Holding Together

Anxiety and stress are all normal responses to this level of uncertainty. None of us are invincible. But when you're the boss, all eyes are on you to steer a wise and creative course, to encourage others and put their hearts at ease. How are you responding?

The I Ching, or book of changes, is one of the world's oldest works of literature. Hexagram 8 is about Union - holding together. It says to become a centre of influence requires binding people together. It is the bonds created with each other that creates a secure foundation and holds everyone steady.

If you are responsible for leading others through this chaotic and difficult time, your character will be tested as never before. People are looking to you as a centre of confidence, strength and wisdom. Ultimately, a centre of hope.

Businesses are making fundamental changes to how they operate during and post-pandemic. However, your role as a leader now is as much about creating community as it is about managing processes and cash flow. A strong sense of unity and wholehearted community is required for successful transition through these uncharted waters.

A centre of unity

How do you become a centre of unity? The root of all influence lies in one's inner being. The atmosphere around you is created through the qualities inherent within your being. What kind of atmosphere do you create around you at work and at home? Is it creative and energised yet peaceful? Or is it tense with a relentless drive for even more with less?

A superficial leader gets caught in drama, sensation and excitement. They may rouse energies in company town hall gatherings but it doesn’t last. Nothing of real substance is being said or transmitted from the core of their being. We could all cite examples of this on the world stage right now!? But what of those within your organisation?

These types of people will not create the kind of atmosphere we need in organisations now. Nothing truly visionary or imaginative will come from them. They’ll just manage the P&L until the storm passes. Nothing of any real substance will change. 

Clever strategies and careful cashflow will only get you so far. People are looking to leaders who can give them something to hold onto in their crumbling worlds. We need a vision of a different future, the courage to hold the potential for real change while soothing the fears and anxieties that many are feeling right now. If you are a leader who is anchored within, you can hold them together. 

Those who have contacted their inner world at sufficient depth, develop sincere empathy, heightened sensitivity (not to be confused with mushy sentimentality) and a true sense of purpose in response to the needs of their community. They have risen above ego self-interest and responded to the need of the collective. They have bust the old paradigms that run along purely intellectual tram lines, opened to wider perception and intuitive wisdom. They bring real opportunity for imaginative change in society.

However, if you haven’t done your inner work, you will have no oasis, no inner light to serve as a beacon for others. How can you create an atmosphere of visionary leadership if you are following the usual externals of profit, production and share-holder demands. Sadly, 95% of business leaders fall into this category. We have an abundance of technically bright, rational and results driven executives. But they’re just running the same old paradigms. Only dead fish swim upstream. It’s a terrible waste of human potential particularly in a time of great need for something radically different!

Opening to an expanded perception of reality

This is not about developing emotional intelligence, although the work of Daniel Goleman is significant in changing leadership behaviour, This is about opening to an expanded perception of reality. An ability to consciously recognise and exist within wider dimensions of reality, to be open to and integrate superconscious energy into real life. To become an awakened soul.

When contact with the transpersonal is made, our personality begins to change. Over time, we become altruistic, compassionate, creative, courageous and wise. With continued experience of the superconscious, we develop mature equanimity which produces a radiance and warmth of being. The atmosphere around these people is palpable. Maslow in 'The Farther Reaches of Human Nature' describes these people as 'transcendent self-actualisers' those with meta-motivation such as truth, beauty, goodness and unity. And he found as many 'transcenders' among business people, industrialists and politicians as among the professionally 'religious'. It is important to note that he isn't describing a hierarchy, which would indeed imply ego based drivers, but the farthest dimensions of human potential. In other words, something every human being can aspire to.

So how is this transformation of personality brought about? First, we need to sufficiently heal the neurosis and dysfunctions which we all carry from our personal mythology. In other words, become healthy and whole or 'self-actualised' as Maslow describes it.  And then, as we become healthy and whole, anchor ourselves more deeply to our spiritual core by making a personal commitment to work in harmony with our true Self, the Divine, in order to transcend. Responding to this call (and in my experience it is a calling) takes real spiritual stamina and a sincere heart. In short, it takes devotion and commitment to regular spiritual practice. 

The role of the feminine in business leadership

The answer to our crisis of visionary leadership therefore lies in our connection to our spiritual core but in particular to the archetypal sacred feminine. There is too much emphasis and kudos given to logos, the rational. Our booming tech industries are good examples of this. They are creative for sure, but they are still being led in the same old financial results-orientated and intellectual ways.

In art and literature, the sea and moon are symbolic of the sacred feminine. They embody the revitalisation that water and darkness can bring - flow, intuition, renewal, unconscious, depth, receptivity, and relationship. It is the relational aspect of the divine, the dark unconscious, intuitive depths of our being that we need to embody in our personal psyche and the collective organisation. It is mysterious and unfathomable to the intellect. Yet nonetheless utterly real. And hugely powerful. All great leaps in humanity and innovation have come from the mysterious intuitive function never from the rational. As Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant but we have created a society that honours the servant and forgotten the gift.”

Build relationships with like-minded people

It is difficult to understand someone whose foundation is invisible. Overcoming the sense of isolation and frustration that expanded awareness brings, means choosing the right people to develop strong relationships with. Who are you forming close relationships with? If you cultivate inner strength and strong morals yet work closely with weak and dishonest people, it will diminish your position. As the I Ching says ‘do not hold together with the wrong people.' If you have no choice but to deal with those who are not like-minded, the I Ching says ‘maintain sociability without intimacy.’ In other words, keep your boundaries strong. And beware those who sound like they are spiritually orientated but their motives are dubious, being more about materialistic security, seeking power or supernatural phenomena. There’s a great deal of spiritual fluff out there even if it is dressed up in wow factor marketing. It takes the real drive out the unreal. As you cleanse your perception you will be able to see the truth of others very clearly.

Now, there's only so much that culture can be changed unless you are the CEO. However, the most conscious person in the room is the leader regardless of position. They can hold the space and create a different atmosphere just by their presence. What do I mean by holding the space? It’s like creating a container where ideas can bubble up, where people feel psychologically safe and creativity can flow, relationships deepen along with greater trust. Mastery of the present is to develop mastery of presence hence skillful responses. And this can be done even in this time of virtual workspaces and remote teams.

In the words of poet Charles Simic “she who cannot howl will not find her pack” Building relationships with only two or three others who are like-minded will also make a world of difference. If you howl enough, you will find them. In other words, make a stand for what you believe in. Speak the truth. There is real power in relationships formed on the basis of inner Self. Those who have done sufficient inner work and contacted the Self belong and stand together like the formation of a crystal. An invisible organising principle is at work here. Mystics throughout the ages have taught this.

David Bohm, the distinguished theoretical physicist who wrote the classic book Quantum Theory, also discusses the inter-connectedness of everything at the sub-atomic level. It was his hope that one day people would come to recognize the essential inter-relatedness of all things and would join together to build a more holistic and harmonious world. There is great potential for extraordinary creativity and breaking new ground in communities formed around those who are connected to their divine essence.

Does all of this seem too idealistic? Do people of such stature really exist in business and industry. Yes, according to Maslow's research. But we need more of them to come out of the woodwork. We need imaginative and 'transcendent self-realised' leaders in our businesses if we are to find our way out of this crisis and create a fundamentally different future for our children. As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell reminds us: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

Business is a community of immense power but sadly power that is often misused. We need spiritual pillars in our business world not ashrams. We need leaders who can become unified centres of influence that can change our business processes for the benefit of the world. Are you one of them?

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