce that requires them to be innovative. But what I’ve seen in those companies is they create these innovative pods, but you still have these hierarchies that are in place that have turf battles, and egos and that type of stuff. And so, people ask me, what type of businesses do I work in, and I say, any business that has people in it, because really what I focus on is helping the leader get to another level of consciousness on how they engage people and how they see their organizations.

You know, the industrial age saw the organization as a machine, if you look at the org chart looks like an assembly line. And you have silos, and you have things that go you know, mechanically and the reality of it is an organization is an organism. And it’s not made up of departments as much as it’s made up of tribes. So, we must start looking at our organizations as tribes that communicate in conversations that aren’t really structured 67 percent of people up do their work outside of the org chart, they form informal networks to do their work, because the org chart slows them down too much.

That came from a book from called mobilizing minds from McKinsey. And if you look at the employee engagement figures today, it’s only 30%. So only three out of 10. Imagine a baseball team, you know, the World Series is coming up here soon. Imagine a manager who could only get three of his nine players out on the field. And yet, that’s what we have in business. So, if you have 70% that are unengaged. But when Gallup interviews the people, they want to know how, and they ask them how many want to be engaged, 70% want to be engaged. So, 70% want to be.

So, the model we want to get away from command and control. And we want to be much more collaborative with our workforce. And we want to activate that collective genius and get it getting it cooperating, pointed in the same direction. And people enjoy being engaged in it like doing good work. So, if you just create the environment that allows for that, you’re going to see a significant change in your business quickly.

Allison: I’ve done a lot of research and work with clients on the concepts around engagement. So, let’s talk through like, it’s not the it’s not the people, it’s the model. What, what do you think are the dynamics that are driving the need for the change in our leadership model?

Jeffrey: Well, one of the things is that I mentioned before the new consciousness of the modern worker, right, that’s really powerful. The other thing is that technology and the internet and the rapid amount of disruption and change that we now experience in our world because of technology has made it so those other forms are too slow, too cumbersome, and frankly, too dumb to be able to thrive in this new environment. Complexity blows up structure. And these organizations that are highly structured, they can’t respond to complexity quick enough.

So, we have all the world is changing quickly. And they’re changing very slowly. So between, you know, short answer is between technology and the consciousness of the modern worker, they’ve come together to bring us to an information age, we’re no longer in the industrial age, we’re in an information age, and this is an age people will be writing about, you know, 300 years from now, because we’ve only had four other agents. We’ve had nomadic agricultural industrial age, and now we’re in this information age. So this is a fundamental shift in human development. And our leadership models have to catch up.

Allison: Yeah. Do you have a crystal ball as to how long this information age might last? And do you see where it’s heading? I’m just curious.

Jeffrey: Yeah, you know, they’re already starting to talk about the next phase. And, you know, because of what I do, I have to be a bit of a futurist but a realistic futurist, because I work inside companies, I don’t sit on a hill and think about this stuff. And, you know, the, the age of AI, automatic, I just lost with that, or the elegance, right? That is starting to shift already. Because the information age was about a lot of information being able to be transmitted. AI is about creating another thinking entity. And there are some questions whether or not they’re even sentient beings.

You know, there was the guy from Google, who said that he’s having this conversation and saying it’s sentient, and they fired him for it. But it’s an interesting interview, if you, if you listen to him on YouTube, it’s quite fascinating. So, AI is already starting to add an extra spin on this information age. But either way, complexity is going to increase in the rate of speed at which things happen and is going to change so we’re going to be in a space of exponential disruption, and we need to figure out how to move our way through that without getting crushed by it. I don’t want to sound too draconian but it’s you can’t move.

Allison: through it you do get like passed through or passed by Ford or crushed by it.

Jeffrey: Yeah, you’re paying a price, for sure.

Allison: What do you think are the biggest mistakes that leaders are making, and then they don’t even realize it.

Jeffrey: They don’t realize where we are in history. You know, the industrial age lasts for a little over 300 years, depending on you know, when you think when you think it started, but so all of us, and I say all of us, I’m a boomer, everybody in my generation, maybe even the next generation below me, has been raised through this command and control, listen to the person that you know, the head of the class or the head of the board, table, etc. And that is that that that needs to change. That’s a that’s something that we absolutely have to adapt to.

Allison: In the conscious leadership model that you’ve developed, can you talk us through maybe stages or things that would make our listeners want to go and grab your book at Amazon, like, give us a bite that we go, like, I need to know more about packet.

Jeffrey: You know, I spent many years in a leadership position, I’ve probably been in management. And since I was about 21. So I spent a lot of years in that. And I was top down ego, ego driven leader, I didn’t think I was, I didn’t mean to be, but I look back and I was. And then, about 30/25 years ago, or so I got on a spiritual path. And I think that in today’s world, it’s essential that leaders have some form of connection to spirituality, doesn’t have to be religion, it can be whatever, you know, you can go out and sit in the woods and pray to trees or whatever.

