As we look forward to the start of a New Year, I feel a sense of both satisfaction and excitement, and write this blog post to share certain key insights with readers. I believe that these insights will help us to define new paradigms of business, that are based on treating people and communities with respect, sustaining our environment and serving the common good. The transformational power of these new paradigms will mean that it becomes possible to co-create joy, peace and wealth for all on Earth!
The reason I want us to start thinking and working in this direction is because I believe that the existing theories of business are no longer serving individuals, organizations or society as a whole. On the one hand, businesses are under pressure to improve profit margins and reduce costs, while on the other, all kinds of waste – of resources, opportunities and energies – is allowed to continue undeterred. Individuals within organizations suffer from the effects of high stress at the workplace, as well as a lack of engagement. This leads to a feeling of being cut off from their personal power and the expression of their natural talents and gifts, and even depression in extreme cases. The business environment demands constant learning and innovation, but opportunities to relate, converse and exchange ideas freely are getting scarce. We see many cases where organizations function without a sense of responsibility and cause environmental damage or contribute to corruption in society.
The new paradigm that I visualize is based on the concept of Wholesome Leadership, and assimilates the principle of Advaita, which is an ancient teaching (Vedanta) from India. Understanding and adopting these principles can help to build leadership that functions in an integrated and holistic manner, caring for people, the planet and profits. We can develop leaders who have a systems perspective …. greater breadth and new ways of seeing and responding to the challenges that life and business is throwing up rapidly at us. This also calls for understanding the interdependence, complexity and connections not just in organizational life, but in social, environmental, technological, markets and political landscapes as well.
Such a unifying and integrating paradigm is the paradigm of Wholesome Leadership.
Wholesome Leadership is leadership coming from a space of Wholesomeness. Wholesomeness is a space wherein all notions of ones limited self (or “I”) have dissolved. When we define ourselves in any limited way, we are not wholesome. We then “see” our capacities and potential in limited and bounded ways. This also limits our perception and thinking.
On the other hand, if we know ourselves as “that which sees everything and cannot be seen”, we are unable to define ourselves in any limited way. All notions of who I am are dropped. We let go into the silent space of the witnessing Awareness and all boundaries of my “self” disappear. This is ‘Wholesomeness’. It is also about being one with all of life. (When we are none, we are one!). Wholesomeness is the dissolving of all limitations and being one with all of existence. All seeming divisions and separations (which come from the mind) are transcended. Being Wholesome means being one with the indivisible, peaceful and unchanging reality which contains (and is) all things. We can also see Wholesomeness as a space of balance, freedom, joy, peace, love, compassion and gratitude. It is the space of pure Consciousness or Awareness which is the source of all values. It is non-duality.
Leadership that “happens” from the loving and creative space of Wholesomeness is “Wholesome Leadership”. Living a life based on a deeply lived experience of Wholesomeness is the foundation for being a Wholesome Leader.
Wholesome Leadership is leadership that emerges from being fully present in the “now”. It is spontaneous and creative. It is instrumental in unfolding wholesomeness in other people. Wholesome Leadership is about initiating action on things that one deeply cares about. It is leadership for the well-being of all.
As we practice Wholesome Leadership, we see things happening of their own accord. This includes an experience of one’s bodymind “doing” things! There is an amazing sense of wonder as we witness this paradox of total inner stillness co-existing with intense goal directed action. A deep attachment to people and things co-exists with a supreme detachment. There is just a vast stillness, peace and a deep contentment which is undisturbed by anything or anyone.
Advaita and Wholesomeness
“Advaita” is Non-duality (“A” means “non”, “dvaita” means “duality”) or absolute unity. This ancient teaching (also known as Vedanta) from India, comes to the conclusion that there is no duality between the subject that knows and the object that is known.
Both Wholesomeness and Advaita refer to non-duality or oneness. Both are grounded in the principles of Awareness. Awareness is that which sees everything but cannot be seen …,the innermost witnessing essence which has no boundaries. Since Awareness has no boundaries (remember, it is the witness of all boundaries), everything becomes Awareness. This everything is the Whole all together as One.
Both Wholesomeness and Advaita talk about the feeling of joy, freedom, exhilaration, totality, health and harmony that come from living from this space of understanding and awareness. Wholeness is the union of all opposites.
A discerning reader might wonder why we need another label for Advaita when Advaita and Wholesomeness are exactly the same? To respond to this, I would like to share a small analogy. Electricity at 250 Volts and 50 Hertz is the same all over the world. However, the shape of plugs and sockets in different countries are different. If you try to use the plug that works in India with a socket in Hong Kong, it won’t fit in. So we need adapters which help the connection to become easy. The word Advaita is linked to Vedanta and to India. For many, it is also the foundation of Hinduism. While it is a profoundly universal and all-inclusive concept, it may prejudice some people and therefore may not be accessible to them. The word Wholesomeness on the other hand, is culturally neutral. It is a scientific term easily understood. It is our hypothesis that the business and scientific mind may find it easier to identify and relate with the notion of Wholesomeness.
Wholesomeness provides an excellent foundation for a new kind of leadership that would help us to meet the current and future challenges of Business. The principles of both Wholesomeness and Advaita are eternal, and grounded in the dynamics of the wholeness of life. I will keep sharing more aspects of Wholesome Leadership, its applications and benefits, on this blog. I wish each of you a very Happy and Wholesome New Year!
About the author: Arun Wakhlu