Conscious Leaders Can Save the World
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
- John Quincy Adams
When one thinks of “leadership,” a well-dressed executive, briefcase in tow, often comes to mind. Not surprisingly, businesses often only cater “leadership seminars” to executives or employees in the corporate world. And in these seminars, various leadership philosophies emerge to encourage effective management strategies and better returns on investment through the cultivation of areas like innovation or employee engagement. These can have obvious benefits for the company-- innovation leads to more and better products and services to sell, and according to a 2015 study in the Harvard Business Review, employee engagement can boost employee productivity and the bottom line (Graber, 2015). And positive workplaces also positively affect employee productivity ( Seppälä, Cameron, 2015).
Though these leadership trainings are often worthwhile, two observations emerge. First, leadership training should be provided to youth, including young employees, not just corporate executives, successful entrepreneurs, and the children of the elite. At present, it is not included in most mainstream, educational curricula around the world. Further, most youth programs which do teach leadership are expensive and limited to brick and mortar facilities which excludes most students—it's simply not feasible to fit everyone. Thus, most youth are never enrolled in any kind of leadership program. Were society to focus on youth leadership, a bottom-to-top approach, it could encourage critical, leadership skills from childhood so people have a better chance of reaching the C suite, or success in general. Many people, including Richard Branson and Warren Buffet, started their “careers” in their childhood. Leadership development, therefore, can be useful even at a young age. Using this approach of early leadership education, people would simply grow up learning to think more critically, and be more creative, inspired, actualized, resilient, collaborative, and proactive. Additionally, the education systems in many countries are antiquated and face budget cuts or deficits across many areas, especially those in the creative disciplines. Therefore, many education systems do not adequately prepare youth for the future of work, and they can rob them of cultivating creativity in the process. These antiquated, education systems can be quite rigid, utilize a one size fits all approach, be test-centric and teacher-exhausting, and promote a “worker bee” or “follow orders” mentality. As an aside, working in a company does not necessarily make someone a “worker bee”— employees can be inspired intrapreneurs and advance their interests and those of their employers' in creative ways.
In addition to basic math, reading, and writing literacy, the future of work will require young leaders to collaborate, to be creative, to think critically, and to be technologically-proficient, at a minimum. They will also be tasked with creating jobs in the face of automation, globalization, and political, social, and economic instability. Jack Ma, Alibaba's founder, stated at the 2018 World Economic Forum, “If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now, we’re going to be in trouble” (2018, World Economic Forum). 30 years is not so far away. Supplemental leadership programs, especially ones which can be accessed online, are part of the answer to educate and promote an inspired leadership model that helps cultivate morals and creativity. As a related consideration, for profit education does not have to be predatory—if the private sector fills a need that the public sector can't or won't, then societies can rely more on social impact entrepreneurship from the private sector to provide creative and necessary solutions, and rely less on government and philanthropic funding. Creative solutions come to fruition, and entrepreneurs can ethically capitalize on opportunity and need, the new standard of business in conscious capitalism, or economic ecosystems which care about planet, profit and people.
With limited education funding, gang violence, bullying, suicides, mass shootings, the hyper- sexualization of both youth and society in general, wealth inequality, human trafficking, arms and drugs trafficking, homelessness, large populations and high rates of recidivism in prison industries, rampant consumerism and egoism, school to prison pipelines, loneliness, technology dependency, and opioid epidemics, it's increasingly vital to teach leadership to youth to counteract economic pressures and global, social pollution. Social pollution, a term coined by IESE Business School professor Nuria Chinchilla, was first used to describe companies that devalue the well-being of their workers and their families (Inc Magazine). Replace “companies” with “societies” and expand the definition to include societies which devalue people through overworking, underpaying, over-prescribing, over-incarcerating, over-charging, under-prosecuting, under-educating, and non-stop promoting things which appeal to the lowest levels of human consciousness: fear, greed, lust, hate, the desire for power, consumerism, etc. Though political and economic factors are at play, the root of these issues is social in nature and leads to various forms of enslavement.
Because of this social pollution, youth need outside education in addition to that which they receive in formal schooling. As the adage goes, “A child only educated in the classroom is an uneducated child.” Literacy rates in writing, reading, and math certainly need supplemental attention in most countries, which online education can help address. But, leadership education, and other core competencies, like financial literacy, are also important. This education must be effective in inspiring youth to learn, to create income in ways which are fulfilling to them and society, and to generate creative solutions to the world's problems.
