The opposite of contemplation is not action, but reaction – those times when we become disconnected from our own authentic Self and sacred Ground of Being.
– Janet Drey
Leaders and organizations are increasingly facing the complexities and speed of change, and many are feeling the impact. How can busy leaders expand their capacity to meet the challenges they face and simultaneously care for themselves and others? Amidst chaos, how do leaders keep their heads on their shoulders (a clear, still mind), their feet firmly planted on the ground, and their hearts and hands open?
I believe that the answer is through contemplation.
If we consider that the most important leadership tool is first and foremost a leader’s self, then assisting leaders in becoming more conscious of who they are and the motivations influencing their leadership is very important work that has many practical implications. There is a growing need for leaders to focus not only on knowing and doing, but also on being. We have all experienced the power of a leader who is fully present even in the midst of uncertainty.
By deepening awareness and loosening the grip of old habits and ways of making meaning, leaders are freed up to think, relate, and act in new and more effective ways both individually and collectively. Instead of getting more rigid or reactive in response to the increasing stresses and unknowns of daily life, leaders can let go of what is comfortable and familiar and open to new ideas and different possibilities. Rigidity, comfort, and fearfulness can really hold leaders and organizations back from making things better and getting the results they, and all of us, need.
Contemplative leadership attends to the inner life of leadership. It provides a critical and often missing dimension to leadership development that is foundational for implementing other leadership methods and practices. A contemplative dimension invites leaders to pause in the midst of activity to become fully present to reality as it is and open the space for new energy, ideas, solutions, direction and wisdom. Contemplative leadership illuminates blind spots and the limiting effects of ego, as well as enlarges one’s capacity for leading into the unknowns of change, managing negative emotions, identifying and staying grounded in one’s values and purpose.
Integrating the knowing, doing and also being of leadership is the transformation of leadership that is critically needed for organizations and society to meet the demands we face.
Janet M Drey is the managing director of the Consortium for Contemplative Leadership, a community dedicated to advancing the adoption and practice of contemplative leadership. Find out more about Janet’s services and the Consortium here.