by Natalia Blagoeva

Featured first on Forbes. Referenced by MIT Leadership Center 

We keep hearing about corporate scandals and wrongdoings and wonder why they keep being a central part of our lives. Often we blame it on the leaders and we talk of them as insulated incidents.

However, most of the things in our lives are the products of businesses and businesses are made out of many people. As Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT and Co-founder of the Presencing Institute recently wrote in relation to the recent VW scandal, “No engineer wakes up in the morning and thinks: OK, today I want to build devices that deceive our customers and destroy our planet. Yet it happened.”

Most of us are overwhelmed with all that goes on in our lives. We are focused on the next thing we need to take care of and the next challenge we need to deal with. While running from one thing to another, we disconnect from our humanity and our inner purpose and values, and as a result we cannot tap into our innate integrity. And the busier we get, the worse it becomes. The Presencing Institute calls this state of mind “absencing.” Alternatively, when we pay full attention to the present moment and the people and systems we come in touch, we enter a state of mind called “presencing.” In this state, we connect to the deeper sources of our humanity and our innate integrity.
According to The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership – a New Paradigm for Sustainable Success by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner, we always function from beneath or above “the line.” When we are below, we are closed and defensive and focused on being right. When we are above the line, we are open and curious and our primary commitment is learning and making a difference. Above the line we act unconsciously, and below the line we act as conscious leaders. According to the authors, unconscious leaders do not really see what is happening around them. “They are cut off from an authentic experience of people, themselves, and their lives.”

In his book The New Leadership Paradigm, Richard Barrett of Barrett Values Centre says, “The problem we face is simple: our present crop of leaders have not developed the levels of consciousness that allow them to see beyond their own narrow self‐interest or the self‐interest of the nations or businesses they represent. If they have evolved to those consciousness levels, then very few of them are displaying the courage that is needed to speak out and show up. They are hiding behind their fears.” It is the fear of not having enough, not being accepted, not being liked and probably the worst – not being enough and not being worthy.

We focus on organizational leaders because they are important. As Richard Barrett says, an organization cannot surpass the level of consciousness of its leaders.

However, separate people can.

While we are hoping for our own organizational leaders to evolve to a higher level of consciousness and start functioning from above the line – move from ego to eco, as Otto Sharmer puts it – and transform from self-interest to common good as Richard Barrett puts it, there is a lot each one of us can do.

In an article called The New Face of Corporate Activism in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Gerald F. Davis and Christopher J. White write: “Social movements have become a pervasive feature of contemporary society.” And we know that because we see more and more people increasingly expressing their discontent and targeting the wrongdoings of organizations.

However, as people working in these organizations, do we need to wait for an external attack? The answer has always been no, but today we see a whole new trend of social intrapreneurs changing their organizations for the better, from the inside out.

And here is the point. If you recognize the need to find a greater meaning in your life, if you feel the need to make a difference in your world, and if you want to be of service to others, then according to Richard Barrett, you are part of the New Leadership Paradigm: “You are infused with the energies of your soul.”

If you are indeed there, acting in “presencing” mode, acting consciously from above the line, you can contribute to changing your organization from the inside out. As I write this, I hear the voices of people saying, “Come on, nothing depends on me,” and “Nobody would allow me to.” Here is the beauty of this story. Initiatives from above the line, initiatives that genuinely focus on people and the common good, contribute to the sustainable success of any organization. And this is the silent revolution that is happening as we experience a rise of consciousness around the planet.

According to Stanford University professor Debra Meyerson, intrapreneurs “engage in small battles, at times operating so quietly that they may not surface on the cultural radar as ‘rebels.’ By pushing back on conventions, they create opportunities for change within their organizations. They are not heroic leaders of revolutionary action; rather, they are cautious and committed catalysts that keep going and who slowly make a difference.”

This is why today more than ever the success of organizations does not depend on the leadership qualities and the level of consciousness of its leaders alone. The success of any organization today depends on the average leadership qualities and the average level of consciousness of everybody across the whole organization.

Natalia Blagoeva is the Founder and Director of Eudaimonia Solutions. She is a Certified Management Consultant, a Certified Cultural Transformation Tools Consultant with the Barrett Values Centre, Certified Professional in Learning and Performance and holds an Executive MBA Degree.