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09/10/2006

Becoming a conscious leader

For the first time in history, we humans have the opportunity to participate in our evolution. Never before has a species possessed the ability to choose whether it continues its evolution 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. The western, industrialized world has come to admire leaders who can mobilize people and evoke support for the specific cause they are advocating - be it a nation, an alliance, or a multinational company. Charisma, communication skill, influence, and vision have all played valuable roles in gaining this mass admiration. However, our world has become incredibly complex over the past few generations and, like Einstein stated half a century ago, our thinking or consciousness needs to change if we are to solve the problems we've created with our now-outmoded mindsets. Therefore, there is a new opportunity for a new breed of leader - one who embraces this new thinking that is better-suited to today's complex and interconnected society.As the increasingly popular 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."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 we transcend our obsolete and time-dated thinking - where only the 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 the way we choose our leaders. A leader's consciousness has a vertical component as well as a horizontal one. Their consciousness can be raised by becoming more aware and more responsible for what they are aware - such as their country, their industry, or their marketplace. Likewise a leader's consciousness can be broadened so there is greater awareness about more things - matters less familiar to them. Conscious leadership includes a transcendent perspective on leading people, organizations and society. This may require the leader to learn about new aspects of reality and 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, how many leaders recognize that the spiritual domain is generative of the physical domain, the narrow lens through which most of the western world views reality. The spiritual domain is where context originates and from which the physical is created. This is an assertion that cannot be proven in material/physical terms so it needs to be taken in intuitively and valued from a different place than the intellect or the five senses. Our current industrialized culture values intellect and the physical and discounts those domains that can't be measured or perceived. Consensus reality is based in the primacy of the physical. Now is the time for each of these domains - the spiritual and the physical - to be valued equally since the argument as to whether we are spiritual beings in physical form or physical beings with spiritual aspects will never be satisfactorily resolved intellectually.I define conscious as being both aware and personally responsible for that awareness. This consciousness is also based in an intention, an explicit intentionality. 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 transcendent perspective on leadership involves a sacred covenant to be of service which is based in a context of wholeness, respect, and the interconnectedness of all things, material and immaterial, spiritual and physical. This context includes qualitative as well as quantitative values. It includes traditional values such as performance excellence, wise use of skills, sound business practices and good management principles. It also includes aesthetics, elegance, grace, stewardship, and harmonic relationship with everything else. Conscious leaders don't tolerate conditions or processes whereby people feel the need to compromise their values - to "sell their souls" for the task at hand. Conscious leadership includes conscious discernment, a principle which demands performance, integrity, competence and a non-callused form of spiritual toughness. The conscious leader does not sit with his or her head in the clouds, dreaming of utopian schemas and professing New Age idealism. The conscious leader walks in the spiritual and physical domains concurrently, remaining simultaneously grounded and comfortable in both. 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. It is a highly-personal stance in the universe that one takes, knowing the truth and being in relationship with all that is.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? As Gary Zukav reminds us of in his best-selling book The Seat of the Soul, "those parts you're unaware of will make your choices for you….you cannot choose intentions consciously until you become conscious of each of the different aspects of yourself." So conscious leaders get to know themselves and everything around them. They are responsible for those relationships - ranging from those people who are close to them to the well-being of the entire planet and our species. Being conscious means being fully aware and personally responsible for the impact you have on the world as well as the impact the world has on you. Everything we do - every decision we make, every action we take, every judgment we have made - reflects our consciousness. Every experience we have is a reflection of our consciousness. And while we each have our own 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 one consciousness. Paradoxical you might say? You bet! And living with paradoxes is another aspect of this new era we are growing into. Consciousness in how we proceed from here on is of paramount importance in creating the better future - the one we all hope will be there awaiting our children's children.Embracing a wider and broader awareness, intention and responsibility, the conscious leader operates in sync with universal forces that includes the energy field of relationship with the Divine - what German philosopher Martin Buber called "the between." Grounded in this sacred relationship, he or she becomes a partner in a new "co-evolution" for humankind.

John Renesch

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