Accelerating Developmental Pathways to Global Harmony

Scientists, psychologists and philosophers alike agree that the key to global harmony is a dramatic shift of mind, from seeing the “other” as a threatening enemy to recognizing the universal oneness of all living beings. Yet a miniscule number of people on earth, say the researchers, consistently see the world from that enlightened and elevated perspective.1 The urgency of conflicts and divisions around the world require the creation of contexts in which ordinary human beings can travel an accelerated developmental path to a more whole and harmonious perspective.

In our book, The Transformative Workplace: Growing People, Purpose, Prosperity and Peace (2015), we make the case that workplaces, where most of us spend most of our time, must become essential contexts in which we can grow into the fullness of our humanity. Based on dozens of interviews with organization and community leaders from 14 countries on 4 continents, our conclusion is that we can already point to examples of workplaces that pay as much attention to the growth of their people as they do to their bottom line. What is needed, of course, is far more leaders who act from the knowledge that the continuous growth of their people is what drives the performance of their organizations in the marketplace.

These ideas are reinforced by other recent books and white papers including Robert Kegan’s An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberatively Developmental Organization, Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, and a series of white papers, authored by Nick Petrie of the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) on vertical (vs. horizontal) leadership development. Petrie’s research amplifies that of CCL colleagues John McGuire and Gary Rhodes, who wrote Transforming Your Leadership Culture. McGuire and Rhodes argued that “Organizations have grown skilled at developing individual leader competencies, but have mostly ignored the challenge of transforming their leader’s mindset from one level to the next.”2

This challenge is currently being met through offerings from a few private consulting groups; however, as Petrie points out in his research, “There are no simple, existing models or programs, which will be sufficient to develop the levels of collective leadership required to meet an increasingly complex future. Instead, an era of rapid innovation will be needed in which organizations experiment with new approaches that combine diverse ideas in new ways and share these with others.”3 Our own experimental approach to vertical development, called “Practicing Wholeness,” offers a highly accessible model for engaging leaders and their teams in a set of practices intended to increase self-awareness, strengthen relationships and heighten perspectives. These practices include, among others, presence, courage, integrity, compassion, generosity, humility, unity and equanimity.

Practicing Wholeness is meant to be used in any environment where there is a recognition that developing more highly conscious people who can work together to find innovative solutions to increasingly complex problems is the key to creating a world that works for all. It is an approach that is based on the idea that it is possible to advance one’s capacity for more complex and conscious ways of thinking and being by acting as if one has already become more highly developed. In other words, the focus is on engaging in practices that are already the hallmark of highly conscious people.

The concept of acting as if as a strategy for shifting one’s beliefs and assumptions originated with the philosopher William James, who is universally considered to be the father of modern psychology. James is famously quoted as saying that, “If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.”4 James’ ideas were sidelined for over fifty years, particularly by those who believed strongly and solely that it is the mind that controls behavior. Late in the 1960’s, however, researchers picked up on the James’ idea and have conducted thousands of experiments around the idea ever since. This is not to suggest that intervening in how people think, rather than how they behave, is the wrong approach. What we are suggesting is that one road to becoming a more highly conscious leader is to practice being one—to actively use the behaviors that highly conscious leaders exhibit, and to integrate them into one’s actions and interactions when working with others until they become an essential part of one’s nature.

Given the challenges and complexities we are facing at every level of society and around the world, the need for leaders who are consciously and actively growing toward wholeness is not limited to the business environment. While organizations need people who are capable of facing the challenges of an uncertain global economy, communities also need people who can participate in strengthening educational, social and economic institutions in the places they live. Societies need people who understand and address the complexity of problems we face, and the world needs people whose wisdom and insight give them the capacity for bringing about a world of peace and prosperity. The time to begin is now.

1. http://home.deib.polimi.it/schiaffo/Goldberg/img/Greuter.pdf
2. McGuire, J. B., & Rhodes, G. B. (2009). Transforming your leadership culture. California: Jossey-Bass. p.12
3. Developing Leaders: Today’s Methods vs. Tomorrow’s Problems. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/developing-leaders-todays-methods-vs-tomorrows-problems-2/
4. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williamjam163787.html

David and Carole Schwinn are co-authors of The Transformative Workplace: Growing People, Purpose, Prosperity and Peace (2015). Contact them at carole@transformunltd.com.