But, you know if we don’t connect to something bigger than us, we’re run by our egos. So, you know, one of the things that I talk to people about is the impact of consciousness in leadership. In other words, am I going to lead with my ego? Or am I going to tap into my inner elder. If you think of a tribal elder, and you know, our organizations are a tribe of tribes. So if you think of a tribal elder, you know, the things that come to mind are wise, patient, empathetic, they put the tribe before themselves, they’re thoughtful, they’re fair. And they are approachable.

So, in my book, what I really talk about are some things that one of the things I say is the first, the first step on the path to leadership is an inward one. And, and so are all the rest. Because if I can’t lead and manage myself, I shouldn’t be given the right to lead or manage someone else. So, it’s really important, the first step as a leader is to really get clear with who you are, understand who you are, obviously try to improve where you can, but to, the more you connect with yourself, the more you can relate to other people. And, you know, I mentioned it before, you know, come from a place of seeing the human and everybody who’s showing up there is looking to take care of their family, they’re looking to build a career that they enjoy, they have bills, they have stresses, they might have some family issues, health issues, whatever.

And we just really need to see the compassion, we need to see them through compassionate eyes. And at the same time, do not get to a place where all we do is hug people, you know, business is a context for and you have to have consequences. Any culture that doesn’t have consequences is chaos. But those consequences have to be fair, they have to be clearly understood, they have to be reasonable, and you have to consistently apply them. And when you do that, you give your organization the form that needs to be able to move forward and helps you to deal with people who may not be rowing in the same direction in a productive way.

Allison: Yeah. I appreciate your point, you are pointing out the spiritual component of you know, beyond just in oneself, you know, for higher purpose. Okay.

Jeffrey: You know, and the other thing is, if you don’t love people don’t lead people.

Allison: It is so true.

Jeffrey: Because sometimes you just want I mean, we’re all humans at some point, you know, my ego shows up because I just I just want to shake that person, you know, but we have to maintain that level of leadership where we can control our emotions and do what it is we need to do to move the ball forward in a productive way. But it’s challenging. And you know, one of the disservices it’s done to so many people that get into management is that they are not trained, and the psychological and group dynamics that they’re stepping into.

It’s like today, elementary schools, high school teachers, they are being trained in the psychology of their workforce, because everybody’s coming in, like with these personal issues. And the same thing is true with middle and senior managers is that they really need to be given that level of understanding. So they know who they’re dealing with, not just that they have to get a job done. And I think that’s one of the failures in a lot of leadership training is it doesn’t spend enough time on the psychological aspect of things.

Allison: I endorse everything that you’ve just said, how very important that is. From the standpoint, I mean I’m like, I believe that in a successful organization, 100% starts with strong leadership period, because that’s who’s leading the rest of the tribe behind him. What would you say in addition to conscious, deliberate leadership skills, whatever you want to call it? What are the other components that drive organizational performance that we obviously don’t want to overlook? I mean, leadership is critical. But beyond that, what do you say it’s next?

Jeffrey: Well, this is probably the other big thing that holds his leadership or holds organization in the back is organizational development. You know, I did a lot of study around org charts when I was in a think tank for a couple of years after I sold my first company. And everything I was looking at is where’s the future of leadership and all this type of stuff going on. And what I looked at when I realized that the org chart really looks like a machine, and it’s not a machine, I realized there were three powerful things behind the org chart that drive all performance. I call it the organizational Trinity. It’s tribal dynamics, knowledge networks, where teams and cultures.

And when you look at your organization, if you go in, and if you look to engage the organization as a tribe, and you looked, I designed computer networks for 20 years, and the same four principles that allow one computer to become exponentially more powerful when plugged into a network. If you use those same four design principles, to design your team, your teams become much more highly performed performance. And then culture. And culture is basically you know, there’s a million different cultures based on whatever environment you’re in. And you can adopt someone else’s culture, just like you can adopt house, you know, your family can adopt how another family operates. And the thing about cultures is, I talked about leading with air. And air is an acronym for authenticity, integrity, and respect.

 If you can have a culture, I was in a construction business, that was a rough and tough culture, I ran a nonprofit for a while that was a very different type of culture. But if you have the same parameters of we’re authentic for the people, we engage, we act with integrity, and respect ourselves, them in the in the organizations paying us, that’s going to give you the guidelines to have a pretty healthy culture, regardless of whether you kind of swear at one another, or whether you just do things behind their backs. But yeah, that culture piece is really important.

Allison: Thank you for that. Jeffrey, I just want to make sure that we give our listeners an opportunity to find out where to connect with you or follow you.

Jeffrey: It’s really easy, you can go to my website. It’s And there is a ton of content. I’ve got a lot of articles, I’ve got a lot of my own YouTube channel that you can connect to in there, and it’s really a place you can go and get informed about what this conscious leadership stuff is. Or you can email me at Jeffrey at That’s je FF R E Y.

Allison: Fantastic. Jeffrey, thank you so much for your time today. And I appreciate what you’re on a mission to do with your conscious leadership. Thank you so much.

Jeffrey: You’re welcome. And I appreciate what you’re doing by helping other people to learn while they’re driving or whatever. So it’s been great. Thanks.

Allison: Thank you, take care.

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I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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