Over the holiday break I generally use the opportunity to catch up with my reading. It’s not all business, this year I lost myself in Stephen Fry’s liberal retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece, Mythos, which I can heartily recommend (just don’t ask me to pronounce any of the names). I always find this is a good time of the year to revisit old business classics too.
One of the areas that I am particularly interested in is the distinction between management and leadership. Until a decade or two ago, these roles and respective activities were quite separate, with leadership being speculated upon and revered in a more ‘Godly’ way but management was, in my opinion, the more widely respected and studied of the two. Certainly this has changed over the past 15 years or so. Management lost its edge to the cult of leadership, which resulted in a blurring of the lines between the two. Within any given industry, it is no longer enough to be a great and efficient manager, it’s all about leadership now. But what is genuine leadership? There is no consensus on the elusive qualities and characteristics that make up a great leader, despite hundreds of thousands of books and daily ‘Top 10’ insights across social media claiming to have the definitive secret.
And this is part of the problem; we have made it ‘uncool’ for entrepreneurs to be really great managers. Not all business owners or founders are ‘leaders’ in the truest sense of the word. Some of them are simply great managers, with a great idea and they work daily to build their teams and deliver great service to their hard-won clients. They do this consistently and their clients love them for it. They are unlikely to set their industry on fire with innovation, and that’s okay. They will be more commercially successful than the vast majority of aspiring leaders who simply do not have the discipline to perform and deliver consistently. Well done to every successful owner-manager out there, you are enough, you do enough and your industry needs you. [As someone who has experienced both successes and failure, I know firsthand that the elements leading to success are much more difficult to define than those leading to failure, for example, inconsistency!]
Aspiring leaders, do not feel disheartened, your industry needs you too and the risks that you take, both personally and professionally. Those successful owner-mangers mentioned above need to see the effects of your creativity, innovation and persistence in the face of the many inevitable so-called ‘failures’ (or as I prefer to think of them, pit-stops) along the way as you find ways to rise to meet the needs of a new generation of consumer.
We need to stop using the terms interchangeably as it is unhelpful; language is important, as is management, as is leadership. For me, meaningful leadership involves inspiring those who trust enough to follow – whether as employers, consumers or competitors – to embrace innovative ideas in the spirit of change and progress. It could be said that people want to be inspired by great deeds, carried out by great people and communicated greatly. Almost as soon as I started to list the traits of modern leaders I realised that it was likely to be non-exhaustive, but here I offer up a start…
Authenticity has become something of a buzzword in recent years, however, this doesn’t mean you can write it off as a fad. In fact, I would go so far as to say that authenticity has always been one of the strongest hallmarks of leaders, it simply went without saying.
Unlike other characteristics such as bravery and intellect, authenticity cannot be faked, not even temporarily. It requires massive trust on the part of the leader to allow the vulnerability that honesty and authenticity exposes, but this trust – when rightly placed – is repaid in spades. Authentic leadership exudes a type of confidence that is neither boisterous nor boastful, but rather clear and complete. Clarity is another important hallmark of leadership as vagueness is too wasteful a luxury. In practice, clear thinking allows for the level of openness that makes real market collaboration possible.
Boldness of purpose is what sparks a leader and sets them upon their course. Such boldness is often confused with madness, the line between the two is surely fine. It requires imagination, creativity and, in truth, more than a little bit of experimentation. The most important thing it requires is the willingness to be wrong in the search for what works. This is a huge risk for followers, they must be convinced that even if the leader stumbles on the way to greatness, greatness will indeed come. This is persuasion. The modern master of this is Sir Richard Branson, he is not just willing to be wrong, he is eager to be wrong in his quest to get it right. There is a magic blend of vulnerability (think Elon Musk in the early days), credibility, passion and daring – this is bold.
For leadership to be established, that boldness of purpose must be communicated in a way that makes people want to follow along.
“The Art Of Communication Is The Language Of Leadership.”
