Personal Development

Personal Development for a New Kind of Leadership

by Terrie Lupberger, Newfield Network

Having attended the LOHAS conference, I was inspired by the varied interest groups from many fields and disciplines– business, finance, filmmaking, academia, etc., - who share a common purpose.  The aim of this group is no less than to be change agents for sustainable living and a healthier planet.

I, too, share this vision, and am particularly interested in what the holders of this vision will need in order to bring the vision to reality.

Do we have the competencies needed to bring this vision to a tipping point?  What do we need to learn in order to be successful?  And, how do we develop the needed competencies when traditional learning is not responding to the demands of our times.  In fact, what and how we are learning, as individuals and as organizations, is part of the problem, not the solution.

The same way that many in our Western Culture believe that more material possessions will make us happy, many believe that more information will bring us wisdom.  Traditional learning practices as modeled in our public education systems and corporate training programs have developed in a frantic pursuit for more information, relating with the world as if all we can do is to explain it in order to use it, in a gruesomely utilitarian fashion. 

I believe that what is needed for us to make our vision a reality are learning practices that include and transcend our concern for conceptual knowledge and effective action while also illuminating the paths toward wisdom and effective living. 

For lack of a better phrase at the moment, let’s call this path towards wisdom Personal Transformation.  And, while that word has been around since the ‘70s and somehow abused, misunderstood and perhaps now trivialized, what it aims for is a shift in the way an individual or organization sees and therefore takes action in their world.

Transformational learning is a shift in our coherence that allows the emergence of a new observer, one who is able to design new solutions to old problems, who embraces the mystery of life, aware of the power and limits of conceptual learning, and capable of foreseeing new actions and producing unprecedented results,while caring equally for personal and collective concerns. 

LOHAS leaders and visionaries need learning practices that increase our capacity to successfully navigate the complexities of our times and transcend the traditions of thinking that have not only shaped our present commonsense, but that also have a powerful hold on our current approaches to business, education, politics, economics, the environment, etc.

Economist Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate, once said:  “So the question is, do corporate executives, providing they stay within the law, have responsibilities . . . other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible?  And my answer is, no, they do not.” 

How do leaders for a more sustainable world address this kind of thinking?

The Dalai Lama writes in the foreword of the book, Essential Spirituality, by Roger Walsh, “In our increasing materialistic world, we are driven by a seemingly insatiable desire for power and possessions.  Yet in this vain striving, we wander ever further from inner peace and mental happiness.  Despite our pleasant material surroundings, many people today experience dissatisfaction, fear, anxiety, and a sense of insecurity.  There seems to be something lacking within our hearts.”

How do leaders for a more sustainable world deal with the fear and anxiety…in themselves and also with those they lead?

William Greider presents in his book, The Soul of Capitalism, another consequence of the traditional knowing and learning:  “Think of the paradox as enormous and without precedent in history:  a fabulously wealthy nation in which plentiful abundance may also impoverish our lives.”  And he adds, “Our situation is unique—learning how to live amid endless plenty and, ironically, how to live well in spite of it.”

How does the LOHAS leader listen and speak to their marketplace to inspire them towards the same vision of sustainability?

I do not believe the answers to these and other important questions will be found in our traditional learning or commonsense. I believe the answers partly lie in our ability to take the Hero’s Journey as Joseph Campbell wrote about.  We have to be willing to go through our own ‘dark night of the soul’ - to examine the limitations of our own thinking and the consequences thereof.  We need to honestly look at our own incompetencies, presuppositions, and beliefs and assess how they limit our ability to take action.  We need to build awareness of our ‘own awareness’ and be willing to throw out that which is no longer serving us. 

The task for the LOHAS leader then is to acknowledge and embrace the difficulties we face, to build our emotional competencies so we can live our passion and ambitions and fears and resignations with honesty, openness, courage and acceptance.  We must build our capacity to live with uncertainty and determination.  We must develop our ability to listen and speak to those who do not share our vision without superiority or condemnation.  We must develop our capacity to deal with the complexity of moving our vision forward in a world with differing agendas, values, ethics, awareness, etc.   Our call is no less than to engage in transformational learning to develop both the wisdom and courage to build alternative, successful models for sustainability in all domains of life – starting with ourselves.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Terrie Lupberger is a partner in the Newfield Network which offers worldwide learning programs to individuals and organizations that integrate, strengthen, uplift and transform the human experience.  To contact the author, please visit www.newfieldnetwork.com.