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.

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 you to 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 anchored within, you can hold them together. What do I mean by anchored within?

A Ritual to Read to Each Other 
William E. Stafford

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

If you haven’t done your inner work, you will have no oasis, no inner light to serve as a beacon for others. As William Stafford says “following the wrong god home, we may miss our star.”

How can you create an atmosphere of visionary leadership if you are following the wrong god home, focussed only on 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!

So what’s the alternative? 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 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.

I am not talking here of emotional intelligence, although the work of Daniel Golemand is significant in changing leadership behaviour. I am talking of opening to 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.

So how is this transformation brought about? First, we need to sufficiently heal the neurosis and dysfunctions which we all carry from our personal history. A line from Lauryn Hill “That thing” -  “stop acting like boys and be men. How you gonna win, when you ain't right within?” And second, we anchor ourselves to our spiritual core by making a personal commitment to work in harmony with the Divine.  Responding to this call takes real spiritual stamina and a sincere heart.

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. Just ask Einstein.

“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.”

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 social media videos. It takes the real drive out the unreal.

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. I have experienced it for myself both spontaneously and through deep meditative practice. David Bohm, the distinguished theoretical physicist who wrote the classic book Quantum Theory, also discusses the interconnectedness of everything at the sub-atomic level. It was his hope that one day people would come to recognize the essential interrelatedness 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? Aren’t they all in religious ministries. We’ve had it if that’s the case. Because that is not where the work is needed now.  We need imaginative and 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. They do exist even if only in embryo. And they can be nurtured and developed. But first we need to evoke that divine spark before we can fan the flame. This is where my work is focussed. Creating 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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