Part 2 of a conversation with John Knights on Transpersonal leadership
Editor’s Note: This series is based upon a November 2018 video conversation between GRLI Executive Director John North and John Knights. A key inquiry that emerged from this conversation is one that has been a rich source for exploration before: “How we might shift our focus from maximizing any one initiative’s capacity for impact towards optimizing its role within a larger system of change so that we create bigger collective impact?” To achieve this, what kinds of leaders, equipped with what kinds of capacities, understandings, and skills are needed? How might we support the development and resilience of these leaders, in order to achieve the changes our world requires?
We invite the GRLI community to explore the roadmap and resources offered in Leading Beyond the Ego, and how this might support GRLI’s Call for Global Responsibility in how we live, learn, and lead as whole persons.
This is part 2 of a three-part series. Review Part 1.
John North: What is transpersonal leadership about and why that is different to all the various leadership theories and approaches that are out there?
John Knights: If you look at any particular module of what we offer, very little of it is unique, to be honest. As an engineer, we’ve used relevant best practice wherever appropriate. So if we talk about emotional intelligence, we very much based it on the Goleman-Boyatzis model. But I think what we’ve done uniquely is we have brought together research from a variety of sources to provide an overall journey of development and then looked to fill the gaps.
Where there are gaps, we’ve researched and developed it ourselves or adapted the work of a specific expert. Sometimes it’s been around neuroscience, intuition or instinct or how you link leadership styles to the culture of an organisation.
What we feel is unique is the way we’ve packaged the modules into a comprehensive, codified, easy to replicate journey. The methodology of learning is also very important, in that it is a blended approach that both engages and gives responsibility for learning to the individual and the teams.
Basically, we’re talking about the three intelligences shown in the diagram below: rational intelligence, emotional intelligence, and spiritual intelligence. And I think the really important thing is to look at the outcome of two intelligences working together.
When you combine rational intelligence with emotional intelligence you get performance enhancement. In a nutshell this is where we combine the right process and structures with the motivated and discretionary service from the people.
Combining emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence results in a culture that is caring and sustainable. In essence the thinking about others in a caring and sustainable way.
And finally the spiritual and rational brings you the ethical. For example, rational compliance alone does not solve the ethical issues organisations face. They also need the right culture where values are brought to full consciousness.
Transpersonal Leadership is that little red core when you integrate all of them.
And to do that, the transpersonal leader has to operate beyond their ego.
That is a very important and an ongoing effort to be able to bring to full consciousness. And then they have to be radical, ethical, authentic, emotionally intelligent, and caring to create those performance enhancing and sustainable cultures.
In this second diagram below we can see at the start of the journey on the left hand side the business and organization skills followed by the strategic thinking, vision and direction. This is the standard content of an MBA, an in-corporate graduate programme and traditional leadership programs.
And while an important foundation and threshold for good leadership, this alone will not make you a great leader.
So the next stage in the journey is emotionally intelligence, which is about managing one’s own emotions and learning the right behaviors. This enables leaders to choose the right leadership styles to use in which circumstance and through that developing a performance enhancing culture.
That’s what we call the intermediate level. And then the advanced level is the ethical or spiritual intelligence, where we learn to bring our values to full consciousness, to improve our judgment, and lead beyond the ego.
So let’s just break this down a little more. If we now focus on the intermediate level (REAL 1), first of all there is the need to increase awareness of self and others and of the world. And that includes simple things like what is the order of importance of the five senses, for you as an individual? What is the importance of vision versus hearing or touch in your life? And digging a little deeper, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you feel or think your way through problems?
I think many people will have been through that kind of learning but quite often we have not embedded the learning and forget most of it, and therefore don’t bring it to our full consciousness. The next is to learn to manage our emotions. We need to understand the process so we realise we cannot stop an emotion occurring but we can learn to recognise, acknowledge and then manage that emotion for the benefit of ourselves and others.
One of the key things we discovered is that most leaders are good at one or two leadership styles. Yet to be a really good leader you need to have six leadership styles. And the only way that you can be competent in all six leadership styles is to learn or improve certain behaviors because all styles are behaviorally related. And it’s often simply a question of identifying those two or three granular behaviors that would have the greatest impact on making you or me a better leader.
John Knights is Chair of LeaderShape Global and lead author of “Leading Beyond The Ego: How to Become a Transpersonal Leader”, published by Routledge in March 2018. After a career as a senior international corporate executive and serial entrepreneur, John’s life changed when he learned to coach and then facilitate groups of chief executives to support them continue their development. This, plus the experience and research of working with many other leaders over the last 20 years, as well as a reflection on his own career, provide the basis for John and his colleagues to develop the Transpersonal Leadership journey.