The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit

The Leader's Vision of Self

DEEP PRESENCE LEADERSHIP: The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit

“If there is no transformation inside each of us, all the structural change in the world will have no impact on our institutions.” ~Peter Block

Type of Leadership

There are many ways to approach the subject of Leadership Development.  It’s much like the story of the four blind men touching different parts of the elephant and describing what they are touching.  The word leadership has been so co-opted over recent years that it now means everything and nothing.

In fact, maybe we need to differentiate between two types of leadership:

The Little L

Mediated definition of leadership (written with a little “l”)

The Big L

Authentic meaning of Leadership (written with a big “L”)

I make this distinction because I believe that management is a profession and that to be a professional Leader (big L) you have to take up the practice of your profession.

This involves a dedication to a lifelong process of learning, growth and development both personally and professionally.

Mature View of Leadership

Further, to me, professional Leadership growth and development is only partially about the development of specialized business knowledge and skills around improving the fitness or effectiveness of the organization and its stakeholders.

It is only partially about attaining the status and power along with the material success, wealth and opportunities that come with succeeding as an executive at a high level.

I believe it is really about how the fully awakened professional Leader is called to go deeper into the practice of his/her profession until they find their Noble Purpose.

The vision of a life well-lived, a life of service and sacrifice that becomes the driving force in the choices they make in life and work.

In taking this view, professional Leadership becomes a matter of committing to deep development of mind and spirit and contemplating some of the perennial questions of life.  Doing this will result in higher levels of awareness and lead to a more integral worldview that guides mature actions.

Taking a Deeper Dive

Professional Leaders (big L) choose to address questions like who am I, really? This is because Leadership, the big L type, must start with deep self-knowledge and awareness.

Leadership is about striving to grow and reach higher states of awareness and understanding the concept of grace in our lives.  It is about discovering where we came from, what really matters to us and what we are supposed to be doing.  It is about developing a higher level of consciousness, evolving our worldview and perspectives and our dedication to achieving a fully integrated life/work practice.

This is a Leadership style that includes body, mind, spirit and soul practices and becomes the essence of how we engage life and work.

The True Blue You

The True Blue You?Now Leadership (big L) is about being. It authenticity defines how we present ourselves each day in life and work.

And, Leaders (big L) choose to participate fully in life and work in the spirit of service and contribution to others.

We are awakened at last and our consciousness growth is no longer stuck at egocentric, narcissistic square one.

We can now make our biggest and best contribution just by being who we are in the world.

We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” ~ Stephen Covey

The world’s best consultants/coaches can help us solve business, people, sales, financial, competitor and other basic strategic and tactical problems that show up in most organizations. In fact, many are very good at what they do and can help organizations improve in many ways.

But very few can help us find the answers to our deepest and most profound interior questions.

Choosing Your Partners

If we understand the essence of the Leader’s (big L) calling then we will understand that most so-called experts will not be able to awaken us or enlighten us or develop us in the areas that lead to real personal transformation. Our expert consultants/coaches are just flawed, partial and struggling pilgrims like us.

They are simply trying (like us) to make sense of his/her life and decide how best to handle the personal and professional uncertainties and the deep unanswered questions about self, meaning and spirit.

“The truth here is that we have become so good at self-deception that we can now almost get away with anything and the only price we need to pay seems to be awareness. Ah yes, self-deception and awareness cannot share the same space. This is the first and one of the most difficult obstacles we will face.”  ~Robert Darby

And, if our chosen consultant/coach is not engaged in the lifelong pursuit for growth and wisdom, it could be that our “expert” is not an awakened partner as advertised. They are probably just another regular soul with a set of clever tools and approaches that are not about us and our organization but are simply prepackaged or repackaged, off the shelf tools, practices, designs, and internal and external processes that they have used over and over again to treat symptoms and entertain the client’s system.

That’s why once the consultant/coach leaves, in most cases, and after the “development high” wears off in a few weeks or so, the organization and its people slip back into its old center of gravity and the “feel good” emotional charge so prevalent at the start of the activity dissipates and the old feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, doubt and disappointment return.

In some organizations, this is usually when the scapegoating begins.  Because with all the new and leading knowledge, tools, techniques and practices, it must be somebody’s fault that we aren’t getting better as a company.  So then we track down those “others” and there’s hell to pay given our company’s investment in the new consulting/coaching improvement programs.

“We should not think that goodness is based on what we do but rather on who we are, for it is not our works which sanctify us but we who sanctify our works.”  ~Meister Eckhart

A Look in the Leadership Mirror

So as we think about using consultants or hiring an executive coach, perhaps we should ask ourselves, how will I find a consultant or coach with the wisdom, knowledge, skillful means, and depth of experience to guide me on my transformational journey to discover who am I, really?

  • Who can best help me change my self concept, expand my perspectives and worldview and fully embrace the responsibilities that come with deep growth, freedom and higher state awareness?
  • Will I settle for a set of organizational and leadership actions that, at their core, can’t transform and awaken me or anyone to the wisdom of what we could be?
  • How will I learn what I was meant to be, what the world needs me to be?
  • What will I strive to become?
  • How will I discover and accomplish what really matters to me?
  • What will my legacy be?
  • Will I know who I am when my life is ending?
  • Because isn’t that how all our stories turn out?

To quote from Dante:

In the middle of the road of my life
I awoke in the dark wood
where the true way was wholly lost

Which path will you choose?  The only right answer is the one that fits you. Is it the big “L” or the small “l”?  I welcome your comments.

Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He helps with Performance Improvement, Change Mgmt Consulting & Coaching

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6 responses to “The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit

  1. Pingback: The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit | LEADERSHIP WINS·

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  4. I found this article very interesting and I relate with this very much. I have always felt that leadership was more than being just an assigned position. I believe leadership should be embedded in the identity of the leader himself. To me, to be an authentic leader you must posses the core values of a leader. Thanks for the article!
    ~Sheiloh Shane


  5. This is some of your best work yet, Doug. I particularly like the Covey quote that we are spiritual beings on a human journey. This viewpoint is a major shift for many leaders.
    Successful leaders do not diminish their personal power or their personal and spiritual presence. Rather they accept the paradox of their own complexity and understand that others struggle with this challenge as well.

    I am reminded what it means to be fully whole and integrated. When we are fully integrated all parts of self are accessible. The mind, our intellectual self, utilizes rational problem solving and can draw upon life experiences and acquired learning. Our emotional self is accessible and can sense and express feelings in an appropriate manner. When we are aware of our bodily sensations we can utilize them to inform our mind and emotional self of pleasure and pain. When our spiritual self is conscious we can enjoy a regular regime of enlightened practice.

    What may be missing from this traditional equation of integration is the internal self; deep presence if you will. A look into your leadership mirror and asking the questions you so aptly propose yields the discovery of who we are – Our own deep presence.

    Do you want to be a positive influence in the world? First, get your own life in order.
    Tao Te Ching

    Be yourself, it is too much work to do anything else.
    John Carter


  6. Pingback: The Leader’s Journey: The Fool On The Hill? « Linked 2 Leadership·

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