The second observation is that in 2019, not just any leadership philosophy will suffice. The world's issues are the effects of a core problem—they stem from moral apathy, a phenomena which the legendary James Baldwin called, “The death of the heart.” A new leadership philosophy can help reduce toxic practices and beliefs—especially those which lead to harm and destruction. Societies and people do not have to continue repeating negative cycles, growth through better education is an option too. Though many problems exist in the world, and there is no panacea, education is the most universal and effective solution. Education can present contextualized information on current events to youth and develop a more universal, guiding philosophy of leadership to help people from an early age. When individuals succeed, it also helps humans to grow collectively as a species, as predecessors have demonstrated in previous generations.
Though diversity is a beautiful thing, it has presented more opportunities for people to villainize “the other” based on gender, religion, nationality, social status, etc. The massive growth in human population since the industrial revolution exacerbates the underlying problem of moral apathy in most societies. There are simply more people. Further, most societies focus on individualism instead of collectivism. Whilst avoiding an all out socialist society, the world can embrace balance and devote energy to the betterment of individual, society, and planet. The world celebrates people who are overly self-involved with their egos and identities, and does not associate harming another as harming oneself also. Nor do they consider apathy of the heart, or indifference to the suffering of others, as toxic to the world. This is where the ideas of consciousness, and Conscious Leadership, specifically, are appealing solutions to share with the masses.
What is Conscious Leadership?
“Conscious”, defined, is to be “fully aware of or sensitive to something, or known to oneself.” A comprehensive discussion of consciousness has been explored by many writers and philosophers, and it is not the intent of this piece to elaborate deeply on consciousness as a whole. Suffice it to say that consciousness means that people are connected through a collective consciousness, something Princeton University's Global Consciousness Project is exploring further. By analyzing the patterns of random number generators around the world during and after major world events, like the news of the death of Princess Diana, researchers have observed patterns in the numbers when there normally wouldn't be any definable pattern. This showcases the level of connectedness people have with each other and the collective consciousness as a whole. It's not just “woo woo” or “new age” philosophy, it's scientifically-proven, and this knowledge long predates modern times.
The Institute of HeartMath conducted fascinating research as well on the connection between the heart and collective consciousness. In addition to finding that gratitude actually rewires the brain, they discovered that the heart communicates in four ways, one of which is through electromagnetic waves. It appears these electromagnetic waves affect consciousness—when positive emotions like love, gratitude, and hope are felt by the heart, it beats out a higher vibrational electromagnetic field. Perhaps this explains “vibes” or the “energy” we feel when walking into a room of people. In this way, people are sort of like human care bears. Additionally, when the power of meditation studies were performed by two Harvard professors in the 1980's in Jerusalem, the United States, Lebanon, and Yugoslavia, violence decreased in those areas by between 40 and 80 percent in every instance. These findings strongly suggest that people are all actually connected in invisible ways, through consciousness. Rollin McCraty, Ph.D, and director of research at The HeartMath Institute stated, “We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself” (Walia, 2018).
“Though free to think and act, we are held together like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them.” - Nikola Tesla
This information necessitates reflection, for as Socrates believed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This leads to a reflection on the way people live their lives collectively and individually, and what, if any, guiding philosophy can be embraced which is moral, but not religion-specific, as religion is a common source of moral guidelines. There are varying definitions of Conscious Leadership, an idea which organically and intuitively spread around the world fairly recently. They are similar, though. HoistPoint's definition of Conscious Leadership is ethical, inspired, service-based leadership.
“Ethical” is defined as “pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; or pertaining to right and wrong in conduct” (Dictionary.com). Guiding most people's ethical compasses is religion, something which is not taught in all schools. Rather than lend an opinion on the appropriateness of religion in schools, there is something to be said for the ethics or morals which most religions teach, at least in theory, which can be valuable to the student and the world in general. Embracing the principle which underlies most religions, “The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is the simplest, and yet most profound, ethical consideration which could dramatically change the world if embraced on both an individual and collective level. And if dog videos can go viral, so can this idea. Irrespective of religion, the principle of The Golden Rule can still be applied in everyone's lives—it is not associated with a religion or denomination or race or gender or sexual orientation. This Rule is enshrined in Conscious Leadership as the benchmark for respectful and ethical conduct. People may not hit it every time, but they should aim. As Voltaire said, “Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time.”
