Spirituality and Transformative Leadership - Guiding Global Change from a Higher Plane

August 12, 2016
By Caroline Watson for The Huffington Post
Caroline Watson Video

Welcome to the Spirituality and Transformative Leadership blog series!

There is no doubt that today’s global leadership is at a crisis point. Leaders of principle are in short supply, politics has become reactionary and isolationist and there is a crying need for leadership that can unite multiple interests into a coherent vision for the reality of today’s world. The model of ‘servant leadership’ that believed in service to a higher cause than oneself, embraced by such visionaries as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Mandela, seems extinct in today’s world. As recent events have seen, we need a new vision of leadership that can steer the course of our globalised world, whilst having the humility to recognise the challenges that ordinary people face in their day to day lives.

What started as a discussion within the community of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum has now resulted in a series of blogs from both Young Global Leaders themselves and others, that touch on a wide range of themes within the idea of spiritually-based leadership. Writers were asked the following questions:

What does spirituality mean to you? What’s your special story?
How has it helped you solve a world challenge?
How has it helped you to drive action?
How has it empowered and sustained you as a leader?
How does it relate to your everyday work?

Each writer brought an individual and distinct understanding of what spirituality meant to them. For some, the traditional view of a God-head was key; for others, a more fluid, contemporary understanding of spiritual identities inherent in each one of us. All were united in the importance of this belief in something bigger than themselves and the humility necessary for great leadership.

Some of the key themes that emerged were:

1. The need for a shift from mind to spirit to address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the implications of spirituality on technological development.
2. The importance of feminine leadership to bring about greater harmony and rebalance our world.
3. ‘Service’ leadership and its perspective on the impact on philanthropy and the arts
4. Values-based leadership - focusing in on qualities such as integrity for a more ethically-inspired leadership
5. The leadership lessons from our religious leaders.
6. The business case for spirituality and defining a vocabulary for this in the workplace
7. Our connection with the natural world as a source of spiritual growth and, thus, the importance of paying attention to climate change for a more holistic and sustainable growth model.

For Professor Jem Bendell, spirituality and leadership is something we all have access to, no matter whether we exhibit an external leadership role or exercise leadership in more personal ways. Carlota Mateos describes her ‘crucible moment’ that lead to a rebalancing of her yin and yang elements in her leadership, harmonizing and balancing opposites, encouraging ‘more soulware and less software’. Nicole Schwab calls for a refocusing on the values of feminine leadership and how these qualities can be expressed in both men and women. Minoush Abdel-Meguid praises the leader of the Muslim faith, Mohammed, for being innately human in his leadership. For Dana Leong, there is an innate connection between music and the imperative to lead with love. Dr Sheetal Amte shares her experience of how spirituality has informed her and her family’s philanthropy. Maran Whiting Hanley questions whether the ‘well-worn path’ is really our own and urges us to discover the power of self-determination in our leadership journeys. Laura Storm recounts a project that brought together ‘pilgrim cities’ with initiatives on climate change and suggests that it’s time that we as leaders start living in sync with the planet, whilst Georgie Wingfield-Hayes talks about the way in which nature enables us to understand our role as part of the greater whole, bringing a much-needed humility to our leadership journey. Dave Hanley talks about how to bring one’s spiritual self into the workplace and Tan Chin Hwee shows how we need to apply spiritual principles to both business and finance for greater ‘returns’ to our lives and those whose lives our businesses affect. For Ajay Chaturvedi, the path to enlightenment came through a radical reassessment of the values that drove him and helped redefine what success should look like. Dr Yuhyun Park calls for a shift from mind to spirit if we are to be able to adequately adapt to the challenges of The Fourth Industrial Revolution and So-Young Kang reminds us of the importance of integrity as a key aspect of spiritually-based living and leading.

Each blog highlights the role that spirituality has played in the leadership of the individual writer, drawing parallels with a leadership we might all aspire to both emulate and follow.

We invite you to explore the series and to consider:

What role has spirituality played in your leadership?

And who are the spiritually-inspired leaders of today that you believe will leave a greater legacy for tomorrow?

This Spirituality and Transformative Leadership series was set up as a response to the need to bring ‘higher order’ principles into leadership today and to spark an ongoing discussion as to the role that spirituality, as distinct from religion, has in today’s world. It is a curated series that invites both Young Global Leaders and others with an interest in leadership to contribute to a discussion on the role that spirituality plays in leadership today. For more information, please see the following link for an overview of the origins of this project and for a link to all the blog posts in the series please click here.