Perhaps the time has come to look at the way we lead others in a more relevant-to-reality fashion?
Traditionally, we've admired leaders who can mobilize people and evoke support for the specific cause they are advocating - be it a nation, an alliance or a multi-national company. Charisma, communication skills, influence and vision have all played valuable roles in amassing a leader's following.
However, our world has become incredibly complex over the past few generations, and our thinking, or consciousness, needs to rise to a higher level of complexity, beyond our now outmoded mindsets. There is an opportunity for a new breed of leader - one who embraces this new thinking.
This new thinking not only applies to the way we all think about reality, it also applies to the way people lead in this new age. As the Dalai Lama has stated: 'As people see their predicament clearly—that our fates are inextricably tied together, that life is a mutually interdependent web of relations—then universal responsibility becomes the only sane choice for thinking people.' As we transcend our obsolete thinking—where only visible and measurable outcomes are valued—we will become more 'universally responsible' in all our endeavors. This will open the door to our being more aware, clearer about our intentions and more responsible about the way we lead and who we choose to follow.
A Call for Conscious Leadership
'Conscious leadership' is a term created to communicate this new quality that's needed in leading people, organizations and society. To become a conscious leader will most likely require us to explore unfamiliar realms, such as the various ways we experience reality. Conscious leaders need to engage philosophical matters and wrestle with deeper questions like What is real?
For instance, few leaders explicitly recognize that the spiritual domain shapes the contours of the physical domain, the narrow lens through which most of the Western world views reality. Our current consensus reality is presently based upon the primacy of the physical, the tangible, the visible and the measurable; and spiritual domains can't be measured or perceived.
Now is the time for all domains of our reality—the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical—to be valued uniquely, since we are spiritual beings in physical form and physical beings with spiritual aspects.
I define 'conscious' as being both aware and personally responsible for that awareness. This consciousness is also grounded or based in clear and explicit intention. In other words, if I am aware of a problem—and I can solve it—then simply being aware of it isn't being conscious. Doing something about it is part of being conscious, of being personally responsible for what I'm aware of and what I intend.
This perspective on leadership involves a sacred covenant, a covenant to truly be of service, which is based upon a context of wholeness, respect and the interconnectedness of all things, material and immaterial, physical and spiritual. This covenant includes quantitative as well as qualitative values. It includes traditional values such as performance excellence, wise use of skills, sound business practices and good management principles. And it also includes aesthetics, elegance, grace and stewardship.
Conscious leaders don't tolerate conditions or processes where people feel the need to compromise their values—to "sell their souls" for the task at hand. Conscious leadership includes conscious discernment, a principle that demands performance, integrity, competence and a noncalloused form of spiritual toughness. The conscious leader does not sit with his or her head in the clouds, dreaming of utopian schemes and professing New Age idealism. The conscious leader walks in the spiritual and physical domains concurrently, remaining simultaneously grounded and comfortable in both.
And here is another distinction: Conscious leadership is freely assumed. It is not awarded, appointed, inherited or earned, as with conventional ideas about leadership. It is not a position, a title or a personality. It does not originate from outside oneself. It comes from within oneself. Leadership is the birthright of everyone, and the time has arrived when we stop following the old rules that identify certain people as leaders while the rest of us are presumed to be followers.
As we continue evolving into a more integrative culture, there will be increased demands and opportunities for ordinary people to take on leadership responsibilities. Situations that demand a leadership role will arise that can't wait for any infrastructure to be put into place or for someone to be formally appointed. This "new leadership" is a context or a space one comes from. This new leadership is not anarchy. It is the next step in our development as human beings.
Conscious leaders may ask themselves questions such as, What decisions have I made, or not made, that contribute to the problem that has reached my awareness? How many of my previous choices have resulted in negative events? What can I do about them now that I recognize them? What are my intentions here, really? Are my motivations to serve others or to serve my ego, or preserve my image?
Conscious leaders get to know themselves intimately. And they get to know their environments. They are responsible for those relationships, ranging from those people who are close to them to the well-being of the entire planet and all of humanity. Being conscious means being fully aware and personally responsible for the impact you have on the world, as well as your response to the impact the world has on you.
Consciousness in Action
This new consciousness — what I believe to be the next frontier for human evolution— is reflected in everything we do, every decision we make and every action we take. Every experience we have is a reflection of our consciousness. And while we each have our own unique consciousness—free to have our own karmic wrestling match with the reality we created but forgot we did—we are also connected to one another in a wider consciousness.
Paradoxical you say? You bet! And living with paradoxes is yet another aspect of this new era we are growing into, what British futurist Peter Russell calls the "Age of Consciousness." Conscious leaders can help bring about a future that reflects the destiny of humankind if they explore avenues to higher and
higher levels of awareness. But they need to embody that awareness themselves. That is why leadership in the future requires greater consciousness, which includes greater personal responsibility at levels far exceeding those previously accepted.
We humans have the opportunity to consciously participate in our evolution for the first time in history. Never before has a species possessed the ability to choose whether it continues to evolve toward a higher form or becomes extinct.
Those who take a stand for this new truth before it becomes more commonly believed, before it becomes the "consensus reality" and the operative paradigm for humanity, will be the leaders who create the future we'd all prefer—what I call the "better future," the one we all hope will be there awaiting our children's children.
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