Conscious Leadership – Mackey, McIntosh, Phipp

The one sentence summary: Conscious leaders can operate in a way that is beneficial to purpose, pragmatism and profit.


This is all about elevating humanity through business. The author is the CEO of Whole Foods Market, and here he proposes a road map for values-based leadership. His recommendations come in three parts, with three elements to each.

Vision & Virtue

Conscious leaders:

  1. Put purpose first – not just profit, but the value that can be contributed to the world.
  2. Lead with love – an opportunity to serve and uplift people and communities. This is servant leadership. Types of love can include generosity, gratitude, appreciation, care, competition and forgiveness.
  3. Always act with integrity – holding themselves to the highest standards. Types of integrity include telling the truth, acting with honour, being authentic, having the courage to do the right thing, and being trustworthy.

Mindset & Strategy

  1. Find win-win-win solutions – both parties win, and the community. This could be in many contexts, including family, city, state, nation, humans and animals generally, or the state of the biosphere.
  2. Innovate and create value – build cultures that nurture and liberate the creative spirit. Create the right incentives, encourage healthy competition, start a conspiracy (make innovators think they are in on a secret), embrace the edges, and celebrate innovation as it happens.
  3. Think long term – about the impact of their actions and choices. Pre-mortems guess what will go wrong before it does. Ask: what really matters? What risks are worth taking?

People & Culture

  1. Constantly evolve the team – are sensitive to the culture around them.
  2. Regularly revitalise – renewing their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy.
  3. Continually learn and grow – personally and professionally.


  • The 3 Ps are: purpose, pragmatism and profit. Purpose creates alignment.
  • It’s time to reconsider whether business is actually a battlefield. It isn’t, so let’s stop talking about the enemy, killing, destroying, and war chests.
  • Darwinian evolution is another culprit: talk of ecosystems, niches, novelty and adaptation doesn’t help, nor does survival of the fittest, natural selection, it’s a jungle out there, or a dog-eat-dog world.
  • Stakeholders are represented by an inner and outer circle. The inner circle consists of customers, team members, suppliers, investors, communities, society and the environment. The outer circle is more transitory, including the media, activists, critics, governments, unions and competitors.
  • “Human beings don’t have a pollution problem, they have a design problem.” McDonough & Braungart
  • “People will try to convince you that you should keep empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.” Tim Cook, Apple CEO


  • The sentiments are right, but many of these thoughts have been raised before.