This week I sat with a CEO of a global company, an extraordinary man who has only recently merged his spiritual self with his business self. For many years, these two sides of himself have been living separate lives, but owing to some deep developmental work he has done over the past year – and his own readiness – he has brought these two sides into one whole. This has had an extraordinary result on his leadership, and what he is setting in motion within his company.
It is too early to share details of exactly what he is doing on the purpose journey which he has initiated, but I can speak about the experience of being with a leader such as him.
When we met, on a warm winter’s day last year at his offices in Europe, I was astonished to see that he had made four hours available to me. We sat down, quietly and without hurry, and began to have a deep conversation about life, how we saw things, what we hoped for, what he aspired to create in his business.
Throughout the time, the phone didn’t ring. No harried secretaries or reports arrived needing his signature for anything. We were not interrupted, other than to continue our discussions over lunch.
This leader told me that only a year ago this kind of conversation would have been impossible. We would maybe have had 30 minutes together, with at least 20 emails and calls demanding his attention, before he was hauled off to abate a crisis or save the day. Instead, he told me, through the transformation he has initiated in his organisation, which started with himself, he now has a team of inspired people instigating their own projects and driving their own initiatives with passion and success. This leaves him free to hold the space for the organisation: what it can become, what it wants to be, paying attention to the signals across the organisation that reveal the next step, spending quality time with his people.
He is not a victim of his own self-importance. It doesn’t all have to come from him. Instead, he is in service to this living organisation. At the same time, he is a warrior, intensely focused, completely capable of running a huge operation along traditional lines – he has just evolved beyond having to do this all for his own sense of self.
Sitting with him again this week for a couple of hours over breakfast, I was again struck by the quality of our interaction, by the presence we held throughout the meeting. The space inside my chest expanded; I was expanded by our conversation, by the listening and the presence, forever moved.
It was once again extraordinary to me what can happen in a business when the leader is a conscious leader. When we are not carried away by our own drives and unconscious programming, when we are truly in touch with what is happening in this moment, and we do business from this perspective, then each moment is a surprise, filled with a sense of awe. We don’t know how it is going to turn out, but we feel alive, on the edge of life, and participating in its emergence.