Global Citizenship, Governance, Leadership, People Power

Living Leadership

The purpose of life is…to know oneself. We cannot do so unless we
learn to identify ourselves with all that lives.”

Mohandas K. Gandhi

At the heart of a new global civilization is the movement toward
wholeness and forms that support global emergence. ‘Integral
leadership’ is an important component powering this move.
Integral leadership reflects a sphere of leadership where interior
development and exterior structures are aligned to support and
sustain organisms—people, businesses, the environment, and one
another. Yet growing evidence suggests that despite gains being
made at the margins, the level of development and realization of
consciousness among leaders at large is not adequate to support
the radical shifts required to achieve the kind of ‘living leadership’
where potential radiates from the core to the edges and back, where
global wholeness takes form, and where stillness holds its echo.
With increasing demands for exterior shifts in frameworks,
structures, and large-scale systems, it is becoming increasingly
clear that interiority of leadership lies at the center of coming
world change. Expansion of consciousness—not activity—is at the
center. Activity flows from mindsets and worldviews outward to
fuel change.

This article points to practical realities of the situation we face,
discusses the interplay of exterior forms and interior capacities,
and begins to put a framework around a path to inner realization,
showing this realization as a primary characteristic of meaningful,
sustained leadership.

Highlighted in the following sections are a review of the practical
case for interior development; a look at interiority expressed as
three journeys of leadership; a description of development as personal unity—body, heart, and mind; an exploration of living
leadership; and finally, thoughts on the new world coming—for
which there are no precedents.

The Practical Case for Interior Development

As a microcosm of the global reality we face, my colleagues and
I recently completed research into corporate sustainability among
leading global companies. We mapped companies using a
developmental framework for sustainability that includes five
stages, advancing from rudimentary to complex activity. Results
show that all companies are operating in low-to-mid-level stages
of activity, in the process of up-shifting to higher stages of
sustainability, with none having reached the 4th ‘integrate’ stage
(embedding sustainability in the business). In addition, most do
not have their sights set at all on the highest 5th ‘redesign’ stage,
which focuses on large-scale systems shifts and the re-casting of
market frameworks critical for addressing the global sustainability
shortfall. Progress is being made—yet there remains a significant
gap. Further, while each company directly points to the centrality
of leadership, few appear to display worldviews that recognize the
forms needed to support the radical shifts that are called for.

In concert with this research, we examined recent studies on
leadership (including W. Torbert, S. Cook-Greuter, B. Joiner & S.
Josephs, R. Anderson) and profiles of leader stages across a
leadership population that reflect development of consciousness.
Research samples show that few leaders (5%) have realized levels
of development associated with success in organizational level
transformations, and fewer (less than 1%) have realized levels
associated with societal level transformations.

Growing evidence suggests that broad cross-walks are being
established between stages of leadership development and stages
of corporate sustainability. It is no wonder that we are not yet
reaching the highest ambitions of corporate sustainability; we do
not have enough leaders with later-stage capacities (more expanded
consciousness) to see, formulate, and harmonize the integrated sets
of actions needed for large-scale shifts forward. Levels of interior
development have not advanced enough to match the needs of
society at large. The good news is that we are beginning to understand
the interplay of exteriors and interiors, and to recognize that
development of interiors is a critical factor regarding large-scale
and whole-systems change.

Let’s add a bit more of a macro perspective: that of futurists and
economists looking toward the horizon of change and shocks
potentially coming our way. J. Petersen of the Arlington Institute
points toward a perfect storm rising—a collision of climate change
impact, energy (peak oil) volatility, and financial instability (US bank and mortgage/reserves perturbations) that will lead to
large-scale system shocks and potential breakdowns.
Economists J. Quilligan and B. Lietaer also point to similar
magnitudes of shock resulting from a variety of large global
financial/monetary disturbances. These disruptions, shocks,
and ensuing calls for change will require interior resilience and
capacities at the most advanced levels in order to respond
appropriately. Without later stage development of interiors, we
will likely live and contend with the same conventional workarounds
that stem from conventional leadership worldviews.

