Natasha Wallace is a pioneering entrepreneur who has made a significant impact on the leadership development industry. As the founder of tech startup, The Conscious Leadership Company (TCLC) and the winner of The Most Innovative Leadership Development CEO in both 2022 and 2023, Natasha has established herself as a visionary in the world of leadership development and workplace wellbeing.

TCLC specialises in continuously developing leadership skills, achieved through utilising the power of digital technology. At its core, is the development of a conscious leadership mindset: “This is all about giving leaders the awareness and permission to take care of their own needs so that they can respond better to the needs of their teams. As a result, performance is sustained for everybody,” explains Natasha.

Repairing a broken system

Building a novel approach to how we develop leadership was inspired by Natasha’s own burnout.

Over six years ago, Natasha was an HR and Learning Director at a consultancy firm: “I was hugely passionate about my work; I was always a bit of a workaholic. I didn’t have a huge amount of balance in my life, but actually, that in itself wasn’t the problem. It was the relationship I had with the organisation and the way the culture worked as a whole, that was the major contributor. 

“Eventually, I lost all my confidence. I had no energy, I was very depleted, and I was probably quite depressed. I was very emotionally turbulent, I suffered from panic attacks, migraines, backache, you know, a variety of symptoms.

“There was this paradox where I felt as though I should have been aware enough of myself to avoid that fate. And I wasn’t.”

“I was a leader, and I supported other leaders. My job was to support wellbeing and mental health in the workplace, but then I burnt out. There was this paradox where I felt as though I should have been aware enough of myself to avoid that fate. And I wasn’t.”

After experiencing this major disruption to her career during this unexpected period of burnout, Natasha realised that many other leaders were suffering in the same ways as she was. Armed with her strong background in organisational and leadership development, she set her sights on designing a digital solution that would provide leaders with the knowledge, skills and mindset needed for healthy and sustained performance for themselves and their teams.  

Following that, TCLC was born. Founded in 2021, the organisation strives to create leaders who feel equipped to navigate the modern challenges leadership in the workplace brings. The team has developed ground-breaking technology based on the latest evidence-based thinking and a continuous approach to leadership development which supports leaders to effectively lead in a rapidly evolving workplace.

Five pillars of conscious leadership

The Conscious Leadership model is designed around five key areas that if used as the focus for leadership, result in positive impacts on wellbeing and performance, as well as reduced burnout. As a contemporary leadership model, it reflects the evolving needs of leaders and employees and what leads to sustained performance at work.

Purpose

“Purpose for me is incredibly important because it was the whole reason for starting the business in the first place,” says Natasha. “Purpose and direction are so core to the performance of teams. Unless everybody knows the direction of travel, why they’re going there, and what they need to do to arrive, you’re going to be losing both performance and productivity.” 

Natasha emphasises that all businesses need to get clear on these questions:

  • Where are we going? 
  • What do we need to achieve? 
  • Why do we need to achieve it? 
  • What’s everybody’s role in doing that?

And this isn’t a conversation to have once in a lifetime, or even once in a year. It is a principle that should be consistently revisited to ensure the answers are relevant, widely known, and crystal clear for the whole team.

“The vision and purpose – the reason for being here – creates meaning in our work and helps us to understand the value that we bring.

“All of that is just so important for us as people in the workplace – as it motivates us.”

Resilience

Fundamentally, we all have a lot to bounce back from in work these days. There are a variety of challenges that require efficient solutions, but whatever it is you may be facing as a leader, you have to be able to navigate it without resulting in burnout. 

“Resilience isn’t about stamina,” Natasha underscores. “It’s about the way you get through the challenging times.

“Leaders need to understand how they’re using their energy. What mindset are they showing up with? Is it solution focussed? How are you dealing with the adversity around you? If your methods are negative or based on fear of failure, the ripple effect can have a really devastating impact on the way your team performs.”

Togetherness

Togetherness has a focus on psychological safety. Natasha explains this as, “the extent to which a team feels safe to take interpersonal risk. That means speaking up, telling the truth, being honest, and challenging the status quo without anything going wrong. 

“Unless leaders have a team who can tell the truth, there will be things happening in that team to undermine its performance and wellbeing.”

Creating this environment is the responsibility of leaders and founders. There needs to be connections within teams. There needs to be trust. It’s integral to recognise that connection goes beyond an organisational chart. 

“There are so many relationships in a team and between teams. It’s the role of the leader to make sure that those relationships are cohesive so that people can work effectively together, and that there is a strong foundation of trust.

“That’s really at the heart of togetherness.”

Growth

There are two types of mindsets: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

Individuals with a growth mindset generally see everything as an opportunity for learning: even mistakes, even failings. It’s all about curiosity. Searching for the lessons buried in situations. This means not judging the outcomes too hastily. It also means asking good quality questions of other people, rather than always giving them the answers. 