~ James Humes
It is no coincidence that the greatest leaders down through history have been fine orators. Communication skills underpin all persuasion and influence. Unfortunately, ‘influence’ has become something of a dirty word in today’s fast culture of high claims and low accountability but the tide is turning. As we continue to generate content at an unseemly rate (more content is created every single day now than was created in the first two millennia AD), it is not enough just to be knowledgeable; leaders need to map out possible futures and chart a course towards it that others can be inspired by. It is in the communication of purpose that a leader becomes visionary.
In my experience working with leaders, the vital characteristics can be summed by their confidence to speak out (willingness to be wrong), the conviction of their vision (possible futures) and the credibility to be believed (influence).
The soul knows where it belongs It belongs where it is.
The body is unlearned, never fully at home
But the winds know
They bring us to where we need to be
They conspire to move us
If we listen, they will tell us great secrets
And we will know.
Scars become signposts
The talisman of a journey we chose
Alas, most times, we cannot listen
Truth is uncomfortable
Sitting in it feels impossible
Until they conspire again
And we find ourselves here.
I just came across this documentary on Netflix recently called Wake Up. Although it was produced back in 2010 so many of you might already be familiar with it. For those who aren’t, it’s about a guy called Jonas who, at the age of 37 he starts seeing phenomenon. He described people-like figures coming out from walls, bright lights, geometric shapes and particularly, the shape of a bicycle (which he later identified as a motorcycle) floating cross the top of the room, close to the ceiling and then fall to the floor. While Jonas did not understand it at the time, this vision was prophetic. Shortly afterwards, a good friend of his died in a motorcycle accident.
Jonas was raised with faith but was not overly-religious in adulthood, nor was he part of the New Age, spirituality movement. His immediate concern was that he might be mentally-I’ll. A series of medical tests and brain scans excluded potential causes of abnormalities such as a brain tumour; doctors were confident that it didn’t sound like schizophrenia or any mood disorder; it was not caused by a drug-induced state, which would have been the most obvious explanation. In short, Jonas does not fit neatly into any known psychiatric classifications.
He was introduced to an acupuncturist/healer called Abdi Assadi, who was able to offer up the following exhalation:
“Energetically speaking, something shifts in your consciousness where what traditionally is considered energy centres – chakras, which are different points in your body – they open up and give you access to different realities that we usually don’t have access to. Probably 90+% of electromagnetic phenomenon, which is what’s around us, is actually not visible to our five senses.”
Essentially Jonas is tapping into that 90+% that most of us cannot access. Abdi recommended regular, grounded meditation as this experience is not one that can be figured out by intellectually thinking about it.
Jonas then traveled to Rome to meet Umberto di Grazia, who photographs energies or spirits and Jonas wanted proof, not for himself but more so to convince others – in particular hi supportive but disbelieving partner Mara – of his experiences. The process works by Umberto taking images as people meditate. “In it’s simplest form, we all exist in dimensions that communicate with each other outside of the traditional space/time continuum.”
Umberto told Jonas that it Jonas’ friend, who died in an accident that started this whole process or experience. The pain of losing his friend was consuming Jonas.
When Umberto shows Jonas images that were taken, they clearly show shapes and warm/cool energy masses where Jonas had seen them. One image shows a face-like mass that is familiar to Jonas, he sees this regularly.
He is visibly relieved to confirm that this is happening outside of him and not just in his mind. The familiar mass is also familiar to Umberto, it is one that has been photographed on many occasions. Umberto believes that this entity/energy uses people as a gateway to see our world. It is not dangerous or evil. Umberto assures Jonas that he is not alone in his experiences. For Jonas, it is confirmation that he is not insane. In fact, while trying to convince his girlfriend Mara, he said that the worst thing for her to say would be that she believes that Jonas believes what he is seeing i.e. not that what he is seeing is actually there.
Stephen A. Schwartz of the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory, explains the phenomenon as follows:
“I think one of the most exciting things that is going on in science today is the idea that there is an aspect of us that exists outside of time/space. All consciousness is interconnected and interdependent. Jonas has simply become aware of an aspect of consciousness that most people are unaware of, that is going on around them all the time.”