Interiors and Vertical Development

Practically speaking, horizontal development alone—additional
knowledge, skills, and abilities added to current mindsets and
models—is not enough to support the future and global
emergence. The magnitude of change at all levels calls for radical
shifts in vertical development—shifts involving how we learn to
see through a new lens, how we change our interpretation of
what is experienced, how we transform the fundamental nature
of our view of reality. Development in this regard focuses on
transformations of consciousness. And when considering these
transformations, we are referring to our expanded realization of
wholeness—the recognition of the underlying unity of reality.

Wholeness, then, is a reference point for integral leadership and for
the interior work of leadership. The primary barrier to wholeness
is identification with the ego. Our separate-ness, bounded-ness,
and reified, rigidified patterns comprise the ego. Until leaders
become free from these limitations, obscurations, and projections
of the ego—which are superimposed directly on the work of
leadership in understanding and action—they are constrained in
capacity and potential to effectively envision and orchestrate movements
and action on the global stage. They are rendered unable to
respond artfully to the emerging context of greater challenge.

As you will see in the sections that follow, it is only amid wholeness
—in contact with essence, pure consciousness experienced
as presence—that we find the fundamental common ground of
integral leadership and interior development.

So how do we approach interior development? How do we
practically go about dealing with the ego and integrating it into
wholeness? My personal experience over the years shows that
there are definite contours to this type of development and that
rigorous attention is needed. Development includes direct
experiential focus on being where you are—and investigating what
is really going on within you when you don’t know or are unclear.
It sounds simple, but actually is not so easy. The temptations to
resist, manipulate, and avoid being directly with your experience
are great. And, in the words of Viktor Frankl, “what is to give light
must endure burning.” But I have seen an overall pattern to the
interior development process; one that has illuminated itself
through practice and been informed through the guidance of the
Diamond Approach body of wisdom (A. H. Almaas—interspersed

Three Journeys of Leadership

I have come to see the path of integral leadership as a journey of
presence—a journey of self-realization—experienced as three
sub-journeys: the journey to presence; the journey with presence;
and the journey in presence. The three journeys can also be
described as becoming aware… becoming real…and becoming the
hand of life. The three journeys involve awareness of oneself
as presence, which can be recognized as the central characteristic
of interior development and self-realization.

The first journey is about becoming aware and finding presence—journeying to presence. This journey is supported through reflective
practices (including meditation), learning to be present (in
the now), and inquiring into and investigating the nature of one’s
personal experience. On this journey we spend considerable time
recognizing the state of the personality and the ordinary self,
including the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations involved.
During the first journey, the ego personality is firmly in place, its
structures and patterns strong, and recognition as well as integration
of the underlying psychodynamics are a major focus of attention.
Along the way we begin to see that the soul (as an organ of
consciousness) intelligently brings forward exactly what is needed
in every moment with the exact proportion of support required to
continually allow us to turn toward the truth of reality. For me,
this journey has been personally astonishing. I did not expect such
clarity about the extent to which the ego so strongly shapes the
view of me and my world, and how responses to life can be such
patterned, repetitive reactions. The fundamental insight of leadership
in this journey is recognition of presence.

The second journey is about becoming real and living with
presence. This journey brings us into steady contact and
moment-to-moment recognition of essential presence. We
feel the field and its qualities and dimensions, yet with the ego
personality and structures still in play. In living with presence,
we come to know, directly and immediately, what our true nature
is, beyond reifications of the mind, personal history, and conditioned
patterns. The second journey is also about maturation and includes two complementary elements. The first is
individuation—centered around development of personal
essence—which is our sense of individuality and personhood that
does not depend on fixed impressions of the ego, but rather on
spontaneously arising forms of essential presence. The second
element regards identity—centered on transcending the narcissism
of ego and coming to recognize essence not only as one’s true
nature, but as one’s very identity. My direct experience with the
second journey has centered around settling with presence—
beyond striving or trying to be anything—coming face-to-face
with ignorance, desire, and aggression, and exploring how they are
projected onto society. The fundamental insight of this journey is
recognition of oneself as the exquisiteness of timeless presence.