“Fixed mindsets just hold teams back. They hold their whole cultures back”

On the other hand, individuals with a fixed mindset usually show up assuming they need to have the answers; they want to look smart. Natasha continues, “They will often be less inclined to take new opportunities that threaten their standing or might expose them. They feel as though they need to look a certain way and be a certain way to meet the expectations of others. 

“Fixed mindsets just hold teams back. They hold their whole cultures back.”

Awake

The final pillar is called Awake. “All of those things that I just talked about, you almost can’t do without a level of awareness, some level of consciousness,” outlines Natasha. “It’s so central to effective leadership.”

Effective leaders tend to be emotionally intelligent, and as Natasha highlights, “At the heart of emotional intelligence is awareness. It’s about noticing your reactions to things, noticing your biases, noticing limiting beliefs, understanding your emotional reactions, and trying to overcome them to be the best that you can be.

“Without an understanding of the fact that we are all holding ourselves back in some way, you can’t fulfill your true potential – and shouldn’t we all strive to be the best versions of ourselves?” 

Continuous learning

One of the solutions TCLC has built to reimagine the current approach to learning leadership is the Consciously App – a continuous leadership development platform. 

Natasha tells us, “Through all of the research, there were a couple of things that stood out to us. 

“One is the leadership models we use today. Most are outdated and don’t go deep enough to speak to the individual leader.”

“Simply telling people to be different won’t result in them actually being different. It has to come from them”

Most leadership development doesn’t work. It fails to challenge the underlying beliefs, values and behaviour that drives what leaders think and do. It’s only through continuous learning and through iteratively shifting mindsets and behaviour do leaders equip themselves with what they need to perform. 

“This isn’t news to many of us but, simply telling people to be different won’t result in them actually being different. It has to come from them,” explains Natasha.

Additionally, Natasha also feels that “Although being away on a programme or a workshop in a group setting with other leaders can feel good because you’re with your peers, you’re having fun with you’re doing something different, it often doesn’t lead to behavioural change. This is because you’re learning about something over here and then you’re trying to apply it in quite an abstract way over there – it’s a hard thing to do.”

That’s why for leadership development to be truly effective, it must be a continuous process. Leaders must iteratively build their awareness over time.

So, Natasha and the team at TCLC have built a continuous learning methodology that enables leaders to build the skills, attitudes and beliefs they need to be effective, over time. Using a scientifically validated psychometric tool and a learning platform that incorporates bite-size micro-lessons, reflection, experiments and space to reconnect with ourselves as people, leaders learn how to be conscious and effective leaders.

“We’ve incorporated reflective practice into the app. As a leader, I might watch a video for five minutes, and then I’ll answer a few questions about myself – it’s the introspective work that makes the difference, even if it’s quite alien to start with.

“Most of the time, we just consume content and get on with our day,” Natasha says. With the Consciously App, TCLC wants to encourage people to start conversations with themselves about these hard topics. For example, after watching a video on impostor syndrome you may ask yourself: Is this relevant to me? Do you see anybody around you who might be suffering from that? What does that mean? What impact does it have? What would happen if it wasn’t there? 

After this, Consciously encourages leaders to go and do an experiment. “Go and have a conversation with somebody about impostor syndrome, or notice your own impostor syndrome and challenge why it’s there. This is getting people to really explore themselves on a deep introspective level to help them make little shifts.”

Consciously is the only continuous learning platform for leaders which helps leaders to become more self-aware, delivering learning around important topics such as how to manage burnout, building psychologically safe and connected teams, handling imposter syndrome, managing dark triad personality disorders among many others.  

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit the company’s website here or connect with Natasha on LinkedIn or at natasha@tclc.co

Demostrating leadership

What Natasha has built out of her own adverse experiences is a considered response. Reflecting on how her own leadership skills were at this time, Natasha says, “I didn’t feel as though I had clarity around where I was going.

“At the time I wasn’t resilient; I certainly wasn’t managing my energy levels. My mindset had become quite fixed. I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t learning. I think for at least two or three years before my burnout, I’d become quite stagnant.

“I would get involved in conversations in the workplace that were not helpful. If somebody said, ‘This person isn’t performing, they’re not doing X, Y & Z.’ I’d respond by saying, ‘I know, it’s annoying, isn’t it?’ That is really unhelpful as a leader.”

Natasha’s raw honesty about her experiences has enabled her to build TCLC’s transformative approach to how leaders are shaped.

Since the startup has invented a new psychometric tool for effective leadership and team cohesion, it’s important to practice what you preach, right? Natasha acknowledges that she is consistently learning – which is kind of the whole point.

When we asked what Natasha is most proud of so far in TCLC’s journey, she tells us the team is the best part of it all: “You can sell your own ideas until the cows come home, but if other people come on the journey with you that’s sort of blessing, isn’t it?

“You can’t do without them. I’ve got a whole army of people involved in this business, and I literally couldn’t do anything without them. So yeah, it’s the team.” 

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.