World Consciousness Alliance in their Renaissance of Humanity (RoH), Conversations for Change, hosted Mr. Richard Barrett, globally recognized thought leader in Values-Based Leadership, Cultural Transformation, Personal Development, and personal, cultural, and societal wellbeing and spoke about the role of conscious leadership in transforming humanity.
COVID 19 has reshaped our everyday life and impacted our values. It has forever changed the way we lead our lives and businesses. While there are various scenarios possible in our uncertain future, one thing is sure: to elevate ourselves beyond greed, competition and conflict, we need to transform our values, from ME to WE. Instead of trying to be the best in the world, we need to seek to be best for the world.
Richard Barrett and his team are coaching and transforming leaders and organizations throughout the whole world. They bring a holistic perspective to individual, organizational and social levels of development. Richard’s world view offers ideas that could transform humanity and uplift our global consciousness to its highest state. What is needed for such a transformation in our private lives, relationships, companies and societies?
RB: Whether you’re a leader or not, in my model of the seven stages of development, the fourth stage is about becoming conscious and so the question is, what does becoming conscious mean?
There are three aspects of becoming conscious. The 1st aspect is: Becoming aware of the impact of your actions and behaviors on other people and on the planet? The 2nd aspect is: Becoming aware of the impact of your thoughts and beliefs on your physical and mental health. The 3rd aspect is: Caring about the impact of your actions and behaviors on other people in the planet and caring about the impact of your thoughts and beliefs on your mental and physical health. All of those three things have to be in place to become conscious. We are talking about reaching a level of consciousness which goes beyond your own survival.
Every living creature is conscious. It has awareness and it has a purpose. That’s how I define consciousness: Awareness with a purpose, and the purpose of everything that is conscious is to maintain its internal stability and external equlibrium. This applies to a frog, a giraffe, a lion, a human being a nation or an organization. To survive, they must all constantly seek s to maintain internal stability and external equilibrium. If you can’t maintain internal stability and external equilibrium, you’re not going to survive, so that’s the fundamental basis of consciousness – conscious of how you are impacting other people and how your thoughts and beliefs are impacting yourself. Alligators don’t do that. Frogs don’t do that. Human beings can do that, but not many of them do. Most people just behave like animals and look after themselves, and they’re not really aware. So the fourth stage of human development, which Carl Jung called Individuation, is when you begin to realize that you are not alone in the world in the sense of how you influence and touch other people and the environment. We are aware that our thoughts and beliefs actually create stress and illness. Because each stage of development we go through in life impacts our energy field and impacts of the stages of development are linked to the chakra system as we move through to the higher stages of development. Every thought and belief impacts our energetic being and thereby our physical and mental health. Becoming conscious is absolutely essential if you want to lead a fulfilling life because it creates a sense of wellbeing. Up to your 20s and 30s, you’ve been learning how to fit into your environment in order to be successful. And now you ask, who am I really outside of all of this conditioning, what do I believe? What are my values? That’s the individuating stage.
You may think that you found meaning and purpose already at the individuation stage, but wait until you really get into the next stage -self-actualization. You may find it changes a bit. That was my case. I was a transportation engineer and I loved it and I was very successful and I started working at the World Bank and in my mid-40s I realized that actually I was bored with my career and that was when I realized my purpose was transformation not transformation. And so I stopped being a transportation engineer, and I left the World Bank and started doing what I’m doing now. That’s a brief glimpse of what it means to be conscious.
