If we are going to save our planet and our species, I believe each of us must make a personal commitment to leadership. But being a leader in this time does not mean gathering and gearing an army. Carol Pearson’s talk at the recent Pacifica Institute conference has changed my thinking about leadership forever. In fact, my head is still swimming! Here’s some of what she said:
We are in the midlife crisis of our species. We have realized we are mortal, and that we have placed our planet in danger. Each of us must individually and uniquely consider: What is my calling? What am I to do?
James McGregor Burns defined the transformational leader as someone who:
- Has a vision that is in the interest of the larger global good
- Brings out the best in self and others
- Is more than just a “great leader”; he/she fosters great people.
The transforming leader acknowledges the shadow while pointing to the promise.
For example, the transformation of global interdependence
- The promise: World peace, cultural exchange and greater understanding
- The shadow: Global companies that take advantage without consideration
Or, the transformation of the Internet
- The promise: Shared access to all the world’s information
- The shadow: Information overload
The transforming leader tells stories, and the stories help realize the promise by helping us to:
- Understand ourselves, including our biases
- Understand others and their perspectives
- Understand the systems that are involved
- Connect our conscious and unconscious minds, bringing to light ideas, dreams, imaginings, hunches, gut reactions and recognition of synchronicities.
The impact of change can feel like a tsunami. The transforming leader reminds us how to surf:
- Reimagining: Notice the patterns, move from controlling to releasing energy. Mimic nature: help establish and nurture self-organizing groups. Remember the butterfly effect.
- Renewing: Connect to deeper knowing, seek wisdom. Recognize the journey of transformation. Change reality of now by changing your consciousness. Look for models and role models.
- Reinventing: Harvest the wisdom of the group. Treat leadership as an improvisational art form. Shift from overcoming problems to solving puzzles, appreciate the complexity to release new potentials. Have fun.
The transforming leader releases the energies of those around him/her by:
- Having and holding the big dream
- Knowing and telling the stories
- Seeing what is important and what is required
- Working inside him/herself and connecting outside
- Creating greater ease
The transforming leader helps us transcend “us vs. them” narratives:
- Finding the third thing: Not you vs. me, but what are we in together?
- Withdrawing projections from others
- Trusting synchronicity
- Finding the empowering and unifying narratives
The transforming leader is a journey-guide, who reminds us that we can move from self-interest to loving our neighbors. The leader helps followers to remember their high calling of their life: It’s not just a job, “you are building a cathedral”.
- We are better than primitive subsistence.
- Many others are doing things that matter: Notice them and honor them.
- Continually refresh your sense of urgency without denying what is true.
Carol Pearson, PhD, is the President of Pacifica Institute, and the author of The Hero Within, Awakening the Hero Within and numerous other books. She has recently completed six years of research on the questions about the transformation of leadership in the 21st century. Funded by the Fetzer Institute, this research led to the publication of her recently published book The Transforming Leader.