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Leading With Your Conscience


A new philosophy, a new way of life, is not given for nothing. It has to be paid dearly for and only acquired with much patience and great effort.

-Fyodor Dostoevsky


Express your voice—Vision, Discipline, Passion and Conscience.


When you study the lives of all great achievers—those who have had the greatest influence on others, those who have made significant contributions, those who have simply made things happen—you find a pattern. They all have greatly expanded their four native human intelligences or capacities: for the mental, vision; for the physical, discipline; for the emotional, passion; for the spiritual, conscience. These manifestations also represent our highest means of expressing our voice.

Vision--Seeing with the mind’s eye what is possible in people, in projects, in causes and in life. Vision results when our mind joins need with possibility.


Discipline--Paying the price to bring that vision into reality. Discipline arises when vision joins with commitment. The opposite of discipline and the commitment that inspires sacrifice is indulgence—sacrificing what matters most in life for the pleasure or thrill of the moment.

Passion--The fire, the desire, the strength of conviction and the drive that sustains the discipline to achieve the vision. Passion arises when human need overlaps unique human talent. When one does not have the passion that flows from finding and using one’s voice to serve great purposes, the void is filled with insecurity and the empty chatter of a thousand voices that drive the social mirror. Passion includes compassion.

Conscience--The inward moral sense of what is right and what is wrong, the drive toward meaning and contribution. It is the guiding force to vision, discipline and passion. It stands in stark contrast to the life dominated by EGO.

Anyone who has really made a difference for good or ill possessed three common attributes: vision, discipline, passion. They represent leadership that works.


Let’s take two examples:

Mohandas Gandhi—his vision, discipline and passion were driven by conscience and he became a servant to the cause and the people. He became the father and founder of the second largest country in the world—India.

Adolf Hitler—he passionately communicated his vision of the Third Reich and of a superior Aryan race. He built one of the most disciplined military-industrial machines that the world has ever seen. And he evidenced brilliant emotional intelligence in his impassioned oratory, inspiring in the masses almost fanatical dedication and fear, which he channeled into hate and destruction.


There is one factor between leadership that lifts and endures, and leadership that destroys and is eventually extinguished—One is led by conscience, the other by ego.


When conscience governs vision, discipline and passion, leadership endures and changes the world for good. Moral authority makes formal authority work.


When ego governs vision, discipline and passion, leadership does not endure, nor do the institutions created by that leadership. Formal authority without moral authority fails.


Conscience is the still, small voice within. It is quiet, peaceful. Ego is tyrannical, despotic and dictatorial. Ego focuses on one’s own survival, pleasure and enhancement to the exclusion of others and is selfishly ambitious. It sees relationships in terms of threat or no threat. Conscience elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, and the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others’ security and fulfillment.


Conscience alters visions, discipline and passion by introducing us into the world of relationships. It moves us from an independent state to an interdependent state.


Find your voice. If you apply the four capacities—talent (discipline), need (vision), passion and conscience—to any role in your life, you can find your voice in that role. Take 2 or 3 of the primary roles in your life, and in each role, ask yourself the following:

1. What need do I sense (in my family, living arrangement, self-development, etc.)?

2. Do I possess a true talent that, if disciplined and applied, can meet the need?

3. Does the opportunity to meet the need tap into my passion?

4. Does my conscience inspire me to take action and become involved?



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