Our series of articles on Leadership in light of the current climate crisis indicate that the world needs a new kind of leader. Not a leadership coup, but perhaps an internal self-directed coup, in which our higher self displaces our lesser self. In this final article in the series, we outline how to access our best thinking, our higher nature, the person we are and are yet to become. Because it is the leaders that successfully find that higher self – and live from it – who will be the key instigators in turning the business world toward reversing climate change.
Everything is connected
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a 1000 invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibres our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” – Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick
If anything is certain, it’s that we need other people to stand any chance at all of accessing our higher self. But the purpose of others is not simply to gain perspective on our blind spots. It is not just about strengthening our position as individuals but becoming something other as a group.
Daniel Schmachtenberger, co-founder of Neurohacker collective, speaking on the principle of emergence and collective becoming says: “All issues are now global issues, because the part affects the whole.” Or in other words, there is no true self-actualisation without the actualisation of others around you. To grow independently, interacting with wider issues only when necessary, is to skim the surface of who we are capable of becoming. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”
We have to be diverse
“The more time we spend with people that we are predicted and programmed to like, the less we can connect with people who are different from ourselves. And the less compassion we need, the less compassion we have. “ – Margaret Heffernan
The key to the successful emergence of new properties in the whole is diversity among the parts. If we surround ourselves with ourselves, we will become nothing but ourselves. But if we build meaningful connection with those who think differently, are skilled differently, possibly work in entirely different fields to us, then collectively we might become something more.
What if business executives worked alongside climate protesters? Or executive leaders welcomed friendship and feedback from those several salary grades lower? Or leaders from different cultures took time to learn about each other’s collective history and personal journeys? We might become something with properties we have not seen before.
Braver thinking is needed now
“Anyone who tries to tell you that they know the future is just trying to own it, a spurious kind of manifest destiny. The harder, deeper truth is that the future is uncharted, that we can’t map it till we get there.” – Margaret Heffernan, former CEO
At the 2019 TED Summit, Margaret Heffernan outlined the dangers of prioritising efficiency at the risk of missing the best part of humanity. She noted that efficiency relies on a predictable future, but in truth the future is unpredictable and in constant flux. She added, “But that’s OK, because we have so much imagination — if we use it. We have deep talents of inventiveness and exploration – if we apply them.”
There are higher levels of thinking available to us, but often, in the haste and noise of life, we settle for efficient thinking, so we can keep pace. If we are to access our higher self, personally and collectively, we need to stop prioritising external demands that prevent us from slowing down enough to build friendships, to deep dive into creativity and stay in touch with our humanity. As Margaret Heffernan says, “We are brave enough to invent things we’ve never seen before.” But we too often make efficient choices instead of brave ones. And we will need those brave choices if we are to adapt as leaders within this changing world. Marc Benioff, CEO of SalesForce discovered, “the essential nature of what a business is, and how it should operate, needed to evolve. These weren’t temporary, or incremental, shifts, either. They were structural and permanent.”
We need action prompted by better questions
The real heroism of leadership involves having the courage to face reality — and helping the people around you to face reality – Ron Heifetz
At TPC, we had to make a choice about what we wanted to prioritise. We had to define our values and then constantly interrogate our processes and personal thinking in order to stay the course. We created our manifesto. And set ourselves the ambition that leadership solutions would activate the imagination and inspire a sense of adventure, nurture vitality and sustain growth, develop unity and drive skillful action in the service of people, clients and planet.
The reason we have spent the past six blogs talking climate change is because we consciously placed the “and planet” in our mission to offer leadership solutions. We realised that our organisation does not exist for its shareholders, but for all its stakeholders: our people, our clients and our planet. These articles have been a small part of fulfilling that core value.
The climate crisis needs to be urgently addressed, but it is also a symptom of a deeper issue. A fractured unconscious attitude in leadership that has filtered down into our operational systems, causing us to hesitate from enacting real change. We cannot address it with words only, or with minor changes to our supply chains. If we are going to create a seismic shift, we need an entirely different way of thinking. And we need to access our higher self. The planet depends upon it.