THE BLOG

Leadership in the New Year: 10 Ways Forward

01/07/2011 04:42 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Deepak Chopra CoAuthor, 'Super Genes​'; Founder, The Chopra Foundation

I've been posting about the concept that leadership can come from the soul. This isn't a religious concept. Our great need is for leaders who can inspire others, who can bring divisive groups together, who can exemplify binding social values. In a fragmented world, nothing is more important. But leading from the soul occurs not just on the national or world level -- in groups as small as a family, the potential exists for inspiration that begins to fulfill the needs of others.

The journey that any leader takes is one of expanding awareness. The soul has complete awareness; it perceives every aspect of a situation. Its perspective is available to you, but in practical terms you cannot reach it because of inner obstacles. We see what we want to see, and what our biases and limitations force us to see. On your journey you will learn how to remove these obstacles. As you do, leadership will become more effortless, because your soul will clear the way for you. It doesn't throw up visible road markers or speak in words. Rather, you become more and more aware of some fundamental principles.

These silent guidelines arise from the soul's unique perspective. Let me outline them briefly before they are fully detailed in the following posts.

1. Leaders and followers co-create each other. The followers express a need, the leader supplies a response. Both arise together. When they don't, there is a leadership vacuum; at such times, needs become more intense and eventually desperate.

2. Because individuals grow from the inside out, so do groups. Sometimes a group needs a parent or protector, at other times a motivator, healer, or spiritual guide. Needs fuel change. The leader operates from the soul level to cause inner change, which then get expressed on the surface as success.

3. The outcome of any situation is defined in advance by the vision that goes into solving it. Therefore, inner qualities determine results.

4. The responses shared by leaders and followers are built into us. We are guided to evolve and progress. The soul is aware of how to unfold everyone's evolution to produce the highest and best in any situation.

5. Needs are designed to evolve, which a leader must understand in order to foresee the future of the group. In rising order the needs are for safety and security, achievement, cooperation, understanding, creativity, moral values, and spiritual fulfillment. All are inner needs that have evolved over time in the life of societies.

6. For every need, a leader must play the right role. The need for security calls for a protector, achievement calls for a motivator, cooperation calls for a team builder, understanding calls for a nurturer, creativity calls for an innovator, moral values call for a transformer, spiritual fulfillment calls for a sage or seer. This matchup is natural -- the soul knows how to fulfill any need with the least effort and struggle. A leader who can tap directly into this knowledge gains tremendous power, far more than someone who concentrates only on external goals and rewards.

7. The leader who understands the hierarchy of need and response will succeed; the leader who aims for only external goals (money, victory, power) will falter in the area that counts most: guiding the evolution of his followers.

8. By climbing the hierarchy of needs, any group can be made to feel inspired and unified. Great leaders are in touch with every level of human experience. They understand that their followers yearn for freedom, love, and spiritual worth. Therefore, they are not afraid to hold out higher goals, not just material rewards. But at the same time they don't lead from the mountain top. Every leader is also an everyman. A lower need like the need to feel safe must be understood and genuinely felt. The challenge at hand can be as seemingly trivial as winning a baseball game or as profound as leading a society out of oppression. The soul knows every level of life; a great leader aspires to know the same.

9. Leading from the soul means giving of yourself. You do this by supplying trust, stability, compassion, and hope. You spend the time to invest in relationships with your followers. Unafraid of forming emotional bonds, you don't hide from any need as it unfolds. By contrast, leaders who protect themselves emotionally, who limit their responses to only a few, or who cling to their egos wind up being failures. Their success in material terms will be devoid of inner worth.

10. The soul brings order out of disorder. It brings creative leaps, unexpected answers, and synchronous events that are like gifts from the mystery. No matter how complex and confusing a situation looks, leadership is possible if you are comfortable with uncertainty. Leaders thrive on uncertainty once they see the hidden spiritual order that lies beneath. You must learn how to manage the fact that situations are tangled. There is always a jumble of needs and responses that must be sorted out. Otherwise, the group you lead will be crippled by turmoil. Fear and survival, competition and creativity, beliefs and personalities make their demands. They each have a voice, whether we hear them or not. Yet underneath the jumbled surface there is only one voice, the silent whisper of spirit, which understands everything.

Think of these ten principles as a template for awareness. Ideally, you would apply it to everything you do. All models of leadership give much the same general advice when it comes to managing tasks and motivating other people. But they leave out the most important thing -- a basis in being. Being is the ground of everything. It is pure awareness, the womb of creativity, the generator of evolution. When the final story is told, leadership is the most crucial choice one can make -- the decision to be. Only someone who finds wisdom in the silent domain of the soul can thrive in the midst of chaos. Such a person will be remembered as a great leader. Yet to be is everyone's birthright, built into our brains as well as our spirit. That is why needs never end -- there is always a new phase of evolution, and evolution is guided by need.

The world's wisdom traditions define truth as a single spark that burns down the whole forest. If a leader is willing to be that spark, others will see the truth within him. Craving direction, they will value what he offers, which is the first step toward valuing it in themselves. As a leader you may find occasion to tell your followers why you wanted to raise them to a higher level, yet in your heart you will know that you did it for yourself. To walk your own path is enough.