The Rise of Conscious Leadership

by Francois Coetzee

In 2014 Satya Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft. Once considered the giant of the tech industry, Silicon Valley and Wall street analysts regarded the pioneering enterprise as fading towards irrelevance. In a company that was desperately seeking to reclaim the dominance it once held, he was considered a fall-back since many industry analysts and Microsoft insiders thought fresh blood from outside the company would be the solution for its woes.

Despite his critics’ opinions under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has generated more than $250 billion in market value in the next three and a half years.

His success is rooted in the soft skills approach he has taken to creating a new culture within Microsoft. One of his first acts as a leader was to ask his executives to read the book “Nonviolent Communication,” by Marshall Rosenberg, a book that emphasizes how peaceful communication can create compassionate connections between people.

His focus on inspiring, uplifting and positive communication and creating an empathetic space for positive feedback and idea-generation has created a harmonious shift to products that resonate with customers and create the success that Microsoft has created under his leadership.

The heart of this approach is rooted in the principles of conscious leadership.

Conscious leadership is an approach to building a creative and sustainable venture with a committed team from a state of centered presence, using multiple dimensions of intelligence, and living the highest values of the leader and the team in service to a larger purpose for the benefit of all stakeholders of the venture.

To be a conscious leader there is the inner journey that drives the leader’s motivation and the outer journey that focuses on the team and the affected stakeholders.

The inner journey is about the conscious leader understanding where they fit into the larger world and the circle of influence they want to occupy. The context this provides allows the conscious leader to set strategy and actions into motion among the stakeholders that will be affected. From this internal perspective, a conscious leader will develop a deep understanding of what brings joy and energy. It is these passions that drive and motivates and serves as the seed for a great vision, mission and ambition.

Then there is the outer journey, where a conscious leader will open up, share and learn from deep awareness about each individual in the team that they work with. Understanding each other’s passions and building collaboratively towards a shared vision, agreeing on a mission that serves the team and its stakeholders from their highest values, defining an ambition that supports inspired and effective execution, and consciously developing the self-knowledge that allows them to understand exactly who they will need to be to achieve this.

And this is the journey that Satya Nadella and his Microsoft team have embodied with a kinder and gentle approach to an enterprise turnaround.

In the future, successful innovation, reinvention, or new ideas ventures will require an approach that values the leaders that have mastered not only the skills of leadership, but who can be authentic, emotionally intelligent, purposeful and responsible; not only for themselves, but for their team and the stakeholders that will benefit from the venture.

Are you a conscious leader?


Dilts, R.B., Mezza, A. (2017), Success Factor Modeling Volume III: Conscious Leadership and Resilience: Orchestrating Innovation and Fitness for the Future, Dilts Strategy Group

Nadella, S., Shaw, G. (2017), Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, HarperBusiness

About the author:

Francois Coetzee is an entrepreneur and is the founder of NLP with Purpose, Exponential-I, and Xpdian. He is an accredited and affiliated trainer of Success Factor Modelling: Conscious Leadership with the Dilts Strategy Group. Contact him here.