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Conscious Leadership: Navigating Above and Below the Line

above the line


Do you try so hard to be present? Do you work to control outcomes? Do you push yourself to not be in victim, villain or hero mode?

When you try so hard to stay present it means you are not present.  

You are below the line and not present when you work to control the outcome. 

If you push yourself to not be in drama, you are in drama. 

A common misperception of conscious leadership is the idea of a right or wrong way to be. It’s okay to be above the line, and it’s equally okay to be below the line.

Neither location is good or bad, right or wrong. One is not better or worse. They are just different locations where you are going to have different experiences. 

Beautiful work and immense learning can come from both locations. 

This framework is all about acknowledgment. Living and leading consciously. Consciously doesn’t mean “right”, it means awareness and curiosity

What It Means To Be Below the Line

Below the line, you’re in a state of threat. Suffering is found below the line, but suffering is not bad – it is human. Below the line, you’re focused on being right. 

Drama happens below the line, when you get wrapped in your stories and being right about them. 

What It Means to Be Above The Line

Above the line, you’re in a state of trust. You have access to a type of learning that is transformational in nature. You are focused on learning and curious.

When you are above the line, you’re in a state of presence, ease and flow. 

How You Fall Below the Line When You’re Trying to be Above the Line

Have you heard someone say, “I was trying not to hero”? 

Have you ever said, “I try so hard to be present”?

Do you “try hard to stay above the line”? 

Are you often “pushing yourself to not be in victim mode”? 

All of those statements have something in common. They reference being in drama or being below the line. 

Those statements are also about effort. It’s all effortful. 

You’re pushing. You’re straining. You’re trying to control an outcome. I want you to stop thinking you need to put in so much effort. 

It is beautiful to want to have a different experience. It’s awesome to want to see what it’s like when you’re above the line. 

But here’s the thing. The second that you become attached to thinking that above the line is the right place to be, you have just begun thinking that there is a right and a wrong. You’re thinking you’re pretty right about that. 

And, bingo, you slip below the line.


Because you believe there’s a right and a wrong, and you think you’re right about it. Below the line, being right is your number one goal. Being curious and learning is my number one goal when I’m above the line. So the second I think there’s a better place to be, I am below the line. You can’t get above the line by trying to not be below the line. It doesn’t work that way. 

To get above the line, you’re going to question your stories. You’re going to focus on what you can control. Ask yourself how you created this current situation that you’re claiming you don’t want. You’re going to dedicate yourself to creating what you do want. You commit to those practices because you would like to have that experience of being above the line.

There is No Wrong Place To Be 

The common misperception of this work of Conscious Leadership is that there is a right or wrong place to be. 

It’s okay to be above the line, and it’s okay to be below the line. Neither one of them is good or bad, right or wrong. Neither one of them is better or worse. 

They’re just different locations where you’re going to have different experiences.

A common misperception is that you need to be an extremely disciplined guru if you are going to be walking the path of conscious leadership. You don’t need to be perfect. No one is. We’re flawed, beautiful human beings. 

But the primary and first step and the foundation of conscious leadership is choosing to be aware of your context. You choose to practice awareness of whether you are above or below the line. 

More often than not, you’re going to be below the line. No worries! Welcome to the human experience! From below the line you so many options, and probably more than you’ve imagined. There is a ton you can learn from that mindset and experience down there. 

Honestly, sometimes I am completely committed to being below the line and I want to stay down there. I want to be deep down there, and I want to be just in it. I’m not doing myself any favors by acting like I’m above the line, and I’m certainly not doing you any favors. So I embrace where I am in that moment and then use that acknowledgment to inform my next moves.

Conscious leadership is acknowledging where you are, without judgment, shame or blame. And then choosing your next steps from an educated and aware place. 

This article is related a podcast episode – Listen here. 

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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