Ethics in 2019, is a weird cacophony of explicit and dehumanizing headlines, and questionable social and economic norms, i.e. twerking, consumerism, selfie posting obsessions, competitiveness, shallow, ego-based connections, etc. Former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt stated, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to create a menace to society.” Menaces abound in every echelon of society, the well-educated classes and the impoverished ones, and pollute the world in thought, action, or both. Thus, great education does not necessarily portend ethical uprightness. Is that not reason enough then to educate both the mind and the soul of all leaders?
Vital to understanding inspiration is first understanding “intuition.” Formally defined, “intuition” is “direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process” (Dictionary.com). HBO's John Oliver recently aired an entire episode trying to debunk it. But stigmas associated with highly intuitive people aside, everyone actually has intuition. It's akin to a radar, and when inspiration strikes, the radar has sensed something, whether from an external stimulus or an internal one, which requires further exploration. Intuition also helps with keeping people safe, establishing healthy relationships, and leading people to their callings or “personal legends” as Paulo Coelho refers to them in The Alchemist. Perhaps most important outside of safety considerations (like the inner voice that warns of stranger danger), intuition is responsible for sparking inspiration to create innovations which can positively transform the world. Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Hedy Lamar, Princess Diana, Leonardo Da Vinci and Ralph Waldo Emerson, to name a few, acknowledged intuition guiding themselves or others. Whether through epiphanies, dreams, or the little voice within, they all used intuition to self-actualize and innovate. Einstein is quoted as saying, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.” Nikola Tesla, the inventor of numerous everyday inventions including the radar, the Alternating Current, x-rays, the fluorescent light bulb, the remote control, etc., spoke at length about his intuition and his process. He eludes to it as “instinct,” but the underlying idea is the same. He wrote, “Instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile.” Former Apple CEO and tech tycoon, Steve Jobs wrote, “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect.” And the ancient poet and philosopher, Rumi, stated over 800 years ago, “The inspiration you seek is already within you. Be silent and listen.”
Intuition is the radar that guides people to follow, or help others to follow their unique legend and contributions to the world. "Inspiration," formally defined, is “a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea” and “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” Inspiration manifests and intuition alerts the individual to follow through with what was imagined. Disclaimer: Intuition will never guide one to hurt oneself or others.
Intuition and inspiration are not just helpful and powerful for inventors, scientists, and CEOs, but all leaders at almost any age. For instance, many are told that being creative is just an outlet or a hobby. However, most memorable things were produced by creatives and inspired through intuition. From the artisans of the Zhou Dynasty to the artists of the Italian Renaissance like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci to French impressionist painters like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Claude Monet, and Camille Pissaro, museums still house works inspired into fruition long ago. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers, both written over 100 years ago, can still delight one's ears on Spotify or Pandora. And the world will forever be bumping to “Jump Around” by House of Pain when it randomly comes on the radio. Coco Chanel's iconic suit for women is still a treasured, style staple— had she not defied social norms and been creative enough to fashion herself in one, the classic, female power suit may not have been so gracefully introduced into the fancies of society. And really, where would women be without it? The words of poets like Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Rupi Kaur, Robert Frost, Sir Walter Scott, E.E. Cummings, and Lao Tzu will forever awaken humanity's senses to the beauty in the bold, in the cosmic, in love, in life, in art. Creatives, in whichever field, learn to think critically and outside the box, relying heavily on their intuition for inspiration. In embracing their creative proclivities, they either heal or inspire, or both.
Socrates is quoted in Plato's Apology, “Not by wisdom do they [poets] make what they compose, but by a gift of nature and an inspiration similar to that of the diviners and the oracles.” After discovering that the oracle was right and he was the wisest man around (because he knew of his own intellectual limitations), Socrates implicitly acknowledged that intuition is not only helpful to creatives, but is also useful for other legitimate purposes, albeit those still considered unconventional by most societies' standards. Most notably, intuitive consulting, which is where one person uses only their intuition to advise another, though highly stigmatized and discredited because of fraudsters and superstitions, has been used by leaders since ancient times. And even if societies collectively deny or are ill-informed on the topic of intuition, people looking for clarity, like entrepreneurs, CEOs, world leaders, celebrities, veterans, and even Wall Street executives, among others, look for this kind of assistance and consult with highly intuitive people every day. This kind of assistance has been used in the U.S. legal system, including in the case of Andre Dagle. There are multiple uses of intuitive consulting including counseling/therapy, legal assistance/missing persons, career consulting, business consulting, and leadership consulting generally. Should it be de-stigmatized, it could help society considerably, both in practical applications and in the implications of a widespread understanding of the inter-connectedness of all people regardless of race, religion, gender, etc. After all, people of all backgrounds and religions report experiences with intuition.
