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A New Kind of Leadership

September 3, 2013

Today’s unprecedented situation of accelerating technological and social change requires a quality of Leadership that perhaps the world has not seen since the Buddha. Leadership that can solve the current crisis must not and cannot be based on authority or force, since hierarchy—and specifically the lack of integrity and abuse of hierarchical authority—are the main causes of the crisis. 

The hierarchical structure itself amplifies the most serious problems. Thus, naive solutions such as simply replacing men with women, or whites with people of color, or people of one nationality or social background with another, will not work. The hierarchical organization is obsolete; it has outlived its usefulness and become a dangerous liability, because any hierarchical structure can be gamed and subverted from the inside. Therefore the solution has to come from outside the existing structure. Any effective solution must be based on conviction, not on authority.

Leadership based on authority—no matter how well-intentioned—is simply going to perpetuate the problems. This is because any structure based on authority can and will be gamed and corrupted. To be an effective leader in this situation, you must be able to stand outside the existing structure, and convince people to follow your cause without coercion or the threat of force, only because they can see the benefit and want to participate on their own.

One difficulty in making this change is that hierarchy is efficient—as long as treating people like inanimate objects is acceptable. We don’t think it is acceptable at any cost. But a viable solution depends on finding a new structure for the general organization of society that is at least as efficient as hierarchy, without the downside of objectifying human beings.

Flat, ad-hoc project-oriented networks based on the principles of Leading by Being are one such viable solution. We already have the infrastructure for such cooperative structures in place: existing online social networking technology could easily be adapted for this purpose. We only have to wait for consensus to build in the area of society that we want to lead by being, for it to work.

In the present context, being a Leader does not necessarily mean managing an organization; it means devising skillful means to effectively educate and inspire people without schools, corporations, governments, churches, temples, monasteries or other traditional hierarchical structures. This will require novel approaches to thought instruction and leadership.

We predict that the first qualified Leader who figures out how to use the Internet and cell networks to organize people efficiently and effectively will own the 21st century, at least in terms of influence.

Could You be the One?

From → Leading by Being

2 Comments
  1. Interesting! I was writing you a reply the comment you left ,and per usual, it’s lengthy,but one of the issues mentioned is Buddhist Leadership, progress that is very recent ,and not actually in effect, which will take…no idea, but the more momentum, and mass a dynamic entity has, the more time it takes to change course. Inertia is considerable. Just as making progress in ethical practice, meditation practice, wisdom development… As with leadership, as with cultures, governments, societies, etc. The older the culture, the deeply ingrained these attribute lay, the longer changes takes to occur.

    Change, and not just the constant variety, but the specific application, it’s afoot in the World, in the East, in the West. Jack Kornfield talks about moderating a meeting of “Buddhist Leaders” from all over the world, in his new book “Transmission: Receiving the Living Wisdom of Spiritual Teachers”
    Utterly profound! Unprecedented insight (with lowercase “i”) from the “Buddhist Leaders” of the modern World, and there’s nothing life it, perspective that, regardless of the previous “inner-faith” and Inter-Faith” world assemblies, this last one…I don’t have the words. (Either did the Dalai Lama, he was blown away, as was everyone, addressing cultural, sexual, and gender issues. Leaders of Theravadin, Mahayana, & Vjajrayana Ethnic Buddhist Countries are looking to Western Buddhist for guidance. That’s not something often heard (although certainly not a new idea from the Western perspective.)

    May ALLl Be Well! 🙏💚🌏 If that doesn’t interest you, then recall the Udāna in the Pāli Canon:
    “Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.” ~ The Buddha

    • Dharmamitra, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Change can happen slowly in large populations, but on the level of the individual it can happen very quickly, in a quantum leap. Whenever we realize something never known before, it’s like that.

      The leadership of the Buddhist world is in crisis; they have never had to deal with Western civilization before, and it’s blowing their collective mind. It’s not an exaggeration to say that if their leadership style doesn’t change, Buddhism as we know it will disappear very soon. So either it will change voluntarily or by force of the extraordinary times in which we live.

      The ironic thing is that we already have a perfect example of the next evolutionary stage of leadership in the Buddha himself. The Buddha had no position, no title, no organization. In fact he rejected his family title and positions of leadership in his teachers’ sanghas. Standing on nothing, he created a lasting world civilization based on authentic insight and self-realization.

      Now it is up to us to take off the training wheels, let go of clinging to social fabrications like religions and organizations, and become leaders by being leaders. That is the only solution, and like death, it is going to happen anyway, so we might as well choose it.

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