World affairs can be a source of concern to all of us: the threat of nuclear war, widespread poverty and economic instability, random terrorist attacks, social and political chaos and psychological upheavals of many kinds. The world is in absolute turmoil. Where can we find the wisdom to solve the world’s problems?
Renowned leadership futurist and organizational expert Margaret Wheatley writes that human wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion. It neither comes from, or is available to, only the West or the East. Rather this wisdom comes from a tradition of human “warriorship” that has existed in many cultures at many times throughout history. Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others. Rather it means “one who is brave”. Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery or the tradition of fearlessness.
On our planet earth there have been many fine examples of warriorship. The tribes of North America have had such a tradition, as have the native peoples of South America. You can find the concept expressed in the Japanese ideal of the Samurai, in the principles of enlightened warriorship in western Christianity, and in the ancient wisdom stories of King Arthur, King David and the Bible. True warriorship begins with the notion of not being afraid of who you are. This is, in fact, the ultimate key to bravery—not being afraid of yourself.
When we are afraid of ourselves or afraid of the threats the world presents we run the risk of becoming selfish. We are in danger of fooling ourselves into thinking that we can build an impervious cocoon of security around ourselves. And in a highly uncertain world we may be likely to make decisions that run counter to our best interests. (See Richard Singer’s previous article that speaks to the effects of uncertainty on decision making.) But we can be much braver than that. Ms. Wheatley writes that in the face of the world’s great problems we can be heroic and kind at the same time. Wise leadership in this context is the opposite of selfishness.
One could say that a wise leader in this tradition is a benevolent leader, or even a servant leader. A wise leader is one whose bravery is reflected in the depth of, compassion for, and dedication to the service of the peoples of the world. One of the greatest traditions of this type of leadership is to never make a decision without first considering the impact that this decision would have on the seventh generation of people in the future who have yet to be born.
Given the chaotic state of affairs in the world today, I am tremendously encouraged by what Wheatley has to say. I believe that she has discovered a core truth about authentic leadership; that authentic leaders fearlessly serve others with a compassionate wisdom that transcends selfishness. Can these insights help us live our own individual lives in ways that enhance our ability to have a complete and meaningful life? Or at least prevent us from living a life “half-lived” because we were too afraid to be ourselves? I think that maybe we all could be a little braver. What do you think?