As many of the previous essays suggest leadership is a rather complex concept—not detail complex but dynamically complex. That is, it is deeply and inextricably connected to our very nature. Accordingly it is a notion that we have conceived to help us in fulfilling a distinctly human need we all share, the need for self-actualization. That is to actualize our potential as human beings.
The business-minded among us might argue that leadership is not this at all. That leadership is about doing whatever one can to deliver maximum results for the business enterprise—which usually means increased profit by whatever means. Accordingly we have come to identify a leader by whether one measures up to the expected results. But this is a view that aligns with the limiting belief that humankind is at base a materially self-interested species—subservient to the egoic material concerns of our (current) socio-economic system.
Filtered by Belief
We assume perception provides unadulterated reality when in fact it is filtered by thought. What we hold—knowingly or unknowingly—in our mind’s eye acts as a filter to what we perceive and how we interpret experience. Thus the thoughts we hold do limit what we are able to perceive and understand, unless of course we have the courage to suspend what we believe in order to understand other perspectives. This is what enables one to perceive the possibilities that lie beyond what is.
Accordingly leadership involves perceiving what is possible and facilitating it becoming probable; not for the benefit of one’s self, but for all. That is, it is about embracing one’s ‘I-We’ responsibility as an individual human being and as a member of the society of human beings.
Contrary to what the ego-centered socio-economic system will have us believe, our individual lives are inextricably connected to our collective life. Hence a focus on what’s in it for ‘Me’ will inevitably destroy the ‘We’—which is comprised of all of us—as well as the ‘I’ that we each are. Accordingly those striving to provide leadership toward facilitating the unfolding of human potential—not just material gain or any other externality—must demonstrate the will to first empower his/her self, since leadership begins with the development of (the) self.
While one can deliver results by many means, it is only the courageous that will do so with a focus on the betterment of (all) people. Such an act of selflessness is truly a heroic act. As Joseph Campbell asserted, “when we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” Or as Abraham Maslow might have said, when we transcend our animal instincts and sever our attachment to deficit needs, we can turn the focus of our attention to our being need; then the need to actualize our potential as human beings can be realized.
I suspect we’d all be better served if our economic and educational systems were aligned with our very nature. If only those in authority over these systems had the courage to envision and then enact a better way for us all. That would truly be heroic!