I was recently at the Spirituality. Leadership and Management Conference where I facilitated a short workshop called ‘The Three Stories of your life and leadership”. The workshop based on an approach to life and leadership I am calling Purposeful Leadership - an approach to leadership that calls upon leaders to ‘lead from the inside out’ in traversing the complexity of social systems in service of the profound and transformative change needed for humanity. It is an approach to leadership deeply grounded in conscious and intentional ways of leading self and others. The following BLOG Post outlines the three stories ‘frame’ underpinning Purposeful Leadership.Each of us live three stories that are simultaneously told as we navigate the landscape of our life, work and leadership:
- our Purpose (with a capital ‘P’) story;
- our purpose story;
- our ego story.
Our Purpose (with an upper case ‘P’)
Disengagement with life, work and our unique leadership ‘signature’ occurs as a result of disconnecting with our Purpose. Indeed, many leaders are not even aware of how their Purpose can inform the purpose of their leadership and often navigate life’s many choices in ways that directly contradict its fulfillment. However, indicators of our Purpose are ever present with an open-ended invitation to reconnect and re-align with it.
Being and becoming more present to our Purpose allows us to be in dialogue with our soul in each and every moment, and through this ‘inner dialogue’ we experience greater joy, gratitude and self-understanding in how we lead self and others in life and work.
“A person’s Purpose is just like water – fluid, nourishing, and hard to see into the depth of (and scarce when you really need it!). And just as water, it can slip through a one’s fingers if they try and grasp at it too tightly.
As I learn to how to better hold my Purpose lightly and to look upon it gently – just like we need to cup water in order to hold onto it – it reflects back to me with great clarity. Even more, ‘cupping’ my Purpose lightly in my hands reflects myself back to me.”
- Richard Harmer
If we experience ourselves in our true self-existing condition, we will see that what we actually are is a being of light. This is our True Nature – our Purpose with a capital ‘P’.
As explained by A. H. Almaas, author and spiritual teacher who writes about and teaches a mystical approach informed by modern psychology and therapy, our true-self condition is our True Nature.
“We are beings of light in the fluid state—completely frictionless, completely luminous, totally radiant and free. Now, everybody knows that because light has no mass and no weight, gravity does not affect it. So, in our True Nature, we have no heaviness, no thickness, no weight. We are substantial only in the sense that fluid light has a fullness, a bodyness to it. But that fullness, that substantiality, is completely light and smooth. That is the nature of awareness. And because it is light, it doesn’t help us see—it is what sees, it is what perceives. Thus light, awareness, consciousness, perception, sensitivity are all the same thing. (p. 153) ”
A. H. Almaas’ description of our True Nature reveals three core aspects of a leader’s (capital ‘P’) Purpose:
- There is a sense of effortlessness to a leader’s Purpose;
- There is a sense of abundance in leading from Purpose; and
- The experience of a leader’s Purpose as outside of space and time – that is, it is free of context, content and form.
In a similar vain, Marc Gafni, Rabbi, author and spiritual teacher, speaks of one’s Soul Print as:
“The light of God is the soul of a human being … the unique expression of divinity that is you and no one else in the entire world, the expression that I call the soul print. Soul print is the light that you – and only you – were born to shine in this world. (p. xxiv) ”
Gafni also states that a person’s Soul Print is:
“… the sum culmination of all of their yesterdays into the earliest crevices of childhood and perhaps even before, and it includes their successes and especially their failures. It includes a our fears, fragility, and vulnerability as well as a our grandiosity and larger-than-life yearnings. (p. 23) ”
Gafni defines one’s Soul Print as made up of our dreams and destiny both lived and unlived, conscious and not yet conscious. Following this definition, therefore, a leader’s (capital ‘P’) Purpose encompasses his or her past and present actuality and future potentiality – all of which is available to him or her in the present moment.
