Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How leadership and spirituality must connect in the new world

“Fish smells from the head” – Vietnamese proverb.

Therefore, if our society stinks, chances are today’s leaders have gaps in integrity and honesty.
Most people cannot imagine Spirituality and Leadership mentioned in the same breath. To many this is combining two entirely unrelated concepts. Yet, the level of our intelligence and our ability to think and analyze and the fact that the human mind’s base is compassion and goodness, this combination of unlikely bedfellows may create the new story we need for the future. 

Father Thomas Berry, the late eminent ecologist said in his book Evening Thoughts; “The old story has ended and we are not quite sure what this new story is all about”. 

Indeed the old story has ended. Who would have imagined General Motors, a pillar of the United States of America – ‘what was good for GM was good for the US’ – would go down without much of a whimper. The economic and environmental devastation we have seen in the last eighteen months alone is sufficient for us to realize that we certainly need a new story. 

The old story is over five hundred years of male dominated leadership based on left brained, linear thinking. This has certainly given a certain part of the world material prosperity, but at what cost? 

The others live in poverty, without access to justice in a world teetering on a climate catastrophe which is a sad reflection on the way the world has been led over that period.

In the old story only a few dominate like the oil, arms and pharmaceutical industries. Domination requires subjugation and these industries thrive on it. All these three have been useful in the old story, but in the new story they will have to transform. 

The new story is described as High Touch and High Concept. 

High Touch is about finding purpose and meaning to life, eliciting joy in others and being content. 

High Concept is about detecting new patterns and opportunities and creating artistic and emotional beauty. Unrelated ideas are brought together to form something new.

This is spirituality. In the new story spirituality is the foundation for Authentic Leadership

So, how can we marry spirituality with leadership ?. The only way is to focus on self through a life of inquiry and mindfulness. 

What is Spirituality?

Let us explore this further. What does spirituality mean ?. To me, spirituality is about integrity. It helps us to find meaning in life, provides a foundation of our values to guide us in the way we behave with self, others and the world around us. 

Spirituality is a way of facilitating a dialogue between reason and emotion, between mind and body. This provides a base for growth and transformation from our ego centered material self to an active, unifying, meaning-giving centre.

Spirituality is about a transpersonal vision of goodness, beauty, perfection, generosity, graciousness, and sacrifice. It hinges on dignity for self and others and the foundation is true integrity. Love and compassion is its cornerstone.

In contrast, our education system has shaped us to be more left brained, analytical, rational and target oriented. Religion which is supposed to teach us about spirituality has externalized it and handed over responsibility to an outside entity. We could do anything and ask for forgiveness, but the damage has been done to humanity. There is no focus on the individual responsibility and based on moral values. Religion focuses more on ritual and not personal inquiry and meaning to life. So we misconstrue it to worshiping external deities and statues rather than focusing on self, where our spirituality resides. 

If we are to make a lasting transformation in individual behavior, we have to begin with education.

To redesign our education system we have to get away from the traditional Cartesian mind - matter divide which has been the focus of our global education system for the last 500 years. This system promotes IQ based rational, target based learning. It has done well to develop science and technologies to make some of our lives comfortable. Yet, this is the system that has the entire planet on the edge now, with the social challenges of a divided world of ‘haves and have nots’, steeped in insecurity, fear and violence for the ‘have nots’ and the environmental challenges we all face – both the rich and poor. Only a few fortunate of the 6 billion people on this earth live life of dignity for now. The disparity is outrageous, when one thinks that 80% of the world’s wealth is held by a mere 5%. Something has to give and we may lose it all.

Spirituality and education

It is now universally accepted that the focus on the breath and meditation is a way to rid of the ego. Ego clouds our perceptions as it gives us deceptive messages about our sensory encounters. It inflates our self worth and is driven by fear. Meditation focuses our mind to see things clearer as they are and not clouded by the ego centered self importance. 

