From the corporate to the spiritual ambit the concept of leadership is the latest novelty. Articles, seminars, and workshops abound. It is now a question of “illumined” or “ethical” leadership. To lead actually means to persuade others to go in a certain direction, setting standards and procedures. Without dressing it up, it means being a boss. I am told that the modern concept of leadership is less about ideals as it is about directing others to fulfill the ideals they create “together”. It has to do with group spirit and aspirations. The aggressive, productive, efficiency related elements have been pushed to the background and instead of goals people – their beliefs and individuality – are in the limelight. It sounds wonderful.
If we ask ourselves why, at this moment in time, the subject of “leadership” is so fashionable we might come to an uncomfortable revelation. Nothing has changed. Greed for more power, status, and control is insatiable, even if it is spiritual. On the most obvious level leadership is an appeal to the ego. However, when it is presented in a lofty manner it seduces even the most refined heart, and when it is placed in a philosophical context, it catches the staunchest intellectual. Surreptitiously then, the past repeats itself and the goal justifies the means. Since everyone has a right to be right, who is more correct than another will depend entirely on who has the best people know-how. This is where leadership training seminars, and manuals come in.
Evolved leadership is something else. If it is to go beyond its literal meaning of “getting people to do something” it must rise with the implied needs of Consciousness. Utter transparency must go hand in hand with the ability of people, both those leading and those being led, to discern and discriminate. Without these elements, leadership is synonymous to control. Being that neither transparency nor discernment is present in our common world, this one fact marks an important starting point.
The first thing we should notice is that the “new” leadership aspires to lead people to values and responsibilities that are inherently natural and humane anyway. No one bent on whitewashing can induce this. It must be lived and inspired.
People have problems leading others for three reasons. (1) When they are ignorant of themselves and their own spiritual needs, it is evident that they will be insecure and afraid to project anything from that hollow, secret space inside. (2) When they are firmly rooted in ready-made definitions of what they “should” be, they are bound to leap forward and gain control of the power mechanics but eventually fall flat without enough inbuilt motor power to sustain them. (3) When they are in touch with their authenticity (the one that implies “being”, not “doing”), they will not want to lead anyone.
Leadership implies inspiring and motivating others but it also involves managerial ability to organise and get things done. The problem is that these two tangents are essentially worlds apart. Real inspiration does not have a goal; it simply IS.
Instead of considering inspiration as a value in itself, modern leadership potential movements invariably link it to motivation. At that precise point it becomes “getting things done”. The leap from being to doing tilts in the direction of the instinctive. My own students find it difficult to hold in mind the qualitative distinction between doing and being, between the personal and the inner self, between consciousness and the simulacrum that poses for it. It is only natural that if “leadership” is packaged with instructions that quell the conscience of the devout, such as ethical preoccupations and communal conscience, followers will follow. A map or system is created (“calculated”), but it is created “together”. By this time nobody notices that it is a surface map only.
Some people cannot conceive of being inspired or motivated unless it is for some specific purpose. Inspiration relates to aspiration and it has to do with a quality of breath that reveals life as an experience of depth and amplitude, a bonus onto itself. Any action that follows this state is bound to be successful, not because it is original, or useful, or trendy, but because it is filled with life.
Even under the pretence of implementing them, the noble principles advocated in these movements are never quite put into action; they are no more than theoretical indicators. The issue of leadership is approached in such a way that it is separated from the nature of the subject. It is more important how and what is done than why or who is involved. It is all about “importance” rather than quality of life or consciousness. In the human sense there is nobody home; they are all minding the porches and painting their fences. Leadership trainings are expensive but promise status without touching the inner structure of the home.
Conscious leadership must stem from abundance of inspiration in contact with inner force. Depth and amplitude, the kind that affects the world positively, cannot be forged, imitated, or produced. It has to be lived and irradiates spontaneously from people inviting others to match it within themselves. It is not about “doing” but about the quality of “being”. This arises from the individual and sparks others individually.
A group of any sort will always reflect the nature and quality of its central figure. Unlike the popular belief in a communal will, an ideal has to be embodied in a human being, even if this person surrounds itself with others of like-nature. The persons at the top, not just because they are the bosses, but also because they emanate that which they “are” onto the unit, will determine the quality of everything that surrounds them. They are leading through being.
On a personal note, I have always been in leadership positions, reluctantly. I remember being pushed on centre stage in grade school while clinging to my mother’s skirts. Even today, and although it might not show, I am inwardly shaken when I have to address a group. It is never easy. I experience an initial unease – a mix of powerlessness and hope – being in front of audiences and sensing their needs and expectations. What drives me onwards is a distinctive feeling of wishing to share something that has moved me deeply, something that has made a difference to me personally. I have simply learned to allow “it” to lead me. Often I don’t even know why.
Leadership for me has been a bittersweet issue. There is the question of responsibility for what is said and done and how it affects those who are receptive. I feel and contain each person – the merely curious, the negative, the doubtful, the true believers and the seriously inquisitive – within the experience of myself. Some need me as a reference for resistance, but at that moment they all look to me for answers, for a way, for love or light, or whatever. How can one not feel humbled? How can anyone exploit that?
If I have learned anything from leading, it is this: more than anything else, it has always been the kind of presence I emanate that has provided something of value. A person responds to who or what I Am. If I am absent or beside myself, my mistakes and limitations are mirrored back to me, uncomfortably, obviously, and immediately.
A conscious leader must, strictly speaking, enfold his or her people. Inversely, a leader is affected by each and every quality within those surrounding him or her. Followers will mirror aspects of ourselves and we will reflect them back. Any leader intuitively knows what is called for on a higher level, and also how people broadcast what they want to hear on lower levels of resonance. We choose one or the other depending on our own character. In a group, every flaw as every strength is shared and multiplied. We get back what we put out and the waves grow in magnitude.
Evolved leadership happens as a natural result of living life in its dynamic vastness, the highs and lows of human nature being contained by a willing, or should I say “leading”, heart. When one has nothing to say, when one is not important, that is when leadership begins.
The sun gives us life. As the heart centre of our galaxy it irradiates its qualities to us. Have you ever considered that it feels anything in return? Ask any true leader who is a sun and they will speak to you of the joy of giving for the sake of giving, even if with each ray of light one hastens one’s own extinction.
If you become truly Human and embrace all of life as the sun does its satellites, life will follow you, simply because you have become one with it.
Our humanity merely needs time and quality space, not propaganda.