Seeking enlightened leaders


OUR purpose in life, I believe, is to express our innate talents fully to make this world a better place for ourselves and for posterity. I believe this because our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual make-up has an in-built capacity for unlimited growth. 

The desire for greatness is inherent in every individual. However, not all of us are fully aware of its power. 

Those who are aware and who consciously seek to express this power unleash infinite possibilities for themselves and others. They make outstanding and enlightened leaders. 

What leadership qualities must the enlightened leader have? Where do these qualities spring from? What are the benefits of such leadership? 

Our world is in a state of rapid transformation. Machines, strategies and systems are becoming outdated and obsolete at an increasingly rapid rate. 

Businesses bloom and flounder because they are unable to keep pace with overwhelming changes. What is urgently needed is not a leadership that upgrades or replaces machines and systems, but a new leadership that is able to harness creative talent to meet tomorrow’s challenges. 

Our world needs enlightened leaders who can manage not only from the mind but from the heart and soul as well. 

Today’s leadership still over-emphasises the mental, intellectual or “strategic” side of business. Not enough attention is paid to the personal side of it. 

Strategic thinking deals with external alliances, product positioning and organisational structure. 

Strategic leadership tends to focus on guaranteeing bottom-line results as in increasing sales, maximising profits, and beating the competition. 

The emphasis is to out-think, out-learn, out-sell and out-perform the competition. It has a functional focus, one without much regard for the human, emotional or personal dimension; people are seen as interchangeable parts. 

There is a big difference between a “boss” and a leader. The authoritarian “boss” commands others to carry out instructions – and is never effective because it suppresses the human spirit. The “leader” guides others to discover their creative abilities and talents, thereby uplifting the human spirit. 

Because business is also about people, leadership excellence should be redefined to include interpersonal terms. The foundation of this lies in building strong and meaningful relationships. 

The mindless race against time and competition has caused corporations and nations to spend unthinkable sums of money on new strategies, new data, new systems and new infrastructures because it is assumed that humans will improve if the system changes. 

What is not understood is that real and lasting personal transformation is an act of individual will. 

The willingness to offer one’s best comes not from the head but from the heart of the individual. 

What is required, therefore, is a fresh determination to value the human being, raise the human spirit and allow the soul of the individual to voice its deeper needs. 

Without respecting and fulfilling these human needs, it is unrealistic for any leader to expect commitment to excellence, loyalty, courage and genius. 

Most leaders satisfy the criteria of possessing brilliant minds, academic qualifications, technical and professional skills, and years of relevant working experience. However, they are found lacking in the area of self-knowledge. 

Few have paid attention to the subtler aspects of themselves such as their personality traits and ego. 

Often these traits, if left unchecked, will impact adversely on their business decisions, and relationships at work, at home and their social environment. 

Leaders need to realise they are not perfect. Like everyone else, they are fallible. What they can do is to learn to manage themselves better. 

A leader has to be a master of himself before he hopes to lead others effectively. 

Self-knowledge will lead to self-awareness. It is also a practical skill that can be used in all situations. 

Self-awareness is the ability to observe and understand one’s thoughts, beliefs, emotions, strengths, limitations, values and motives. 

Self-aware leaders are realistic, neither overly self-critical nor naively hopeful. They are honest with themselves and with others, and can take responsibility for their mistakes. 

They “observe” themselves in all interactions throughout the day. This gives them an objective view of what and how they are thinking, feeling and acting throughout the day, who or what is triggering certain responses. 

This self-understanding enables them to react to others and situations better. 

Self-aware leaders have no ego. They are secure because they know who they really are. They feel no need to defend their opinion against differing viewpoints. They welcome diverse opinions and diverse personalities around them. They do not feel threatened by anyone or anything. 

Their creative energies are thus freed to focus on the best results. This confidence comes from being guided by an inner wisdom. 

Enlightened leaders realise that real power cannot be found outside the self. It cannot be found in a title, designation or any symbols of success. 

Thus they are detached from these trimmings, which do not define them. 

They also realise the folly in seeking dominion over others. Instead, they seek to empower others to express their individual greatness. 

Many outstanding leaders practise silent self-reflection and introspection, a practice from their spiritual lives that they bring to their work lives. 

Some develop this inner awareness through silent prayer, meditation or spending quiet time in nature settings, others through a philosophical quest for self-understanding. 

These activities help to calm and de-stress them. When they are calm and peaceful, they are centred. No external influence can destabilise them. From this internal compass, they are directed in everything they do. 

In knowing who they really are, they earn respect and admiration by the way they conduct themselves. They exude a quiet confidence that touches everyone around them. 

Guided from within, they always think the right thoughts, say the right words and do the right things. 

Leadership is both a mind-set as well as a pattern of behaviours. 

It also translates into a philosophy urging leaders to be a leader in all they do, bringing excellence to all aspects of their life. 

Leadership is holistic. A leader takes responsibility for the part he plays in contributing to a better world.  

By virtue of being who they are, enlightened leaders inspire greatness in others. Such leaders not only know the way, they go the way and show the way. They have a clear vision and purpose. They devote themselves to what is worthy and noble. 

No one can predict with absolute certainty what will happen tomorrow. 

As such, there are two ways we can choose to look at tomorrow’s world: One view is that everything is a miracle; the other view is that nothing is a miracle. 

In order to face the uncertain future with optimism, we need more people who believe in miracles. 

The faith and belief that drives this attitude will automatically unleash the talents needed to create miracles. 

To adapt to constant change requires great flexibility. 

Enlightened leaders are able to respond to change although it may be sudden, unexpected and unpredictable. They realise that change brings opportunity, growth and progress. 

Instead of resisting, enlightened leaders anticipate change and prepare the entire organisation for the future. 

The winning edge comes from the ability to constantly reinvent oneself and to create anew at every opportunity. This means constantly seeking new ideas and improving ways of doing things. 

The ability to lead lies in a person’s desire to constantly see a better, grander vision. Greatness is an intrinsic quality; it is a virtue coming from the soul. 

Every leader, therefore bears, a heavy responsibility to lead others from the best aspect of himself. Guided by soul qualities such as love, truth, honesty, integrity and compassion, his leadership empowers others to express their best selves. 

Stepping into the role of the enlightened leader is a privilege not to be taken lightly. To accept the torch of excellence must surely be the most rewarding experience for anyone. 

Shahreen Kamaluddin is executive chairman of Personal Empowerment Training & Consulting. She can be reached at 03-23002605/7, or e-mail: 

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