There is no shortage of books and opinions on what constitutes leadership, and what leaders need to be doing in contemporary times to keep up with supposedly steeper challenges. In fact, one might say that there’s a glut of information on the topic. Alas, quantity and quality are two very different things.
Much of the existing information is based on a set of pre-existing assumptions stemming from a very different time, making the addition of any new thought or the application to new circumstances the equivalent of putting new wine into an old wine skin, or new approaches into an old system. In the former case, the old wine skin corrupts the new wine. In the latter, the new thought is ultimately deemed aberrant and expelled from the old system.
In keeping with Wisdom traditions throughout the ages, when we face such a dilemma the wise among us stop; we become still, in order to gain the insight that will guide us not only to the best answers and next steps, but to the appropriate assumptions and questions that precede right action.
The issue of building new thought upon a foundation of stale assumptions will be explored in another article. In this piece, we’ll look at how each leader must seek and find center ground and guidance for right thought and action for him or herself. One of the things that distinguishes this new era we’re living into from the old era is that there is no one textbook answer that fits all, if indeed that was ever the case.
In coming to center, each of us uses any from a selection of Wisdom practices that helps us to become still enough to hear Wisdom and discern right action.
Once we’ve reached that place of receptivity, by cultivating the space to receive insight, we might begin with three questions to form a foundation for what it means to be a leader now:
Three questions for discerning what new-era leadership means for you:
- What is leadership now?
- What is my Work?
- How must I do my work — how must I carry and conduct myself?
What is leadership now?
For decades, we’ve operated under a prevailing set of definitions and assumptions about what, exactly, it meant to be a leader — especially what it means to be a leader in the modern workplace. While arguments can be made that such definitions and assumptions were faulty at best, recent history demonstrates that the old definitions are definitely no longer appropriate for modern times and challenges.
In the new era that we’re living into, Wise Leadership includes the following:
- Following a seeker’s path — leader, know thyself.
- Being clear and heart-centered in vision, intention, and way of being.
- Being connected to the Wisdom within one’s self, the leader has an appreciation for that which is sacred and unique in others — in people, in Nature, in relationship.This guides and affects visioning, decision-making, strategy, and interpersonal relations.
- Reflecting, through his or her own example and manner, the sacred spark, the Beloved, in others … reflecting to them what is possible, and what is within them that can be brought forth for their own highest expression and thus the group’s highest potential.
- Being a catalyst, and inspiring forth the highest potential, or the sacred spark, in others. While you can’t midwife another’s spark and potential — each individual is responsible for liberating the potential within themselves — as a leader, you can model it, inspire it, encourage and beckon it forth through your own example and inspired, skillful communication.
- Having clear, constructive intention and magnanimity. In ancient times, told in the mythical archetypes of leaders such as Aragorn in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, for example, leaders were expected to be adepts, healers, skillful and magnanimous, spiritually mature and always on the seeker’s path, the mastery path. This lent meaning to their lives, because it called them to their highest potential and greatest capacity for noble service.
For the archetypal shaman-leader, one’s skillfulness and positive intention inspired loyalty, and thus didn’t need to command it through fear-mongering tactics. This is a reflection of the Sacred Masculine which honors its Sacred Feminine, and the Sacred Feminine which reflects the nature of the Sacred Masculine: the leader who, sourced in Wisdom, takes wise and compassionate action.
What is my work, my path?
This is a question that each individual must explore for him or herself. The answer, truly, lies within. Others can be guides and exploration partners, however, helping to illuminate potential dialogue or exploration pathways and resources, asking the questions that help one discern the patterns and pointers that are available from one’s own journey.
Your own life is your best guru or teacher, so in taking a close and mindful look over your own journey, the path by which you’ve come, you can begin to find the true answers, the true patterns — not just those you’ve lived for the sake of others, according to the dictates of external rather than internal expectations and standards. ‘Know thyself’ is the way to the wisdom that answers this question: What is my work, my path?
In answering this question, you can then gain insight into what unique gifts and perspectives you bring to your role as a leader in the new era.
How must I do my work?
This is another way of saying, “How must I conduct myself?” An immediate answer is impeccably and skillfully, though don’t assume that this means ‘perfectly’, because perfectionism is the false and unobtainable path here. Modern standards for perfectionism are actually reflections of an aberrant and unbalanced perspective.
What the new-era leader strives for is a journey to wholeness, to authenticity that is rooted in the gifts of one’s truest essence: that which you, and only you, can bring to any group or situation. That which only you can fully be.
Given the deep loss of trust and respect for leaders in our contemporary era, new era leaders must find within themselves the capacity to carry themselves in a way that restores and earns trust.
This means that core traits such as integrity, heart-centeredness, a respect for the dignity of others, interpersonal skillfulness, kindness, compassion, fairness, and a practice that allows decisiveness and wise action.
New era leaders must also ‘pull with vision’ rather than ‘push and punish through threat of pain.’ They have clear intention, clear vision, and clear action defined, though recognize that these are organic and always evolving, and thus must be regularly explored and refreshed. This is the way of ‘living into full potential’ rather than, through stubborn clinging to old, established ways, a day by day dying while the rest of life lives on.
In moving into introspection, each individual can identify what these traits mean to him or her, and how he or she can refine and live them. Through reflection and inquiry, the new leader can also identify other values and traits that can be embodied in order to inspire, build and restore trust, and inspire forth the highest potential from those who will follow the call.