Academic journal article Business Renaissance Quarterly

Leading the 21st Century Workplace: The Easy versus the Hard Part of Being an Awakened Leader

Academic journal article Business Renaissance Quarterly

Leading the 21st Century Workplace: The Easy versus the Hard Part of Being an Awakened Leader

Article excerpt

In this paper, which is an excerpt of the forthcoming book "The Awakened Leader: One Leadership Style That Works Every Time, Everywhere", the author reviews issues that are important in leading workplaces toward a more spiritual existence. First, awakened leadership is introduced, after which various factors that come easy are placed against those that are difficult in the performance of this meta-leadership style.

"To lead the people, walk behind them. " - Lao Tzu

Awakened Leadership: What are we talking about?

Historical Overview

Awakened leadership is not a new practice. 2500 years ago Buddha, till today considered a time transcending role model and leader by many, already described himself as such. In his book "Teachings of the Buddha," Jack Kornfield tells the story of an encounter Buddha had after becoming enlightened. This encounter was somewhere on a road with a man who was struck by Buddha's extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. After asking Buddha if he was a celestial being, a god, a magician, a wizard, or a man, to which Buddha consistently denied, the man finally inquired "Well, my friend, then what are you?" upon which Buddha replied, "I am awake" (Kornfield, 1999).

The very fact that Buddha's teachings, after 2500 or more years, are still circulating in today's world shows us how timeless they are. And although it may be a bit farfetched to think of ourselves as enlightened, we can still engage in enlightened behavior, if we want to work on it. And that's what awakened leadership is about.

And you know what? Although it was not specifically mentioned as such, you can say that all great timetranscending leaders practiced awakened leadership. Think, for instance, of the numerous stories about Jesus Christ and his leadership over his disciples, while at the same time he was maintaining a high awareness of the neediest and most downtrodden in the societies he past through. This was awakened leadership in action.

Think of Mother Teresa, who started an order called the Missionaries of Charity, which specialized in the alleviation of the needs of the browbeaten in various continents; Gandhi, who sacrificed his practice of being a lawyer to devote his life to the improvement of living circumstances in India; and Martin Luther King, who engaged in the risky assignment of guiding the civil rights movement in the United States.

You may possibly raise questions about these leaders' private life styles, but there's no doubt that they practiced awakened leadership toward those they guided from where they initially were to where they ended up being.

Awakened Leadership in Modern Times

In a time where everyone, business corporation, nonprofit entity, as well as individual, operates globally -whether they want to or not - it becomes almost a must to consider the significance and the advantages of awakened leadership. With the rapidly spreading tendencies of outsourcing and global utilizations of most profitable resources, production locations, and markets, and with the continuous advancement of the Internet, every leadership style that focuses on one single type of situation or follower has become obsolete.

As a wake up call in that regard, let me cite Pierce and Newstrom from their book Leaders and The Leadership Process (2003), in which they adopted a 24 year old assertion from Smircich and Morgan, stating, "Leaders are those individuals who are capable of taking an ambiguous situation and framing it in a meaningful and acceptable way for the followers." There it is: the practice of awakened leadership in a nutshell. The massive confrontation with representatives from cultures, and consequently the inevitable dealing with different viewpoints, customs, and widely diverging procedures, leaves no member of this world much of a choice, if he or she wants to be successful in the near and far future.

Practicing awakened leadership starts with a change in your motives and perspectives, along with the realization that everything on our planet is interconnected. …

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