Leadership at the Cusp of the Millennium

by Geraldine Schwartz

We are truly living in an unprecedented time, an age in which an evolved human consciousness is in the process of changing the world. Co-existing as one part of a whole spectrum of human consciousness, from the most primitive to the most advanced, this surge of new thinking raises compelling questions about the kind of leadership the world needs at the cusp of the millennium. In essence, the challenge is to link together the growing cohort of thinkers whose wise stewardship can lead this planet to a place where an evolved species of Homo sapiens sapiens can flourish in an historic safe harbour.

To join this cohort requires credentials of a different kind from those that appear on walls as diplomas granted by institutions of higher learning still practicing 20th century thinking. The credentials of the new leaders will be evident through acts of courage, through modelling right action even in the face of risk, through dedicated loyalty, integrity and great enthusiasm for the group's raison d'être.

To become such a leader, one needs to focus on the journey itself, how the game of life and work is played, and not only on the destination or the bottom line. At the same time, such a leader keeps the end in mind, expects an outstanding outcome, uses rigorous rational thinking, and especially focuses on the big picture, even while mired in the daily blur of detail.

To be such a leader one needs to understand how to generate, nurture and sustain outstanding performance in oneself and others. The emphasis must be on the prime cause of achieving difficult goals. Such leaders need to know what strategies and safeguards are required to produce outstanding results with ordinary people.

Which leads us to investigate the power of relationships to
create within individuals the ability to perform at such high
levels, and within teams, to achieve seemingly impossible goals.

The Power of Relationships

To understand the power of relationships, we need to consider what our current scientific knowledge of the nature of consciousness says about the very fabric of our humanity.

We are beginning to revise our understanding of who we are as human beings and what we are made of. We know now that we are not material entities with fixed physical limits like machines, but rather we are energy systems undergoing dynamic, continuous renewal. We are not a body, a mind and a spirit, but a whole living being in which all systems are interconnected and entirely governed by mind. Significantly, that mind is not only in the head, but in every cell of the body, so integrated and exquisitely tuned that a single thought produces a flood of neurochemical action that either engages or depresses action instantly. Even questions of health, and indeed life and death, can now be answered by our understanding of how the mind affects the immune system's response to its challenges.

Cloaked with this exquisite human organism, we are also attuned to each other, such that the whole of us responds with extraordinary sensitivity to each other, in both physical and mental ways, whether we intend this to happen or not.

Thus, it is in the relationships between us that the power of outstanding performance lies. The championship team, the outstanding business success, events of personal, national and international heroism or greatness, all are fully dependent on the elusive spirit of relationships within the team. The reason for this lies in the nature of who we are and what we need in order to function effectively.

Safe Harbour and Clarity of Purpose

All human beings need safe harbour for them to do their best work. To have this they must be able to trust the people close to them. Along with trust comes a sense of dignity, respect and encouragement, supported by a conviction that honesty, justice, fairness and integrity govern the actions of the group. Without this people enter the forum of daily activity with the need to protect themselves, to look after their own case, which detracts from whatever focus they need to do their work.

Once safe harbour is achieved, people need to be energized by clarity of purpose, a feeling that the job they are doing is important and that it is right that they do it. Indeed, they must be so convinced of its importance and rightness that they will risk courageously to achieve it. They must personally be part of the action. They need to have a role to play, to be counted on for their individual competent contribution. They need to know that the team is counting on them and expects them to do their best.

Related to this is the power of creativity. The creative impulse to invent new responses when old solutions are not producing the best result must be enthusiastically supported even in the face of potential temporary failure.

Which leads us then to ask how all this is related to leadership.
How can a leader generate such spirit in others, and nurture and
sustain it to respond effectively to the challenges of the new times?

Begin with Oneself

The answer emerges with starling simplicity--begin with oneself. To engender trust a leader must be trustworthy. To promote justice, one must be just; to engage enthusiasm, be enthusiastic. In other words, a leader must model all the qualities and characteristics he or she expects of others. To coach, one must know how to play the game oneself. Indeed, such leadership demands that we never ask others to do something we are unwilling to do ourselves.

Those who would develop leaders for a new time must be ready to walk their talk, to go first into risk, while at the same time being ready to double back and bring up the rear, if that is where the greater danger lies. Through all this action, the leader will pay constant attention to the relationships with each member of the team, providing new access when necessary, always ensuring that the relationships among the team members model the leader's relationships with them. This includes healthy competitiveness for place and promotion, so long as the overall safety of the unit is preserved by everyone accepting that responsibility.

Which leads us to rethink what we mean by a hero.

The New Hero

From antiquity and through history, the title and respect of hero has gone to the conqueror--to Alexander, to Caesar, to Napoleon, to Peter the Great. Mesmerized by their achievements, the world has thought less about the land they desecrated and the people they subjugated. Even in modern times wealth and power continue to be regarded as the criteria of greatness, regardless of the harm done to others in the pursuit of those ends.

However, as we move into the post-modern era, a new spirit is abroad that denies the acceptability of achieving greatness through doing harm to others. On the world stage, from the brutal leadership of the Serbs and Bosnians with their policies of ethnic cleansing, and the monstrous behaviour of Saddam Hussein in the Middle East and the butchers in Rwanda, to the silent willingness of Swiss banks to profit from Nazi atrocities--all this is being exposed, challenged and denounced by the free world and its media. Closer to home in our own country, acting without integrity, or lying and cheating to win either in politics or sport is being challenged on every front. Within the largest or smallest enterprise, from the Department of Defense and monolithic power utilities to the local corner store or small business contractor, trustworthiness and integrity are demanded by the client or consumer of goods and services.

So we live now in a world of transition and the resulting confusion. We are reluctant to give up the tarnished heroes of the past, while we expect something different from the heroes of the present, but still remain fascinated by the scoundrels who masquerade as leaders in real life and who leap out at us daily from the disturbed imaginations of those who craft the mainstream stories of television and film.

Which brings us to the question: How then shall we live?

Choosing the Way

The person who chooses to live with emotional health in such a world as described above, will find the way by joining the cohort of new leaders and new heroes who champion the cause of "right action" beginning with themselves. The reward for such leadership goes well beyond wealth, power or position. It comes from the opportunity to live a life of meaning, to make a difference, to leave the world better for the life you lived, to provide a better place for those who follow you.

Pushing your own potential to its limit allows you to transcend yourself as the energy system you know you surely are. If this is done in the direction of right action, you will live a healthy quality life. The relationships you model for others return to you to empower you in body-mind-spirit to produce the best of who you are.

Such rewards are priceless. Being on a life path that allows such travelling, is the ultimate and most sacred human journey.