RB: Well, there is some truth in that and we have to know what transformation means. Change is doing what I do now, but doing it differently. Transformation is a new way of being. So each time you move through a stage of development, you go through a transformation, each time you move into a new way of being your values change, and your sense of identity changes. When you’re single you care about yourself. When you get married and there are two of you, you have to expand your sense of identity to include the other person. If you go on caring about yourself and not the other person, you won’t be in that marriage very long. And then you have children and so you care about your children and your sense of identity expands again. So whatever you identify with, you care about. Each time we get a more expanded sense of identity. You live in your local community and you care about the local community. Once again, your identity expands. This is what consciousness means. Expanding consciousness means caring about a more inclusive, larger group. When you are at the age when you begin to find meaning and purpose in your work, you begin to care about your organization, because your organization is the vehicle you use to find meaning and purpose. So now you care about your organization, your sense of identity expands again. Now it’s not just you, it’s not just your partner. It’s not just your children. It’s not just your local community, it is also your organization. You’ve now got an expanded sense of identity. Then your organization starts to work in collaboration with other organizations, and which share the same values. Once again, your sense of identity expands to include that larger group of people, and then that larger group of organizations will care about the planet, care about the Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations. Care about society. And so again you can now expand your sense of identity to include the whole world now as you move. Each shift in identity represents a new stage of psychological development. You’re moving up in consciousness because consciousness develops as you grow and expand your sense of identity. Consciousness expands by being more inclusive.
RB: Yes, well that’s true. When you care about your people, they care about you. It’s the golden rule basically. Professor Kegan who used to be at Harvard University, talked about a deliberately developmental organization and I agree with that. At each stage of development, you have specific needs. When you have a need for freedom and autonomy, you don’t want your boss telling you what to do all the time. You won’t need it. You now move to the next stage where you want to find meaning and purpose in your work, and then the next stage after that is that you want to make a difference by connecting with the people. Everybody in your organization is at one of these stages of development. So, what you need to do as a leader of an organization, is realize that, and give these different groups of people the opportunities they need to fulfill their needs at the stage of development they are at. Then you will have people who are extremely loyal. They will love working for you because they are getting their most important needs. They will say: I’m going to stay in an organization that gets my needs met. I’m not going to go somewhere else.
There is a fundamental link between the stages of development, how organizations respond to those stages of development and employee’ engagement. Engagement comes when you are able to meet the needs of your employees.
And that’s what HR people need to recognize, and they need to create an organization that is able to satisfy those needs and that means becoming a deliberately developmental organization.
So this is my message to leaders. If you want a successful organization, care about the needs of your employees.
RB: The organizational culture is a reflection of the values and beliefs and behaviors of the leaders. So if you want to transform your organization, either the leaders have to transform, or you have to change the leaders. I mean, it’s as simple as that. Organizations are authoritarian regimes. They are not democratic, the leader gets to define what goes on and the values and beliefs of the leader become the culture of the organization. So if you want to improve the culture, then you have to change the values and beliefs of the leader or you have to change the leader. An enlightened leader may understand that, but mostly they are not enlightened, so they don’t get it. They just see the bottom line.
RB: Exactly. But, it is tangible. I’ve been measuring that for 20 years with the Barrett Values Center, we’ve been doing it all over the world in 40 or 50 different languages. This is the key. The leader has to get to a point where he or she recognizes that to improve the organization, the culture needs to change and for the culture to change, they need to change.
RB: Yes, you can find all this well reported on the Barrett Values Center. COVID-19 has had a quite an interesting impact on organizational culture. First of all, employers began to realize that they need to protect their employees so they developed schemes like working from home etc. and then employees liked that, and so they felt good about it because now they don’t have to travel to work two hours every day, which is a complete waste of time and they have all this extra time: “What do I do with this extra time? Oh well, I could do some learning courses”. It’s a huge bonus for employers to do that. Then some employers said, “Well, we need to care about the families of our employees too” So they put things into place to help employees and their families during this difficult period. Now this approach was more compassionate, so we began to see this idea of compassion, which is a high level value, a level 7 value coming into play in our organizations.
RB: First of all, what does success mean? For some people, at the lower levels of consciousness or lower stage of development, success means money, fame, things like that, but for people at higher stages development, it means well-being, so I feel successful when I am able to get my needs met. I will tell you a story from the beginning of my book, a new psychology of Human Well- being. The longest study by a university is the grand study of Harvard University. They have been following a group of 200 people for 75 years, interviewing them every year, every two or three years for more than 75 years now. They’ve analyzed what gives people a long life and what makes them happy. The result is really interesting. What makes people live long lives and happy lives and successful lives? It’s the quality of their relationships. It’s as simple as that. That’s the bottom line from Harvard. It’s not about money. It’s not about fame. It’s not about fortune, it’s about the quality of relationships.
