In 2000, writer John Renesch presented a new paradigm for leadership evolution. He suggested the perspective that a leader with a more inclusive consciousness embraces a spiritual domain and “operates in the energy relationship with the Divine.” Since that time, transcendent leadership has emerged as an inner exploration of leadership development.
Through the mists of time, many saints, gurus, yogis and spiritual way-showers have all said something similar to what Renesch suggested. Who we really are is soul, and soul is a spark of unconditional loving, of divine presence. Divine presence has many different names: God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Waheguru, etc. Psykhe (or psyche) is a Greek word for soul, spirit, breath or life. Thus, one translation of psyche-ology is the study of soul.
Today, about 80% of all leadership development focuses on skills and the behaviors that make up those skills. Another 10% to 15% focuses on beliefs, values and attitudes, which are the underlying drivers of organizational culture. The remaining percentage (though increasing quickly) examines conscious leadership. This approach to leading focuses on three aspects of human consciousness: emotional, mental and unconscious. The vast majority of conscious leadership development centers on emotional intelligence and mindfulness.
Leadership development that exclusively emphasizes behavior or behavior change uses external reference points — in other words, physical behaviors. What’s missing is the internal matrix that causes those behaviors to surface in a leader’s day-to-day life. This is also true for the instrumental drivers that make up an organization’s culture.
As leaders probe more deeply using self-inquiry, meditation, contemplation and other forms of spiritual exercises, they begin to transcend human consciousness and reach into soul or divine consciousness. Truly effective leaders transcend the limited perspectives that make up human consciousness.
Rising above limitations of human consciousness and aligning with soul enables transcendent leaders to see pathways and solutions to gummy personal and organizational issues. Transcendence allows – and actually encourages – corrections to our habitual actions. These leaders are able to connect purpose with loving and move past the anchors of egocentric restrictions while bringing people together.
Opening the door to substantial personal evolvement, transcendent leaders assist us to see organizations as mechanisms that offer meaning instead of only being vehicles for money, recognition, self-preservation or romantic ideals. They shape how an organization can serve humanity for the highest good of all concerned. The moment we are willing to challenge deeply held assumptions or habitual ways of behaving is the moment when the possibility of transcendence becomes real.
It is not so much what we do that matters; it is rather who we are when we drop our masks of fabricated identity. Bringing forward our authentic being enables leaders to influence events or touch people with a quality of loving. This way of being whispers its own calling of leadership.
While transcendent leadership appears to contrast with conventional results-oriented models, where leading is generally equated with a successful outcome, it is not a replacement for it; indeed, results are essential for moving from survival to prosperity. The foundations of effective leadership are not discarded when leaders choose transcendence. All that has been learned over the last 100 years about leadership is still put into practice. What changes are our perspectives on appropriate individual and organizational outcomes.
For example, situational leadership, as described by the Hersey-Blanchard model, takes on deeper clarity when enacted with summun bonum as one critical outcome. Introduced by Cicero, the Roman philosopher, summon bonum means for “the highest good.”
Transcendent leadership does not propose that one does nothing and just expects things to happen. It simply means placing greater awareness into our actions instead of acting in a compulsive manner, and being more discerning about what we do.
As a leader moves into soul consciousness and starts operating from that level in the world, his or her behaviors will align under soul’s direction.
Transcendence takes considerable courage to “be” with oneself and in inquiry. Deepening the journey to soul-awareness requires both discipline and genuine dedication. For those leaders who hear the call, now is the time to move to action.
Originally published at www.forbes.com