When Jonas questions why this is happening and what it might mean, Schwartz has this to say:
“I would not make this the defining experience of my life. It is an interesting experience along the path but it is not the path. A year from now you will have to look back and ask yourself, what did I do with that experience? Who am I? Those are questions that are important and worth answering”.
These experiences can become launchpad for an exploration of our own inner-beingness and purpose.
Jonas definitely gets frustrated as several times throughout the documentary and meeting with all of these experts, mentors and gurus.
“There’s that old expression, ignorance is bliss; well that’s just crazy to me. I don’t want to sleepwalk through life”.
When Abdi meets Mara, he has another perspective on this. “It’s not a coincidence that the man in your life is going through this. It is to show you that there is an alternative life.”
Jonas later visits Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, outside Seattle (run by J.Z. Knight), which aims to teach people how their brains work, how their bodies work and ask the question, what is my mind?
The documentary shows an number of exercises to prove the interconnectedness of the group, one of these exercises is blindfold archery.
“Some people leave here in greater chaos and that’s beautiful because that’s change; being in chaos means that you’re not still hanging onto your image [ego?], you know, this is who I am no matter what. He [Jonas] is good at falling apart, he’s going to be even better.”
Jonas’ enlightenment teaches him just him just how resistant he is to “join the spiritual club”. Mara is entirely skeptical here and considers this a cult – she questions whether the school is here to give to its students or to take from them…
Mid-way through the documentary Jonas concedes that his experiences are probably a wake-up call to join the spiritual path.
He then meets a Sufi mystic, or Sheikh, named LLewellyn Vaughan who takes a more philosophical approach to what Jonas is experiencing. #
“I always find it strange Americans believe in even Angels but they don’t believe in nature spirits. It’s only in the last few hundred years that we don’t do that anymore… What’s called belief in science, belief in rationalism, and so we actually developed a consciousness that cut ourselves off from the spirit world in all of its manifestations. That’s the rational mind, we actually created a veil between us and the spirit world.”
Spiritual practice gives us access to the light in us that protects us. LLewellyn warns us not to get caught up in the outer manifestation of our experiences. We don’t want to end up the people who have these amazing experiences but never really ‘get’ what they are about. We need to figures out where to are that light, that intelligence.
“Something in the human being always knows… A real experience is a complete shift in consciousness, and it’s terrifying because suddenly the parameters of your world change; the know world is no longer the known world”
Jonas asks “What’s the point is taking the world journey?”
LLewellyn replies “I’m a mystic so one would say it is to take the journey from one’s ego self to one’s divine nature … Then there is what people will call enlightenment… What is awoken in you is not a passing phase”
At the University of Arizona, Gary E. Schwartz Ph.D Professor of Neurology, Psychology and Medicine explains
“When we want to understand that everything we do and everything we are is energy, one of the ways to demonstrate this is to show that literally, the very act of moving is to create energy”.
Simply put, we are all connected by the energy we share, We are simply antennas for this energy.
It is at this point in the documentary that Mara speaks about losing a close friend of hers and how it affected her. It transpires that Jonas and Mara, despite having never met previously, shared a close mutual friend, Rob, who was killed in the motorcycle accident. They has known of each other through Rob but only met for the first time at his funeral. It is a powerful moment in the documentary when they both return to their hometown in Georgia to visit Rob’s mother, who provides great comfort to Jonas.
Jonas asks Mara to accompany him to meet Roshi Joan Halifax, a Buddhism Monk in Santa Fe. She offers Jonas the following solace:
“Most of us aren’t comfortable being with the unknown, we’re always looking for some reference point to make us feel comfortable. I would say that the thing that gets most people on the spiritual path, more than mystical experience, is suffering. This is the twenty-first century and it’s hell for many, many people. There’s a lot of grace too.”
Mara has her breakthrough moment in the Buddhist centre when sitting in the dining hall, she introduces herself to a fellow diner. Mara comments on how she is uncomfortable saying her name in the Buddhist centre as her namesake was the temptress in Buddhist lore or teachings. The fellow diner clarifies this by explaining that Mara was the one who doubted and questioned Buddha by demanding of him “Who do you think you are to have these experiences and to seek this enlightenment”. This clearly resonates with Mara who breaks down upon hearing it.
