TLDR #2 – Leading Above the Line

Are you too busy to keep up with business books? No problem.

Welcome to the latest in TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) my ongoing series of book summaries, so you can spark some new ideas for you and your business in about as much time as it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success
is written by several authors, who between them have decades upon decades of leadership experience: Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp. They are part of the Conscious Leadership Group at, where you’ll find a blog I highly recommend checking out.

Why this book?

I was introduced to this book by Tracy Simmons, Co-Founder and Chief People Officer of LeadPages. The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership was core to her understanding and development of their organizational culture and philosophy.

Since first reading it several years ago, I’ve put the ideas in the book to practical use when consulting with clients, and the 15 commitments have been integrated in various levels throughout my own organization.

Are you leading ABOVE THE LINE?

The author group posits that there is a leadership line, and that the leaders who produce the most successful, most productive teams exhibit above the line leadership rather than below the line leadership. What’s the difference? Above the line leadership emphasizes:

  • Openness over being closed off
  • Proactive over reactive
  • Curiosity over being defensive
  • Being committed to learning rather than committed to being right or protecting one’s ego or image

While this isn’t meant to be an absolute framework, the model suggests that the most effective leaders will engage with their teams proactively and work toward outcomes rather than reactively placing external fault and blame.

The 15 Commitments

15 is quite a number to get through in a single article. To keep things brief, I’ve narrowed each to a core idea of philosophy that can be summed up in a sentence or two.

  1. Taking Radical Responsibility: Leaders own the responsibility for their actions, their emotions, and in supporting those they manage. They ask how to improve from errors rather than pointing fingers.
  2. Learning through Curiosity: Living in a state of curiosity enables examination of issues from different angles, considering many outcomes and looking for what will work rather than what is “right.”
  3. Feeling All Feelings: Using fear, anger, sadness, joy, and attraction as tools to understanding and to improve their emotional intelligence when working with others.
  4. Speaking Candidly: See reality clearly and express thoughts openly and honestly.
  5. Eliminate Gossip: Gossip breeds contempt and toxic mistrust within an organization. Great organizations and leaders clear the air and create a positive environment of support.
  6. Practice Integrity: Hold to your agreements and take responsibility. Lead by showing that what you say and what you do are in alignment.
  7. Generate Appreciation: Show that you are aware that your team adds value. Be sincere, specific, and succinct in your appreciation.
  8. Excel in your Zone of Genius: What can you do to ensure team members realize their full potential? Understand where members of your team are most impactful and to realize their goals. When you do, they will support and inspire others to do the same.
  9. Live a Life of Play and Rest: Find the right balance with hard work and mental play that encourages a high-functioning, high-achieving culture. Play doesn’t mean slacking off; it means working with improvisation, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking over nose-to-the-grindstone work.
  10. Explore the Opposite: Be open to the idea that the opposites of your beliefs, thoughts, and opinions are as valid as your own.
  11. Sourcing Approval, Control, and Security: These are core human desires. People desire a sense of belonging and a feeling of being safe. Control is often a negative side effect of lacking in approval and security.
  12. Having Enough of Everything: Take care of yourself. Look within and ensure you have your needs met and are satisfied, as a feeling of scarcity can make leaders overly focus on what is “theirs.”
  13. Experience the World as an Ally: Stop competing with everyone and look for the ways that others are, or can be, allies in your growth. When you do this you drop the with me/against me mentality and can look positively at new opportunities.
  14. Creating WIN FOR ALL Solutions: One of the best ways to influence collaboration and connection, great leaders move beyond a zero-sum game and work to create wins that are shared within the team.
  15. Be the Resolution: See the things your team lacks as opportunities to change and grow. Embody the idea of improvement and share that mentality with your team.

TLDR; Plug and Play These Concepts for Leadership Success.

After years of working to put various commitments into place, both in my own organization and with my clients, core concepts from the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership continue to ring true. When we as leaders create an environment that emphasizes human qualities over daily grind, amazing things can happen.

Check out the book here for yourself. You can use these ideas to examine your own culture and build a plan for leadership success. For every client I’ve worked with in exploring these concepts, exactly which of the 15 commitments will make sense for your organization has always varied, but one thing has always stood true: They are a great framework to start leading “above the line” to build a lasting, engaged, and committed team.


Let me know what you think in the comments below. Did you like this article? Did it spark some ideas to take back to your organization? What are some of your favorite business books you’d like to see in an upcoming TLDR?

More TLDR is on the way for July. My current read is Action Selling by Duane Sparks, so look forward to more on that in the near future.

Thanks very much for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and all the best to your success!

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