Regrettably, intuition and its relationship to inspiration are usually not taught anywhere in formal education systems. Some institutions have sprung up to study it, most notably the Institute of Noetic Sciences which was started by former U.S. astronaut, Edgar Mitchell. Through word of mouth, people hear of intuition without an in depth explanation, and people may hear to “trust one's gut,” which, though true, is to minimize the real power of intuition and all the ways it alerts people—it's more than just a feeling in your gut. Becoming more conscious of one's intuition inevitably leads to more intuitive thoughts, feelings, or visions. Like anything else, with practice comes refinement, and mindfulness is a means to this refinement. Learning to be aware, to be conscious of one's intuition and the effects of one's actions and thoughts on self and others, is to foster the development of one's intuition. For youth, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and leaders, a clear connection to a calling or a passionate idea through intuition is vital, and has practical implications, like financial ones. Case in point: J.K. Rowling's success in following her intuition to write the Harry Potter series.
Service to Others
The need for more service-based leadership is evident—this world needs a lot of help, stat. Service to others not only alleviates problems, but also gives purpose to leaders, and helps with loneliness, depression, and self-absorption (an idea that bankers, politicians, oil tycoons, and selfie maniacs should certainly heed). This is where leadership is needed the most, to help others and help the world. In a hyper-sexualized and power-hungry world filled with greed and vanity, Alfred Schweitzer wrote, “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Not only does this translate to people and their interpersonal relationships, but business too. As the business world begins embracing the triple bottom line, caring for profit, planet, and people, commitment to service, and the reduction of negative impacts to others, whether it be carbon footprints, fair wages, or the like, will be integral parts of business in the future, rather than just additional considerations. Corporate wellness and social responsibility efforts are centered around this trend. Growing in this direction would be conscious capitalism at its best.
“Inequality raises economic anxiety, erodes public trust, and undermines social cohesion, human rights, peace, and prosperity.”- Atonio Gutierres, Secretary General of the United Nations
The global economy is transitioning to automated jobs in the service and manufacturing industries, among others, therefore people must be creative in embracing that shift. Even “safe” jobs, like those in accounting, are projected to become obsolete in the future. Since a large part of humans' collective success is economic prosperity, that means that despite the trends towards nationalism, being adaptable and collaborative as a global society is vital to the well-being and progress of all countries. Societies will only become more entangled; if people are to thrive, they must thrive together.
Conscious Leadership, would, for example, preclude bulldozing forests for palm oil; however, it would facilitate the invention of a sustainable substitute for palm oil that is not damaging to planet, animals, and people. And, it would call for the utilization of funds to restore damaged ecosystems to the fullest extent possible, creating green, living wage jobs along the way.
Achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals through collaboration and coordination, and a social contract which catalyzes awareness of conscious leadership and all of its offshoots, including conscious consumerism, conscious capitalism, and conscious relationships, will be vital to helping the world thrive together.
Can Everyone Be a Leader?
Power dynamics shift in different situations and relationships, one may follow in one situation and lead in another. Even as a follower, someone can still consider one a leader if one's actions inspire others to, as John Quincy Adams wrote, “dream more, learn more, do more and become more.” Life is about balance, an ebb and flow. Moral apathy, or a death of the heart, has not only caused the plethora of problems the world must address, but has caused an imbalance—there is too much taking and not enough giving. Adapting to each situation is important, a lot can be learned as a leader by sitting back and taking notes on one occasion, and leading the efforts on other. Further still, one does not have to be a world leader to be a leader or a conscious leader. The relationships people have with themselves, with each other, with the planet, and with animals, provide ample opportunity to showcase one's inspired, empathetic, leadership abilities. Some present-day conscious leaders include Greta Thunberg, Ellen Degeneres, Shaun King, Malala, and those who, at the very least, are inspired to be compassionate to others, and, at best, are inspired to innovate creatively to solve a problem plaguing people or planet.
Conscious Leaders in Today's World
“What we now want is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth. And the elimination of egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife...Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment...”- Nikola Tesla
In a world where tensions are high, sociopolitical and economic unrest is common, climate change threatens human rights and the sovereignty of entire nations, threats of nuclear warfare loom, income inequality is at unprecedented levels, and governments oppress their own citizens as well as people around the world, many leaders today prize violence and hate, aspiring to divide the countries they lead and enslave citizens in some form. These motives are spurred by greed, a desire for power, and unbridled ego, all vibrations which exist at a low level of consciousness. Leading with empathy, the most basic, intuitive ability, and maintaining a connection to heart, are at the core of Conscious Leadership. On the most fundamental level, understanding intuition is important because it shows the world the levels of connectedness people can attain; the epiphanous byproduct then is the realization that hurting others is hurting self—this is a critical conclusion. Shallow connections and ego-driven decisions are out. Inspired, compassionate, and collaborative leadership is in.