Our purpose (with a lower case ‘p’)
“I thought of the old Latin root of the word desire, meaning de sider, of the stars. To have desire in life literally means to keep your star in sight, to follow a glimmer, a beacon, a disappearing will-o’ -the-wisp over the horizon into some place you cannot yet fully imagine. A deeply help desire is a star that is particularly your own; it might disappear for a while, but when the skies clear we catch sight of it again and recognise the glimmer. (p.78)”
These words by David Whyte, Irish author and poet, describe each of our individual held purposes; that deeply held star that is particularly your own that is over the horizon; a future possibility that you cannot yet fully imagine, but which you have strong felt sense to be true; and a leader’s ‘true north’ star.
Put simply, our purpose (with a lower case ‘p)’ is how we manifest our Purpose in time and space; that is, within context, content and form. It is how we bring the very essence of our True Nature and unique Soul Print – with effortlessness and abundance – to each moment in service of our unique contribution to the world.
The concept of one’s unique purpose or contribution for the world is not a new concept. In the words of Patañjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras (in approximately 150 to 200 BCE):
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, an you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.”
For the Purposeful Leader, purpose is how he or she manifests their Purpose (the essence of their unique leadership ‘signature’) within the context in which they lead; in relation to the content of their life, work and leadership; and in the form that leadership takes in each moment. It is an approach to leading that ‘births’ a leader’s Purpose in the present moment in ways that transcends limitations and expands possibilities in every direction.
Although our (lower case) purpose is manifest in time and space, it is not dependent upon a leader’s title or status within a social system. Rather, a person’s purpose focuses on developing his or her person’s deep sense of personal resonance – a leader’s ‘ways be being’ in life, work and leadership.
Purposeful Leadership is an approach to leadership where the leader knows from deep within that ‘they are enough’. Why? Because they are leading themselves and others from their Purpose: their True Nature – their luminous brilliance – in ways that draw upon the leader’s realised and yet to be realised Soul Print.
Purposeful Leadership is following the strong felt sense that a leader’s life, work and leadership is ‘on the right path’ and that the various aspects (that is, context, content and form) of their present moment experience are aligned with that Purposeful path.
The spark that signals the bringing together of our Purpose and purpose
Taken together, a leader’s Purpose and purpose speak to how they are able to step fully into our True Nature in each moment and then lead from that place in ways that manifest conscious, intentional and purposeful action. It is the bringing together of these two powerful life stories that provides the magic – the ‘spark’ – the both guides and drives the Purposeful Leader in manifesting their unique contribution for the world.
Our ego both enables us to realise our highest potential – returning us home to our True Nature through a full appreciation of our Soul Print – and can also hinder us in manifesting our purpose.
A strong and healthy ego is an important aspect of experiencing a fulfilling life – both within and beyond work. For example, a healthy ego results in the leader experiencing strong self-worth, self-belief and self-confidence. And there is a real potency in having these experiences in leading self and others through times of change and transformation.
However, in its negative form ego is manifest in attitudes and actions of scarcity and the seeking of self-validation through a dependence on others. As A. H. Almaas states: “Ego is the ignorance of how reality [our True Nature] really works … The divisive strategies of the ego make us callous – they move us further away from Being.”
Our ego story often results in a leader feeling less than because by its very nature the ego compares. And in that comparison we are either ‘more than’ or ‘less than’.
Leading from ego blinds us to the True Nature of reality; it diminishes our capacity for compassion for self (and others); and, it separates us from the Oneness of all that is and could be in each moment.
 Almaas, A. H. (2008). The unfolding now: Realizing your True Nature through the practice of presence.
 Gafni, M. (2001). Soul prints: Your path to fulfillment.
 Gafni, M. (2001). Soul prints: Your path to fulfillment.
 Whyte, D. 2001). Crossing the unknown sea: Work as a pilgrimage of identity.
 Of course, A.H. Almaas suggests that it is the transcendence of ego (i.e., the dissolving of self) that is what returns us to True Nature.