Transformational Leadership in American Life


There has been a lot of interesting leadership material coming out of the business community over the last decades. I will do a gross summation by saying that as organizations have realized their most valuable assets to be the creativity and loyalty of empowered employees, the art of business management has deepened from the mechanics of correct administration to the art of individual empowerment, fulfillment and the fascinating question of what is involved in transformational leadership.

Tranformational leadership can be said to be the ability to allow organizations to move in quantum leaps as the changing world demands, rather than in incremental and survival-based steps.

Companies that have floundered in survival and greed seem to be falling all around us at the moment and proving once again the need for a new way of doing business with each other. How interesting that insight is coming out of a business community currently demonstrating the collective repercussions of following ego’s ambitions and fears.

Yet embracing the business community’s learning about transformational leadership in the political arena at this time could well offer new ways of understanding our national challenges and help restore a sense of collective possibility. The stage is set for a transformational leap on a national scale by the collapse of the reigning ideology and the subsequent don’t-know-mind that such an event opens.

Could it be that the rule of the mind-made self is coming to its end in exactly these times? As our incredibly interconnected world presses on each person’s sensibilities day after day, year after year, can we feel a natural relaxing of the firm boundaries of the ego which would draw a circle around itself making all else “other” and dangerous? Can we notice a larger identity already present? Can we relax our preconceived notions about how life works and what is going on long enough to see with new eyes? Perhaps the possibilities for our lives are something far greater than we had thought!

A notable quote from Barack Obama: “The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time.” Our mind-made-selves and their fear and greed are failing us. This rising together Obama talks about is one way of expressing what is possible now. In order to allow this rising to occur, we each do our part when we internally relax or just turn our attention away from our stale thinking, our outworn survival mechanisms and petty divisions and make room for transformation to occur in each of our individual lives. This is simply life giving us a chance to move beyond old perspectives and see the world freshly. Then we will know to take action or not, each within our capacity, not just for our own personal advantage or that of the causes we believe in, but for the collective well-being of all life. Then leadership will be coming from within, and our collective energies will power a rising beyond anything our new President could imagine.

© 2008 Alice Gardner


Our World in 2008:Opportunity or Catastrophe


This week my father sent me an article that likened the world political and economic scene at the present time to “playing frisbee on a precipice”! What an image, especially for the mother of children who love to play frisbee. Certainly it is an image that underscores the need to be careful about what we are paying attention to while we play.

Most of us are not the individuals who have to make hard decisions that turn the tide of world events one way or another. Of course we do that with our votes to some extent, and we do pay attention to how the power of our votes may affect things and vote accordingly, but we are also able to pay attention in other ways that can affect our world.

We can affect our world by paying attention to what is going on inside of us as all the outer changes happen, particularly when we notice fear. Many of us have studied the work of Abraham Maslow in school and are familiar with his hierarchy of needs. The bottom rung of his hierarchy, if you remember, is survival, and whatever is left of our survival level fear becomes evident in situations like this current one. We are being invited to explore this deep area of our human-ness and I want to affirm that this is possible to do while staying aware of the fullness and the unchanging still center of who we really are.

The economic and political tumult of this past month has been an opportunity for many of us to check out what is happening down there in the basement of our psyches and let in some fresh air. We are suddenly in a world where NOBODY knows what is going to happen next and there’s no way to know if we are going to be all-right. All the economic models of how things are supposed to work are in shambles, and we are on new ground where we just don’t know any more, even Alan Greenspan!!

Life is giving us a real-time readout on how deeply we have accepted the unknown quality of life beyond the mind, and how much we are still relying on our idea-based future predictions and models to confine life to a narrow spectrum of possibilities that make us feel safe. Life is so much bigger than all of our ideas about it and it is telling us so in no-nonsense terms!

This world situation is an invitation into a deeper acceptance of life as it is, which includes the truism that we just really don’t know, and really never did. No matter how sophisticated, our mental conceptualizations can never contain the fullness of life-as-it-is.

Life just doesn’t confine itself to our ideas about things and thank goodness! Otherwise how could we have ever thought up things like Yosemite Valley at sunset? No–life is doing its own thing, and our thoughts and ideas keep needing expanding and updating as they try to limit and confine it. Sure, its not always fun. Getting in touch with fear of survival isn’t my idea of a good time either, but seen in a larger context, it may be exactly what needs to happen. I don’t know.

Is the mess on the world stage an opportunity or a catastrophe? I don’t know, my best guess is its probably both, but I’m cool with just doing whatever life wants of me as best I can in each moment, and seeing what happens next all the time. There is something peaceful about having let go of the need to know, and even the demand, however deeply instinctual, that we somehow live through it. However much we each have gotten to know our own fear of survival– that is how much we are now free from having to act on our fears. We slowly can step away from needing to find enemies to blame things on, and begin to find peace in ourselves, becoming clearer vehicles for just plain knowing what to do in each moment. This is where a peaceful world begins–not with a lack of outer change, but with accepting life as an opportunity to explore and discover who we truly are.