Unfortunately, societies could have been teaching these ideas to children sooner if not for the rigid control of the education systems—some children still can't even go to school. Established leaders, intrapreneurs, and entrepreneurs can also benefit from virtual education and this leadership philosophy. Fortunately, a smart phone and internet access can now be deployed to spread this philosophy—is this not the perfect, albeit extraordinarily overdue, time to leverage technology yet again for the greater good?
Conscious Leadership is critical now for global well-being. People must develop as conscious leaders if the world is to actually thrive. Moral apathy, or a death of the heart, is no longer an option because the futures of the world's population are inextricably linked. Even the elite will be affected at certain junctures—the world will become increasingly more dangerous for everyone if drastic change is not embraced. Further still, personal growth, internally and externally, should be glorified, not the latest reality-tv star's drunken tirade, or world leader's hate-fueled rhetoric. People must focus on continually improving themselves, and aligning at least some aspects of their lives with addressing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, even if it's just changing their consumption habits like not using straws or fossil fuels, or spearheading a corporate social responsibility initiative, or being compassionate to those the world neglects. One cannot rely on charity to fix the world's problems nor can one simply rely upon a title of affiliation to showcase to the world one's morality—one must show their beliefs through their actions. It is time for a revitalization of not just moral philosophy, but of the heart.
Conscious Leadership promotes living a life of service with purpose which inevitably leads people to feel more fulfilled, more connected, and more empowered to follow their own paths and help both the world and themselves. Many people in states of depression, also known as, “funks,” would benefit greatly from the catalyzing philosophy that is Conscious Leadership. At 7.6 billion people and growing, the world will increasingly need compassionate, collaborative, creative, inspired, and service-based leaders.
When people stop robbing each other of resources, whether it be peace, time, or tangible commodities, people can create circular, sustainable economies with ethical, supply chains, respectful relationships, and a population which thrives on individual and collective growth. Conscious Leadership is unifying, and irrespective of culture, religion, etc., it can be used as a guiding philosophy to a brighter world. This philosophy can be taught in schools, companies, start up incubators, government agencies, after-school programs, think tanks, and more.
"No problem can be solved at the level of consciousness in which it was conceived."- Albert Einstein
There can be a world where intuition is embraced as a real, transformative, useful, and natural ability. There can be a world where creative, innovative solutions to the Global Goals are abundant. There can be a world where people and planet are treated with compassion à la the Golden Rule. And there can be a world where open, pulsating, hearts emitting electromagnetic waves are recognized, valued, and empowered with the tools they need to succeed. Conscious leaders can save the world. What kind of leader will you be?
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Diane Hagopian, Founder, CEO, Inspirational Speaker, and Intuitive Leadership Consultant at HoistPoint, writes and speaks on Conscious Leadership, social impact entrepreneurship, inspiration and innovation, human rights, youth issues, impact investing, and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. She tailors each seminar to be appropriate for different audiences. To sign up for HoistPoint's upcoming leadership webinars for both youth and adults, visit us here. To learn more about intuitive leadership consulting, visit here, or to simply read speaking and consulting reviews, visit here.
Graber, Sean (2015). The Two Sides to Employee Engagement. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/12/the-two-sides-of-employee-engagement
Seppälä, Emma, & Cameron, Kim. (2015). Proof That Positive Workplaces Are More Productive. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/12/proof-that-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive
Institute of Noetic Sciences. https://noetic.org/
Ma, Jack (2018). Speech at the 2018 World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/top-quotes-from-davos-on-the-future-of-education/
The Global Consciousness Project at Princeton University. http://noosphere.princeton.edu/
The Institute of HeartMath. www.HeartMath.com
Walia, Arjun (2018). Scientists Explain How Earth's Magnetic Field Connects All Living Systems.Collective Evolution. https://www.collective-evolution.com/2018/11/29/scientists-explain-how-earths-magnetic-field-connects-all-living-systems/
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Watch the video to listen to the speech, narrated and written by HoistPoint's CEO, Diane Hagopian.
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PROPELLING LEADERS TO LEGENDS