The third journey is about becoming the hand of life and living
in presence. This journey is about living and abiding in presence
as presence. Here one experiences transcendence of ego and
realization of non-duality, as described by Almaas: “One is all
and everything; one is reality.” The third journey includes essential
development and realization of a progression of boundless dimensions—including what Almaas refers to as the freedom vehicle
where “each of us is an objective, precise instrument for the
absolute; its eyes, its ears, its legs, its intellect, its heart and so forth;
an instrument allowing the absolute to behold its own creation.”
Here we find the most pure form of human being as integral
leader, the true condition in which essential presence is so realized
and stabilized that we become the full functioning hand of
consciousness itself.

It is here that leadership becomes the ultimate form of realized
expression—the unobscured, clear, luminous manifestation of life
functioning fully and immediately with perfect attunement and
expression of being. It is here that we reach the highest potential
of leadership in service to global evolution. The fundamental
insight of this journey is recognition of oneself as the functioning
presence of absolute reality itself.

Personal Unity

I want to highlight just a bit more about the interior development
process—about the personal-ness and integration of realizations.
From a systemic perspective, we find increasing degrees of
wholeness and unity through the opening, development, and harmonizing
of three centers: the belly, the heart, and the head. Each
is critical to integral leadership; each offers a dimension important
to the full realization of potential.

The belly center has to do with embodiment of life, with movement
and activity, with animated functionality. The heart center has to
do with feeling and communication, with sensitivity, with attuned
and empathic resonance to each situation. The head center has to
do with knowledge, with clarity and discernment, with direct
perception and knowing.

Each of the three journeys described here includes the opening of
these centers—engaging the full flow of energy and dynamism
of life through them, and developing them to rich and vibrant
capacity. I have found work with these centers to be delicate,
powerful, and profound. And while I have only on occasion gained
a taste of it, the harmonizing effect that can be felt among all three
together is an aspect of integral leadership that serves as a vision for
what is truly possible. For as G. Gurdjieff expressed it, there is a
fourth way—a full harmonizing of the three that allows emergence
of a fourth. Almaas describes this fourth way as a center of life that
arises above and in concert with the others—which in full harmony
brings the integral leader to the ultimate expression of light and
luminosity—pure potential engaged in service to the evolutionary
thrust of life: “a balanced totality, one unified organism expressed
in functionality and consciousness.”

Living Leadership

While I have used the language ‘integral leadership’ throughout in
relation to wholeness, self-realization, and integrative functioning
in the world, a more fitting term may be living leadership. Living
leadership more fully describes the central dimensions involved—that the essence of leadership is an alive, dynamic, ultimately
responsive presence—living as the continuously evolving and
morphing realization of life living itself. That leadership is living
in the world—being and doing on the field of life, on the stage of
local and global commons.

Living leadership acknowledges that realization of our true nature
(our authenticity) alone is not enough. Living leadership calls forth
resonance with others through living in the world—amid the joys
and exaltations, the traumas and travails of life—to incorporate
action and experience into the very ground of realization itself.

Call from Stillness

As we turn into the 21st century, life on earth continues its
movement toward greater global integration, more complexity of
form, and new evolutionary patterns of wholeness. In service to
this movement, leadership is called upon to design and activate
responses to a world and life conditions that have no precedent.
Amid this need and call, we find a remarkable paradox, for the
very outer envelope of exterior shifts needed in the scale and scope
required can be envisioned and actualized best only by leaders with
later-stage interior development and transformations of consciousness.
And only through expansion of individual interiority can
environments be well crafted to allow for the organic evolution of
differing cultures.

The world is calling forth living leadership—calling forth the true
nature of personal expressions of unity and harmony—calling forth
our unique and distinctive dances on the stage of life. The world is
calling for the simple and the grand, and a realm that few have yet
to find but many are asked to manifest.

Each of us has opportunity to bring forward living leadership in
our unique and differing contexts. Each of us has opportunity to
answer the call—to allow our hearts to open wide, our bellies to
flow like a fountain, our minds to ignite into brilliance. Each of us
has an opportunity to find the place where stillness holds its echo,
to give a reply quietly and inwardly that can incite magnitudes of
external change—to simply say, ‘Yes.’