There is a new leadership movement afoot that is subtle, inner-directed and transparent. It’s called transpersonal leadership.
The term “transpersonal” refers to trans, meaning “to go beyond,” and personal, which refers to the ego. This new leadership style places emphasis on transcending the ego. At first glance, it doesn’t appear to be a big shift in the leadership paradigms frequently touted; however a person’s ego can get in the way of making effective decisions and typically doesn’t readily relinquish power. So, transcending the ego is not as easy as it might seem.
The ego serves as a person’s conscious identity. It circumscribes the way people see and understand themselves. It is a psychic construct that includes a vast array of inner proscriptions and defensive behaviors that form an armory against life’s ups and downs. Over our lives we have fought hard to establish our egos and it requires great self-awareness and courage to be vulnerable and humble enough to set them aside.
Transcending the ego doesn’t mean doing away with it. Rather, it means being aware of one’s messy, self-seeking, fearful, and often compulsive motivations, and instead, taking a broader perspective or moral high road.
Transcending the ego means operating from a deeper awareness that all things are interconnected, when experiencing a beautiful sunset or a soul-stirring piece of music, for example. During these transpersonal moments, a person transcends his or her self-consciousness and “what is in it for me” motivations.
The good news is that people can train themselves to have more of these transpersonal experiences in their lives. The essence of this training lies:
1. In developing greater self-awareness through self-examination, self-reflection, mindfulness and meditation;
2. Consciously living one’s values and explicitly looking for opportunities that feed one’s soul;
3. Actively cultivating one’s conscience and establishing inner guidelines that direct one’s self-determination;
4. Practicing openness and curiosity rather than being reactive and judgmental; and
5. Continuously seeking out opportunities for personal development, especially inner development. (Developing a growth mindset, understanding one’s own deepest motivations, and finding a transcendent purpose in life.)
Educating leaders to become transpersonal leaders is the mission of an international organization, LeaderShape Global, which has operated since the early 2000s and has a network of trained faculty and associates who promote their curriculum to thousands of managers and leaders. This curriculum, described in the book, “Leading Beyond the Ego,” lays out the journey of how to become a transpersonal leader. Training focuses on self-awareness and lays out a plan to create a performance-enhancing, caring and sustainable organization.
The aim of this movement is to foster a worldwide cadre of radical, ethical and authentic leaders intent on advancing the greater good of humankind.
Transpersonal leadership integrates the intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligences. It is based on enabling leaders to transcend their egos and make decisions from higher levels of ethical and cognitive maturity. Transpersonal leaders are encouraged to be both radical and authentic, acting on rigorously tested values and deeply held ethical principles that inform a strongly developed conscience.
The underlying questions for transpersonal leaders are: “Who am I?” and “What will I do with who I am?” Clearly, these questions demand extreme personal self-accountability and ethical responsibility. Role modelling beyond the ego behavior and caring for others through coaching and personal development are distinctive characteristics of this leadership style.
Annabel Beerel, PhD, MBA, is an ethical leadership consultant and the Massachusetts and NH representative of LeaderShape Global. For more, visit annabelbeerel.com.