Jesus. Steve Jobs. Nelson Mandela. Inna Shevchenko. What do they have in common?
Yes, they are all the world’s most radical change leaders! They went all out to advocate and implement change that is bigger than themselves. The first three names in the above are household names. But who the heck is Inna Shevchenko? In case you haven’t heard of her, she is one of the leaders of Femen, the world’s most radical feminist movement. And during her interview with the Atlantic, she talked about her devotion to her cause.
“I don’t need a boyfriend. I don’t need human warmth. At this stage of my life, I’m devoting myself to my activism, and that’s that.”
What a bizarre statement! Who doesn’t need human warmth? Aren’t all of us social beings? What was she thinking?
Inside the mind of Radical Change Leader: Spirituality
In fact, all radical change leaders eerily serene when forsaking their personal relationships and devoting their life to realise their seemingly impossible idea. Both Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela neglected their family, while Jesus denied his own family – as described in Matthew.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 12: 46 – 50
I think the lesson that you and I (and the rest of common folks) can learn is not so much about prioritising work over life to achieve success, but is about adding steel into our feeble mind or having resilience when leading change initiative.
Change is hard. Leading change effort can be depressing. Over many years of leading the most difficult change initiatives (i.e. KM efforts), I have never seen smooth-sailing change initiatives. I question myself many times on my ability to lead the change initiatives, on whether the change is heading towards the right direction, and on whether I should deem the change as a lost cause. I bet, just like I do, you have those crazy moments too.
This is where you and I can learn from the world’s most radical change leaders. I think, and I have mentioned this earlier this year, all change leaders should embrace spiritualism. I’m not encouraging you to be a religious zealot, but to be spiritual without being religious. Being spiritual will strengthen your determination and grant you wisdom to retreat when necessary. And being spiritual will bring you joy and sense of meaning especially when the whole world seems to go against you.
Spirituality-laced Change Management Is Not New. Embrace It!
Am I out of my mind to suggest infusing spirituality into change management? Not at all. I’m not the first who propose this idea. Peter Senge in his bestselling book – the Fifth Discipline mentioned about personal mastery (see the following illustration for Learning Organisation’s Three-Legged Stool framework). That’s the “spirituality” that I’m referring to! I certainly don’t mean Deepak Chopra type of spirituality.
Spirituality to me is about having personal mastery. In brief, Peter Senge defined personal mastery as follows:
Personal mastery is a discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.
Further explanation of personal mastery definition can be found here.
Have you ever encounter unreasonable people who just can’t appreciate the reality or who don’t have any aspiration? This is where Peter Senge’s insight on personal mastery (i.e. spirituality) comes in. Senge is right to say that personal mastery is one of the five disciplines of Learning Organisation (i.e. transformational change). He is right because pre-requisite to change initiative is maturity. Mature leaders (who have mastered personal mastery) are required to sustain and grow the change effort into a successful one.
Spirituality/personal mastery can nurture people to be a mature leader, a change-ready leader. Embrace it and use it to transform yourself and your organisation.
Have you embraced spirituality? Why? Or Why Not?