Conscious Leadership

with Diana Chapman

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Line Model

Finding the line

Diana Chapman

Master Trainer, Conscious Leader, Co-founder, Author

Lessons Learned

In any moment, you are either above or below the line. Learn to locate yourself.

Above the line is a state of trust and openness that is accepting of what is actually occurring.

Below the line takes many forms, such as resistance, defensiveness, and disempowerment.


Lesson: Conscious Leadership with Diana Chapman

Step #2 Line Model: Finding the line

We use a model in conscious leadership that's really simple. We'll just have this line. We say, "In any given moment either you are above the line or you're below the line." And it is binary. Either I'm in the moment, I'm open, I'm curious, I'm willing to learn; or I'm below the line. I want to be right. I'm not very available to your perspective, so I'm closed and I might be defensive." They're two very different contexts. In any moment, you're either in one or the other.

Some people say, "Can I be a little bit in both?" We would say, "You might be jumping like this back-and-forth, but you're always in one in any given moment and then you can flip from another." It's important to be able to locate yourself. "Where am I?" We're gathering as a team.

One of the things we up with our clients now is when they start a meeting they just give a thumbs up or thumbs down. In relationship to the topic we're about to talk about, I'm here or I'm here. It gives everybody a sense of "where are we?" And then people who are here below the line are invited to get open and curious so that the conversation can have a different flavor or a different context.

Below the line, it could be very subtle. It could be, "Yes. I'm just waiting for you to finish, so that I can go on with what I know is the best way and I'm not really open to what you're saying, and I can be polite that way," or I can be quite intense and really dramatic. "What the hell are you doing? Why did you do that? That was absolutely the wrong way to go. You're fired."

There's a whole range of how aggressive or how subtle we can be below the line. We can also be below the line in a way like, "You're looking upset and I don't know how to be with my own emotions." So I might lean forward and do, "You're fine. It's okay. We'll handle this. It's okay."

That's a below the line way of trying to control and be resistant to what's recurring rather than, "Oh, I notice you feel sad as you've been given the news that we're not going to be able to give you a promotion this year." I want to acknowledge the sadness and recognize I consider this is a loss for you." Above the line is open and spacious and is accepting of what's actually occurring rather than resisting what's occurring.

Below the line can also look like, "I'm scared. I've come to the meeting late. I'm afraid that you all are going to be upset with me so I apologize. Sorry, sorry, everybody. It was the traffic." I can be a disempowered place, rather than above the line I might say something like, "Hey, I want to acknowledge that I didn't take into consideration traffic this morning and I showed up 10 minutes late. I want to recognize that may have been a cost for some of you on your time, and I feel some sadness about not keeping that agreement with you."

Above the line has this quality of trust. It's really a place of trust. It's the sense of, "I get to learn here." You can't really do it wrong. There is no sense of good-and-bad and right-and-wrong above the line. It's just, "Here's what's happening. What do I get to learn? What's happening is something that is not my preference, so I get to learn how did I co-create that and what can I do differently to make sure that those results don't happen again?"

There is a light-heartedness to it. There is breath in above the line. There's possibility. There's a sense of "Everything that's happening here is an invitation for me to learn and grow, so I don't have to see the world or things that are happening as problems anymore. Everything is an opportunity." In that way, life gets a lot more fun." It's like, "Wow. Okay, I get to learn stuff here."

It also has the sense of real self-acceptance above the line. I'm human being. I'm doing the best I know how, and if I knew better, I do better. There's a sense of easy forgiveness for ourselves and for one another, a lot more empathy, compassion. It's easier to be in connection with others above the line. It's easier to tell the truth above the line because I don't have to try to apologize or control your feelings.

For me, what I most appreciate is that sense of life is so much easier when I don't have to live in the world of there are problems and people to blame in who's to solve them. Most people learn about our model, "Above and Below the Line, the mind immediately is going to go to categorizing. That's what the mind does.

The mind is going to say, "Oh, above the line is better than below the line." Often the mind will then start to put it into a right/wrong way of looking at it. What I learned is for people who have spent a lot of time in a world of life is happening to me, below that line, they're going to need to see it as bad or wrong in order to really shift out of it. That's the mindset that happens there.

I've learned not to try to shift or to get people to see it differently. It's certainly how I saw it in the beginning, too and it was from that motivation of "this is wrong" that got me to start to spend more time above the line. Once I got more above the line, I looked back and said, "Oh, I wasn't wrong at all." But that's just the way I had to see at the time.

We don't look at it all like being above or below the line, one is better or worse than another, but what I am standing for is wanting to recognize there are pretty significant costs that are below the line that when we don't face them cause quite a bit of suffering for all of us.

It's not bad that we suffer. It's not bad that we destroy things that might not want to be destroyed. When we were conscious we would prefer we not go those directions, or when we're conscious we might prefer not to suffer. So we will say if you're interested in learning more about above and below the line, you will go into that contrast for a while and then it will shift.

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