Now there is scientific research done at the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, University of Wisconsin, USA using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology proving that meditators have an higher gamma activity (25 – 40Hz frequency in neural oscillations) and increased synchronization across the entire brain (all the neurons in the body). 

Our entire body makes up the mind, but there are neuron concentrations in the brain, heart and stomach areas. When these neurons are not synchronized our thinking (brain), emotions (heart) and intuition (stomach) are not aligned and in balance. This creates stress as we are not able to see and comprehend the world and people around clearly. This skillful center will only come to us with neural synchronicity. When there is alignment integrating the mind there is confidence from clearer perception of the realities. 

Neural synchronicity leads to better understanding of self and the surrounding world which takes away fear. When fear is taken away, we become more skillful and centered to deal with the suffering that life is. We do not need the ego to protect us. This will help us to become inquiring and mindful and to follow a path of moderation.

Teach them young

As such, meditation, yoga and martial arts as a practice should be introduced to children from a young age in schools. It will center them and provide balance that will empower them, see other beings and nature around as collaborators rather than adversaries. Unconditional loving-kindness and compassion, the natural way of our being will be highlighted and they will become fearless about suffering and change. They will be more creative to complement the logical left brain and emotionally better balanced through a foundation of spirituality. 

There will be a less need for specialization. Inquiry and learning will be more holistic and broad based. High Touch and High Concept will become a way of life. Art, poetry, free flow writing and music along with the sciences can become mainstream in education. Educators will also find a way to simplify and teach quantum physics to show the uncertainties of the world and the results of any experiment is shaped by the experimenter’s own experiences, energy and perception. 

Seeing the world clearly will enable the realization of the folly of a world dominated by the oil industry, protected by a weapons industry making puppets out of politicians and controlled by a handful of people. Emotional and spiritual intelligence will enable them to see that and IQ based world founded on reductionist science is not sustainable. Fearlessness coupled with benevolence will give them the courage to get together to act against these corrupt, power hungry, ego centered forces not with violence but with skillful compassion. Together it will be easier to convince those few Narcissists to see the folly of their ways through skillful dialogue and crucial conversations. It will set them free from fear, the high walls and the guards that are needed to protect them and their wealth. 

We have failed our children

All I know is our generation and the many previous ones have failed our children. The least we could do is to equip them to clean up this mess, to help them see clearly who the real adversaries are and that they are not out there but within us first, our selfish ego centered natures have to be tamed first. This focus on self will help us to live and love in this world differently. 

I have faith and confidence in humanity as benevolence and compassion pervades the mind as a way of our being. So, the onus is on us now to put a mirror on ourselves to change our own thinking and behavior from the IQ base to integrate emotional intelligence and to acknowledge our spirituality so we really find some meaning to our life. This meaning just may give the leadership capability to our children for a better chance at survival. 

Fish does smell from the head, so let us illuminate this head to emanate a scent of loving kindness and compassion to all beings and nature around us.

The writer has touched an important chord by highlighting the leadership gap which exists in the upper echelons of the decision making strata, where emphasis has been placed on pure acquired knowledge or academic qualifications. The inner qualities that one develops in order to become a more compassionate and understanding human being lies in a separate area called 'spirituality', that is given little or no significance in the accepted forms of training current and future leaders. 

The writer has rightly pointed out the need to incorporate other aspects of non-competitive learning such as meditation, yoga, and marshal arts at a very young age, to help the individual look within and also train in streams of discipline in order to peacefully interact with each other whilst developing an interest in safeguarding the natural environment for the betterment of all, instead of egoistically pursuing a path to conquer and dominate others. Meditation which involves mere observation without the self coming into play will help the individual to access the self taught truth instead of accepting what is out there as the correct position. We have seen that most theories soon become outdated with new discoveries, making us let go of long held views and positions. 

The need to mould new leaders who could undo the damage caused to the environment, move away from confrontation to cooperation in human relations, and build a more peaceful and safer world is the present time.

posted by MG1939GM