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Illustration of a group engaged in conversation, representing the foundational concept of conscious leadership and the distinction between above the line and below the line thinking.

Above the Line or Below the Line? A Foundational Concept of Conscious Leadership

Conscious leadership is known as the new standard that modern business leaders strive for. It is executed by some of today’s top influential leaders. The idea was first introduced by a group of thinkers in 2014 through the book “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership”. 

One of the most touched upon concepts of conscious leadership is above the line and below the line thinking. What are these methods of leadership thinking and philosophy? And what can you do to adapt the right mindset when leading your team? 

Conscious Leadership Above the Line

Above the line thinking is one of the best known concepts associated with conscious leadership. But what is conscious leadership above the line thinking? 

Above the line thinking for leaders is about being open and being secure in one’s self and abilities. Leaders who adopt this mindset also take full responsibility for the decisions they make and never put blame on others. Leaders who operate above the line look at their environment as avenues for learning. They are also curious and open to learning new things. In doing so, this type of leader is accountable and takes ownership for their actions and the decisions they make.

Why is above the line thinking beneficial? It’s because it empowers; it prompts one to ask questions that other people might not be prepared to hear the answer to. However, acknowledging these answers will enable you – the leader – and the organization to benefit and improve. 

shifting to conscious leadership above the line

Conscious Leadership Below the Line

On the flip side, there is also the concept of below the line thinking in conscious leadership. This is exemplified by adopting a victim mentality. This type of leader never takes the blame and is not courageous enough to own their mistakes. They are closed-minded and always defensive when confronted with the effects of their actions.

Below the line thinking is very common in many leaders today, and this is often what separates them from the influential and successful leaders. It is important to note that simply by being designated the role of leader does not always make one right in all their opinions. Below the line leaders are constantly in pursuit of being right – even when they are not. It is their way of protecting their ego, even if it hinders them from achieving their true potential. 

Conscious leadership above the line thinking is what you need to strive for. Moving from below the line to above the line is a crucial step in turning things around in terms of your productivity as an organization. 

Are You Above or Below the Line?

If you’re a leader, this is an important question you need to ask yourself. Are you above or below the line in terms of your leadership style?

There is a clear difference between the two and knowing where you stand can help you to move forward successfully. It will also keep you from holding your organization back from where you need it to be. Simply identifying yourself as being below the line is a good first step towards making the necessary changes to your leadership style. 

concept of conscious leadership above the line

Willingness to Change Leadership Style

Willingness to change is a crucial factor in your shift from below the line to above the line. To make that happen, you need to ask a few questions designed to support your decision to change leadership style. Here are some of those questions:

  • Do you take full responsibility for your actions and decisions? 
  • Do you blame or criticize others for when things go wrong in your organization? 
  • Do you feel the need to always be right? Are you defensive when confronted about your mistakes?
  • Do you face current issues without bringing up past and irrelevant issues? 
  • Do you focus on the resolution of issues instead of finding who to blame for those issues? 
  • Do you speak candidly?
  • Do you constantly seek the need of approval and praise from others? And does the approval from others impact your confidence in your abilities? 
  • Are you constantly insecure? 
  • Do you strive for a “win-all” situation for those who are part of your team or organization?

Embracing conscious leadership above the line thinking is going to benefit you not just in professional settings, but also in your personal relationships. It is critical to how you perceive the world, that’s why many experts refer to above the line thinking as one of the best models for conscious leadership. Have you implemented above the line principles in your leadership style? 


Conscious Leadership is a leadership approach that emphasizes self-awareness, authenticity, empathy, and a deep understanding of the impact of one’s actions. It involves making conscious choices that align with ethical values, sustainability, and the well-being of stakeholders.

Above the line response refers to taking responsibility, being proactive, and seeking solutions to challenges. It involves a growth mindset and a focus on learning and improvement. Below the line response, on the other hand, involves blaming others, making excuses, and avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

The three key points in the definition of Conscious Leadership are self-awareness, authenticity, and a deep understanding of the impact of one’s actions. It emphasizes leaders being in tune with their own values, emotions, and beliefs, leading with integrity and transparency, and considering the broader impact of their decisions on individuals and the environment.

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