We Need Transpersonal Leaders for Global Sustainability


In our new book “Leading Beyond The Ego: How to Become a Transpersonal Leader” we define transpersonal leaders as being radical, ethical, authentic, emotionally intelligent and caring, yet still focused on enhancing performance. To achieve this they need to operate beyond their ego and continue life-long personal development and learning.

A tall order you might say, yet that is what is required of our leaders in the 21st century. How can any organisation let alone nation, seriously work on sustainability and the benefit of the plant and yes, even the universe, without these characteristics. The problem is most leaders running organisations today do not possess many of these attributes. I believe the primary reason why this is so is because we are still identifying future leaders that were more suitable for the 20th century when the pace of change was slower, information was restricted to the elite few and followers were subservient.

Many of the leaders we have at the top today are those that were good at getting to the top, rather than those who are great once they have got there. Organisations still focus mainly on self-confidence, assertiveness, influence and achievement-orientation when identifying future leaders. While these are important capabilities as such, without the good values and emotional intelligence to temper them, they regress into high-ego, aggression, manipulation and ruthlessness, and an obsession for total control.

Most senior leaders do possess the threshold competencies of business skills and strategic leadership which they obtained at business school or “in the trenches” gaining experience. But in reality that is just a foundation for becoming a good leader. We believe leaders need to go through two higher levels of development to be able to see and act on sustainability and climate change in the right long term context.

First there is the Intermediate journey through which leaders develop their awareness, both of themselves, of others and of the world around them, and especially about emotions and their impact. From this they need to understand how to use different leadership styles in different circumstances and how, using these different leadership styles, they can influence and develop the organisational culture that supports sustainability. Most leaders will serendipitously learn some of these things through experience but a better way is to take full responsibility for rewiring our own brain through the right kind of development programme. This intermediate journey is critical for developing the right behaviours that will in turn enhance the sustainable performance of the people we work with.

And finally there is the Advanced part of the journey which is more direction than destination as learning needs to be life-long. The essence of the advanced journey is learning to bring our values to full-consciousness, leading beyond the ego, understanding our purpose, and making the right choices for the greater good. Core to this is the 8ICOL (Eight Integrated Competencies of Leadership) model which uniquely divides values into those of personal conscience (like integrity or fairness) and those of self-determination (such as courage, intense-will, resilience, etc) as further explained in this Forbes magazine article.

It is generally acknowledged that less than 10% of our brain activity is conscious, driven by the 90% non-conscious (a blend of sub and un-conscious). Our emotions, values and ego are all normally operating in the non-conscious zone and therefore ignored and unmanaged most of the time.

It behoves every leader interested in sustainability to learn to bring these factors to full consciousness so that they can be managed for the benefit of everyone.

John Knights, Chairman of LeaderShape Global www.leadershapeglobal.com is the lead author of “Leading Beyond the Ego: How to Become a Transpersonal Leader”, published March 2018 by Routledge. For details and a list of endorsements see http://amzn.to/2ilfwXe

LeaderShape Global’s partner in India is Prime Meridian

Managing Partner, LeaderShape Global India is Pavan Bakshi pbakshi@leadershapeglobal.com

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