Jonas visited Princeton University to meet the team behind the Global Consciousness Project.
“We now have evidence of something that sages in all cultures or thousands of years have said; we are all one, because our consciousness is not confined to our skulls.”
The Global Consciousness Project started in 1998. The idea was that if really large numbers of people feel the same emotion and think the same thoughts, they create a real consciousness that makes the world different from what is would have been. The implication is to find out whether consciousness, intention and emotions are stuck inside your head or if they extend outward in a mind-matter connection. The project involves random number generators, using only the numbers one and zero. Mathematically, you would expect that 50% of the time they would generate ones and 50% of the time they would generate zeros. These generators work from 65 locations around the world, continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What transpired is that at times of crisis, or emotional outpouring, for example Princess Diana’s death, terrorist attacks of various kinds or the Tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people, the generator stopped producing random numbers. This is also true for pleasant events. What was found was a change from 50/50 odds to something different. When masses of people are paying attention to the same thing and feeling the same emotion, it causes these generators to stop being random and to act in a uniform way worldwide. For religious people who have witnessed the power of prayer, this will not come as any surprise. For the rest of us, it is scientific validation that we are, indeed, one. We are all tapping into a special, shared, state of consciousness.
“What this means, well beyond the data which is scientifically interesting, is that when we are brought together, either by external events or because we want to be together, we change the world.”
“There is a transition happening, we are moving into an era of global consciousness, we can’t deny that. We can’t get away from the fact that the world is one” – LLewellyn Vaughan
“We are facing perhaps now a tipping point, beyond which, things will have been set in motion that will be irreversible” – Gary E. Schwartz
“There is this deep hunger in the West for something that is real, as if people know that the civilisation we have created is like – what do they call it? – rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” – LLewellyn Vaughan
“You can’t change the world it’s too big, everyone has got their own world going on. What do you do? You change your life.” – J.Z. Knight
“It’s not really about searching outside, really, all these teachers I’ve met with, all their job was to turn my head inside so that I could look inside.” – Abdi Assadi
The final part of the documentary takes Jonas on a vision quest where he saw a vision of a tent-like structure, with all poles pointing in the same direction and he took that to be an analogy of religion. While, there are many differing religions and beliefs, they all lead to one universal power or entity.
It was a genuinely interesting documentary, honestly told, and what is most intriguing is how prevalent these experiences are; how often this electromagnetic phenomenon can reveal itself to us. The two take-away points for me are (1.) suffering is what gets most people on the spiritual path, and (2.) what is awoken inside is never a passing phase.
“The miracle is the means, the Atonement is the principle, and healing is the result”
I understand that, for many people, the religious language of A Course in Miracles can be off-putting; words like ‘the Atonement’ conjure up images of a vengeful God, ruling by fear rather than a higher power leading through love. While I consider myself to be a spiritual person – whatever that really means – I do not consider myself religious. Despite being raised a Catholic, the teachings never resonated with me. I do believe in a higher power and I generally refer to that as the Universe.
All that being said, I do recommend readers of the text stick with it. Try to negate the contentious language while taking in the central message of A Course in Miracles, that is, Love.
If you believe that we are created ‘perfect’ then you will accept that there is no real emptiness inside. In reality, we are unaffected by all expressions of lack of love. Read that sentence again, it’s an important one.
“Peace is an attribute in you, you cannot find it outside”.
I love that, because I genuinely believe that miracles are natural, corrective, healing and universal.
“True denial is a powerful protective device”.
When it comes to the correction of errors, understand that this is part of evolution. Evolution is a process, by which we move from one level to the next. The very act of moving forward corrects any previous missteps. The Atonement is simply the device by which you can free yourself from the past as you move yourself forward. It undoes any past errors.
“It is hard to believe that a defense that cannot attack is the best defense…A two-way defense is inherently weak precisely because it has two edged and can be turned against you very unexpectedly.”