RB: No, we will never get back to what used to be normal because at every step something is changing. Change is the only constant in life.
Ten years ago, I wrote: Who are the most evolved leaders? Those who recognize that society is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. So if the environment crashes, society will crash as well. And I also said that business is a wholly owned subsidiary of Society. If society crashes business will crash as well. COVID-19 is a perfect example of society crashing and business crashing. It affected businesses. Companies going bankrupt everywhere. There is a fundamental link between business and society which is pretty much being ignored. The new idea that comes out of COVID is: We, as an organization have to keep caring. We have to care about society because if we don’t care about society, our businesses will crash. So, it’s in the interest of every organization to care about society. The new role for business is to build resilient society. Resilience for a company means caring about employees, caring about society, caring about the environment. That’s the new leadership paradigm. That’s what companies have to do now. If they’re going to survive in the future.
Richard Barrett is a globally recognized thought leader in Values-Based Leadership, Cultural Transformation, Personal Development, and the metrics of personal, cultural, and societal wellbeing.
He is the President of the Academy for the Advancement of Human Values, the Founder of the Barrett Values Centre, the Leader of the global Humanity Awareness Initiative, the Developer of the Barrett Culture Analytics for Organizations and Global Wellbeing Indicators for nations, a Fellow of the World Business Academy, and Former Values Coordinator at the World Bank. Richard is also a Founding Member of the V20 (Values) Task Force of the G20.
How do we make the shift from “trying Oh so hard” to “just being”? In one common group counseling session, I noticed a recurring theme during the question-answer sessions, and it’s the same in all such group sessions. People ask: “please help me overcome anger”, and “in spite of resolving not to mind my wife’s nagging, I lose my temper after listening to her for some time,” and “I feel good for a few days after I attend your session and try to be joyful and happy, but I can’t keep it up for long”.
“The great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning.” ~ Anon
Does the above story from my counselling sessions sound familiar?
Usually in a moment of rare insight (or weakness), most of us often resolve to shun anger, envy, selfishness and henceforth be compassionate, loving and so on. When the higher calling beckons, we congratulate ourselves and decide to overflow with the milk of human kindness. For a while, we smile at everything and everybody, count to ten instead of blowing up, take deep breaths in times of stress, see the good side of people, and turn the other cheek when slapped. And most often, instead of acknowledgment and reciprocation of our goodness, we find that we are taken for granted and worse, taken advantage of.
It gets harder and harder to keep up the good act, and we reach break-point sooner or later. We then promptly slip back into our original, normal, sometimes nasty selves. Until we attend another of those counseling sessions, to start the game all over again. In the process, we are likely to end up feeling resentful, guilty, useless and unfit to pursue our spiritual goals.
Is it an occupational hazard of being a human being? Are we condemned to go through innumerable lifetimes making the same mistakes, to slip back easily into habitual behavior, incapable of taking up the challenge that evolution throws at us? Shall we ever be able to negotiate the enormous chasm between trying oh so hard and just being?
Oh so many dilemmas, but no easy answers. Since spiritual growth is the only agenda on the menu of human life, we have no choice but to embark on this journey. We need to take charge and do it right, though, sooner rather than later. Just like we consult a map to track the optimum route before embarking on a physical journey, we need to do the same with the spiritual journey as well.
Study the path taken by enlightened souls, internalize the teachings of spiritual masters and listen to our own conscience with sincerity. And take stock of the advantages and limitations of this journey, and how it can be accomplished well in the least possible time.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step, and you have taken it. You’ve realized that you need improvement! The very fact that you are aware that you are not perfect puts you far, far ahead of other beings in the path of evolution. It triggers the right process in you. You have decided to do something about your inadequacy – the next step is set it in motion. Somewhere you feel a discontent about life and ask yourself ‘what next?’
You have read and heard about the compassion of great spiritual beings, and you resonate with them. You yearn for that spiritual strength. You clamor to emulate their teachings, and do succeed to a certain extent. It might be only for a week, a day, or an hour, but you have already started earning brownie points! Your sheer willingness to change is your greatest strength. You are now firmly on the right path.
