Charlie Efford on The Chain of Conscious Leaders


A Chain of Conscious Leaders

Imagine you have spent your whole life living on a mountain in an equatorial jungle. At the base of the mountain, the vegetation is dense, dark and oppressive. The people who live there rarely see the light and have no understanding of space and openness. You live higher up the mountain. Your people were curious about the slope and willing to make the climb. They found open spaces, fewer trees and came to know the moon and the stars. There are people who live higher up the mountain than you. They live above the tree line and can see beyond the forest. They know they can follow the mountain ridges to explore new worlds. They watch the sun rise and dream about the ocean. The more enlightened high mountain people, remembering where they came from, want to share their knowledge with everyone else.

The more enlightened high mountain people want to share their knowledge with everyone else.

When they talk to the deep forest people they are met with a mixture of suspicion and amazement. They use language and words that have no meaning in the deep forest. Talk of new worlds and open horizons make no sense. They are treated kindly but nothing changes.

When they talk to the open forest people they are received with curiosity. They understand what exploration means and are inspired by what they hear. Many think about climbing higher; some even leave their homes and start the journey.

They want to reach the deep forest people but don’t know how to communicate with them

The enlightened high mountain people are puzzled at how different the responses have been. They want to reach the deep forest people but don’t know how to communicate with them. A wise open forest person hears the discussion and has an idea. She thinks the deep forest people will listen to her if she talks about moving up to the open forest (making no mention about the wider world). It works, and some in the deep forest are curious enough to start their climb.

I hope by now you can see where this story is going.

The mountain is a metaphor for different levels of consciousness

There are a number of consciousness models which describe these levels, including Spiral Dynamics and The Barrett model. The colour coding and the descriptions vary, but each has a transformation point where awareness shifts from interest in ‘Self’ to service to ‘Others’.

We need a chain of leaders

We need enlightened leaders who are willing to explore and know the higher levels of consciousness. We need those who are willing to serve from this vantage point. These pioneers mark out the ground for the rest of us to follow. They are rarely understood or seen as having any relevance by those who are less conscious. The things they have experienced are incomprehensible to those who live in the ‘real world’.

If you believe, like me, that there are significant benefits for a world that is more conscious, then we need a way to translate the knowing of the pioneers so that more people can understand and perhaps be inspired to follow.

To achieve this, I think we need a chain of leaders, each living at their own level of consciousness. They will be willing to develop those who follow and learn from those further along the path. The gurus teach the wise ones. The wise ones teach the people who want to serve and they in turn teach those who want to learn. The chain goes on. This way of working allows people to expand their circle of awareness with the support of those who understand what comes next. They are not being asked to make significant leaps into the unknown – although some may choose this path. This model also creates a living system where everyone is contributing and taking responsibility for their part.

……a differentiation between the formal leadership hierarchy and the levels of conscious leadership.

In an organisation, this approach will lead to a differentiation between the formal leadership hierarchy and the levels of conscious leadership. Seniority need not equate with consciousness. A practical way to address this possibility is to create a network of coaches throughout the organisation. Coaches chosen for their ability to help and inspire others can operate at any level in the formal hierarchy. Their role is to help people grow and become more conscious.

When there is already enlightened leadership at the top, coaches can help bridge the gap between an inspired vision and the practical realities of daily lives. Having a route for people to grow and develop their consciousness allows transformation to take place throughout the organisation.

This, of course, is so much more powerful than trying to impose a change programme from the top of the mountain.

With heart,

Charlie Efford