Mandala of 5 Buddhas with Consorts

Spirited Leadership

There is a huge amount of material available on leadership, with a search on Amazon returning over 47,000 books! However, the qualities required of a leader are simply those of a mature and fully-rounded human being, and this includes a spiritual aspect. I believe that it is more helpful for leaders, those they lead, and the organisations for which they work, to see leadership as an ongoing practice, rather than an expression of organisational power or status.

In our childhood most of us loved stories, and we all know the qualities of good and bad Kings and Queens from myths and fairy tales. In the stories of Camelot, the country is prosperous and the harvests are bountiful because the righteous King Arthur sits at the Round Table. In contrast, in C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, the bad Queen rules over a world that is frozen and barren. These stories express a truth about leadership that is frequently overlooked in organisations, that the key role of a leader is to encourage, support, mentor and nurture.

In the Tantric tradition there are said to be four magical rites, each associated with a different colour:

  • the yellow (or golden) rite of prospering
  • the white rite of pacification and purification
  • the black rite of destruction
  • the red rite of attraction and fascination
  • These four rites correlate with the four archetypes of King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. It is the yellow rite of prospering that is the rite of the leader, who carries the archetype of the King or Queen in their organisation. This is reflected in many traditional cultures when the leader takes part in a ritual at the start of the growing season (such as ploughing the first furrow) as an expression of the connection between the leader, the fruitfulness of its land and the well-being of the community.

    In most organisations today those in leadership roles are far more likely to emphasise the Warrior's black rite, through challenging, criticising and even bullying those they are meant to lead. Research shows that this kind of leadership, which is usually based on anxiety and an underlying lack of self-worth, severely undermines performance.

    Of course, it is true that all leaders need to to 'read the riot act' once in a while. They also need to be inspiring and have a capacity to connect (the red rite of the Lover). They need to be able to absorb criticism and transform negativity (the white rite of the Magician). But in most organisations the paramount need is for the leader to provide a positive and encouraging example, as this is the context that will lead to the greatest creativity, commitment and effectiveness. If you'd like some support in leading in this way then get in touch.