Imagine it’s 50,000 years ago and we’re wandering around on the savannah, in a group of, say, 130 or so. Someone has to choose a direction, but we’re scared, vulnerable, unruly. The journey to find/distribute resources never ends. Nor does the confusion. But somehow we have to communicate, to maintain social cohesion, and manage group decisions. When things go wrong someone has to appeal to a better future, and lead us forward, lest we fall apart and starve. (Many did.)
Our analytic abilities developed out of those challenges, but logic couldn’t predict the future. So, in order to move ourselves and others through adversity, we learned to use inspiration, and the emotions, for example, but most of all, I would argue, meaning. Someone had to find and leverage the meaning and purpose of the whole journey. (It occurs to me also that the story of Moses may go right back to this very ancient past.)
The leadership we need today is the kind that’s concerned with meaning. We’re lost. We’ve ended up with what Umair Haque calls the zombie economy and it’s time to leave that phase behind. The leaders of the biggest players in the 20th century gave us daytime TV, fast food, and sugared water. We may be meeting our basic needs, but we’ve yet to solve the meaning part.
But meaning begins with the individual and finding what I call self-direction. I believe in free will. I believe we are psychologically autonomous individuals with control over, and total responsibility for, ourselves. I believe that by setting our own direction in life we can learn to lead others.
But most of the time we don’t think about our own freedoms and responsibilities. In fact, we’re deeply unaware of them and that’s the big problem. The zombie economy is not a failure of the free market, but a failure of the imagination.
So we need new leaders. Leadership is not an academic creation. It wasn’t architected in a Harvard classroom. It’s inside of you. But there’s no self-direction without self-awareness. Leadership styles are as unique as musical styles. You don’t learn them, you draw them out through self-awareness. There’s always this link between self-awareness and self-direction. That’s what I plan to explore in this blog.