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True pioneers are fuelled by their vision of how a new world could be, and dare to take on what has never been done before. Now, when so few people have any vision at all of the future, the pioneering spirit embodies the kind of leadership so deeply needed on the planet.


Inner work – a pre-requisite for outer effectiveness

True pioneers are fuelled by their vision of how a new world could be, and dare to take on what has never been done before. Now, when so few people have any vision at all of the future, the pioneering spirit embodies the kind of leadership so deeply needed on the planet.

Today’s pioneers are sufficiently in touch with the planet, and with their inner voice, to know what needs doing and how to do it. This begins in the radical mastery of one’s inner being. Brilliance, charisma, eloquence — these are wonderful gifts that a leader can possess — but these gifts gain ultimate effect and coherence only when fueled and sustained by inner power. In half a century of work in the world, the most important lesson I learned from observing leaders like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu at close quarters is that inner work is a pre-requisite for outer effectiveness — that the quality of our awareness directly affects the quality of results produced.

This inner power is the diamond formed by years of honing self awareness, practicing selflessness and observing and controlling the ego. It results from developing the essential skill of empathy, even for those who oppose you — and the humble commitment to keep learning the skills of deep listening and mediation.

What I’m expressing here has been known in all the great spiritual traditions, but needs to be reclaimed for a secular world in crisis, and in language that all can understand. Without leaders of this kind in every sphere and institution of our world, our chances of survival are grim. With such leaders, a world can be built that our grandchildren will be proud of.

I am certain that a different future for all of humanity is possible, if humans wake up. Interestingly, this is happening fast now in the corporate world. Reflection, mindfulness and inner work are now seen as an essential tool in many leading companies, extensively featured in the sober Financial Times of London and on the cover of Time Magazine.

But waking up means more than sitting quietly in meditation. It means a radical revision of values, and young social entrepreneurs are at the cutting edge of this. During the summer of 2013, at the DO School, I helped train young entrepreneurs from Colombia, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, and United Kingdom, to become builders of the kind of world they want. Besides all the technical skills they needed — to research their projects, build a website, raise start-up funds — they learned the inner skills that are vital in really transforming the world: skills to build trust in their teams, to resolve conflict quickly and effectively, to speak truth to power.

And there’s a growing passion out there to do socially impacting work too — at the DO School there were two thousand applicants for the last yearlong course and in 2013, over 5,200 young change makers applied for a DO School fellowship. Meanwhile alumni of previous courses are back home, cascading the skills they learned. DO School Fellows worked on their start-ups in over fifty countries, spending a total of over thirty thousand hours working on innovative ventures to solve local problems in their communities, touching the lives of over one hundred thousand people.
Most importantly, it is self-awareness at an individual level that can enable each person to wake up and do what’s needed to ensure a future for us on this planet — to change the world from the bottom up. And that’s what they learned in this course.

Scilla Elworthy’s new book Pioneering the Possible: Awakened Leadership for a World That Works is just published and can be purchased here.
Her TED talk on non violence has been viewed by over 840,000 people.
Scilla Elworthy

Scilla Elworthy, PhD, founded the Oxford Research Group in 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, work for which she has been three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in 2003. In 2002 she founded Peace Direct, voted ‘Best New Charity’ in 2005, to fund, promote and learn from local peace-builders in conflict areas.

26 Jul 2017