Oh, what pitfalls the journey has! The road, you realize, is anything but a super-duper highway on which you can zip across at 120 km/h. Why is it that the day you resolve to be patient with your child, she does something which is calculated to raise your temper? Or the day you decide to diet, your mom bakes the most delicious cake embedded with chocolate chips and nuts?
The smallest thing that you encounter seems to challenge you to break your resolve and retract totally. You need to literally grin and bear it to the limits of endurance to progress even a centimeter on the right path. Why? Because we are straining against a lifetime of conditioning, of putting ourselves first, of indulging our senses, of doing the easy thing. Great spiritual Teachers have called spiritual growth swimming against the current. It is difficult because it goes against our conditioned habitual instincts.
Liberation, Enlightenment, cresting the cycle of birth and death, total transformation, unleashing your highest potential.
The journey is hard but the opportunities priceless: the greatest prize of human life and the sole reason for our existence. No less! It’s worth all the pain and agonizing uncertainty of the journey? A million times over. So do not despair and Keep at it. It’s worth it when you reach journey’s end and experience that state of total happiness and freedom.
Imagine a state of peace and tranquility even if it is raining bankruptcies, tsunamis, accidents or job loss. Imagine being in a state of unconditional love towards one and all. Imagine giving and giving and giving – without wanting anything at all because you are so completely and totally fulfilled. Imagine total freedom from suffering – zero fear, anger, rage, hate, worry, doubt, resistances, inhibitions and so on. Imagine being free of the human condition-negativity.
You will no doubt be tested to your limit, and you’ll get knocked about mercilessly but in the end all that knocking will make you emerge as a diamond….a shiny priceless well sculpted diamond.
All of us are born to be in heaven by default, and it is open, for eternity! So book your place and level right now and get going. It might be useful, though, to carry a handy guide with tips for the spiritual trip.
Never buy vegetables from the roadside vendors – they always cheat with the weights; Never be lenient with your servants – they’ll take you for granted. This is how an average mind thinks; and if you listen to it, it will not let you pursue your spiritual goals either.
It’s necessary to be worldly-wise, but not to the point of disillusionment. You may be compelled to retract from your good intentions once, twice, maybe a hundred times – but The Divine trusts you, has given you a million chances so far to help you realize your divinity – so Never say never again.
…of others, as well as yourself. You may be a paragon of virtue, but of course your neighbor will still dump his garbage in your backyard. Spiritual Growth is all about the change in your response to situations, not change in situations themselves. Each situation and person in your life is put there to help you introspect and grow.
Be kind to yourself too, it’s not easy to change a lifetime of habitual behavior. That’s why spiritual masters insist on keeping the company of good people and good thoughts as aids that will not let you forget your ultimate purpose in life, and put you back on the path again and again. Reading elevating books for at least 15 minutes before going to bed every night is a great habit to inculcate. They help raise energy levels.
Man proposes and God disposes. The trying is left to us, and being happens by grace, and grace alone. But grace descends on one who is well and truly ready for it, and not a moment earlier. The yearning for spiritual growth needs to be as intense as the desperate yearning for air itself.
So, the path you have chosen for yourself may not be a cup of tea. That is why you need to recognize from which point you operate best – body, heart, or mind – and the Divine will help you reach itself from that point.
To kick start the process of spiritual growth, do good deeds. You might not feel the shift at first. But as outward deeds get gradually purified, the attitude will percolate into words and thoughts as well. Because only in the trying oh so hard will the just being eventually materialize. Meanwhile, don’t get so engrossed in reaching the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey.
She is the founder and writer of Positive Provocations, which features writing on positive thinking through healing the Mind, Body, Heart & Soul. She holds degrees in, and practices counseling psychology, motivational psychology, spiritual counseling, motivational speaking, holistic health and naturopathic medicine. Zeenat Merchant Syal is a spiritual traveler by passion, an eternal student and researcher in the school of life and all of its realities, including the fields of metaphysics and New Age thinking.