“Tolerance for pain may be high but it is not without limit. Eventually everybody begins to recognise, however dimly, that there must be a better way.”
This recognition is essentially a turning point; it ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening our reliance on physical sight. Corrective learning always begins with the awakening of spirit.
Chapter 1 of A Course in Miracles
As summarized by www.CarolTallon.com from the original text of A Course in Miracles
Revelation, Time and Miracles
While revelation unites us directly with our higher power; miracles unite us with each other. Neither emanates from consciousness but both are experienced there. Consciousness is the state that induces action, but it does not inspire it. Revelation induces only experience; miracles induce action. Awe should be reserved for revelation only. Miracles are a sign of love among equals. Spirit is the bridge between us and our higher power.
Atonement and Miracles
To ‘atone’ is to un-do. Spirit cancels out errors that we ourselves cannot correct. Our role is to listen to spirit, learn to undo errors and act to correct them. A Course in Miracles clearly states:
“The power to work miracles belongs to you”
We are wholly lovable and loving. But having been forgiven, we must forgive in return. The impersonal nature of miracles is an essential ingredient because it allows Spirit to direct its application. Under Spirit’s guidance, miracles lead to personal revelation. Error cannot threaten truth, which is:
“Spirit is in a state of grace forever.
Your reality is only Spirit.
Therefore, you are in a state of grace forever.”
When you project upon others, you imprison them but only to the extent of reinforcing errors they have already made i.e. errors in their perception. If your perception of yourself is distorted, this makes you vulnerable to the perceptions of others. You respond to what you perceive, as you perceive so shall you behave.
The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This calls for appropriate behaviour, for this, the perception of both people must be accurate.
Miracles arise from a mind that is ready for them
When you bring in the stranger, he becomes your brother.
Miracles are selective only in the sense that they are directed towards those who can use them for themselves.
The Escape from Darkness
There are two stages for this: Firstly, awareness that darkness cannot hide; secondly, a recognition that there is nothing you would want to hide, even if you could.
If a mind perceives without love, it perceives an empty shell and is unaware of the Spirit within. But Atonement restores Sprit to its proper place. The mind that serves Spirit is invulnerable.
As a lapsed Catholic, I have always rejected the notion of sin as I felt it simply does not sit with the human experience. A Course in Miracles teaches us that sin is no more and no less than a “lack of love” or more loosely, a rejection of self. It has no unique properties of its own and is an example of the scarcity belief from which only error can proceed. Truth is always abundant.
“The purpose of the Atonement is to restore everything to you; or rather, to restore it to your awareness. You were given everything when you were created, just as everyone was.”
Wholeness and Spirit
“You can wait, delay, paralyze yourself, or reduce your creativity almost to nothing. But you cannot abolish it. You can destroy your medium of communication, but not your potential. You did not create yourself.”
The basic decision of the miracle-minded is not to wait on time any longer than is necessary.
Specialness does not come from exclusion but from inclusion.
If we believe that we are deprived of anything, our perception becomes distorted.
Whatever is true is eternal.
“All shallow roots must be uprooted, because they are not deep enough to sustain you. The illusion that shallow roots can be deepened, and thus made to hold, is one of the distortions on which the reverse of the Golden Rule rests. As these false underpinnings are given up, the equilibrium is temporarily experienced as unstable. However, nothing is less stable that an upside-down orientation. Nor can anything that holds it upside-down be conducive to increased stability.”
For me, this passage explains the enduring myth of family.
The Illusion of Needs
You who want peace can find it only by complete forgiveness.
No learning is acquired by anyone unless he wants to learn it and believes in some way that he needs it.
Lack does not exist in creation, although it is very apparent in what we ourselves have created – in fact, this is the essential difference between creation by a higher power and our own creation.
What we create, we believe in, even if what we create in fear or lack.
Distortion of Miracles Impulses
Distorted perceptions produce a dense cover over miracle impulses, making it hard for them to reach our awareness. Actions that stem from distortions are literally the reactions of those who genuinely don’t realise what they are doing.