So many herald the leadership of GE’s business icons Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt who were celebrated as the best practices that all leaders must emulate. But are they really conscious leaders who led with genius and heart? No. In essence, they are the poster boys for cost cutting, efficiency and productivity that leads to prosperity and growth, at the expense of people, communities and regenerative systems.
Enlightened leadership means we care about what we are creating in the world with and for people. We are in harmony with our natural environment and focus on sustainable approaches, especially when it comes to management.
Conscious communication and leadership are how we rock and roll in the new emerging world where people matter more than prosperity and growth.
We continue to face one of the biggest leadership crises in history. And this is an opportunity for each of us to step up and become the leaders we need in the world.
The Road to Enlightened Leadership is A Choice
One of the many challenges, and opportunities, for large organizations is facing their fear of actual engagement and participation. Talented people are hired but then leaders become anxious about people bringing in their voice, challenging the status quo, or steering the organization into new territory.
In the current dysfunctional state, leaders want the system to come together and have coherence, yet they design structures with inherent fragmentation and separation. The fear of losing control keeps people stuck in that fear.
There may talk about teamwork and collaboration, but there is fear of genuine participation and the creation of strong communities. Communication is out-tasked to a function and one-way communication, with endless meetings, is the way of life, while dialogue gets lip service.
Siloed organizations don’t often respond well to increasing complexity where new ideas and relationships need to be cultivated. It is heartbreaking to see people suffering in their jobs because the purpose of the work is lost; people are simply meeting the needs of a never satisfied bottom line. The current level of human burnout is astounding.
Aligning with Natural Flow is Foundational
In the The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley shares “Our present economic, social and international arrangements are based, in large measure, upon organized lovelessness…we try to dominate and exploit, we waste the earth’s mineral resources, ruin its soil, ravage its forests, pour filth into its rivers and poisonous fumes into its air.”
Some of the fallacies of the modern world are that we always need to keep going, and that we do not need to rest, slow down or properly take care of ourselves. Pressing on like this is not humanly possible without taking breaks and having rest and respite.
We see this also in how we treat the earth—we just keep taking, pushing and extracting. Many of us have separated ourselves from the natural flow of the seasons and our bodies’ need to rest.
We need to respect the value of each season – the growing seasons and the fallow ones. The life cycle of an idea, of a person, or of the collective entity of an organization necessitates different timings and seasons, and different leadership is needed at different stages. The leadership needed to enable creative endings—the deep transformation of letting go—is conscious and enlightened.
A big skill for enlightened leaders we need is to make conscious the need to foresee and initiate endings in organizations. Endings are the compost for new beginnings, visions, and paradigms—and certainly the compost for new, healthy life.
We cannot pour more water into an already full cup, so clearing the space to bring in the new is essential. Artists, musicians, and comedians know about the importance of this kind of timing—it is an art form.
A sustainable system has an inherent ability to shed what is not needed and transform from one form to another in order to continue to evolve. Forests, animals, and even our own families do this seasonally and with each proceeding generation.
This natural process is very challenging for today’s leaders. Yet, the skillfulness in discerning when it is time to let go—and the collective practice of doing so—is one of the most crucial learning opportunities for enlightened vibrancy and evolution.
Endings and Beginnings
Too often endings mean foreclosure; they are done quickly, aggressively, and without the celebration and acknowledgement of the work of the people who have contributed.
However, when we look at endings as essential to beginnings, or dying as a natural phase of ongoing life—indeed, as the transformative element for renewal—then we have many choices (and responsibilities) in how we move through such transitions and change. This is what happens when we navigate between the two worlds.
Isn’t it an ideal time to let go of one or two things and become enlightened? Whatever feels heavy or no longer healthy can be released so we make space for new opportunities and energies to emerge.