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Transpersonal Leadership

AS a McKinsey & Company article stated in late March 2020:

“What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them look ahead.”

McKinsey cites 5 practices or mindsets that will enable leaders to bring their organizations through any turbulent times. This article will show how those who develop as transpersonal leaders are those who are best prepared to do this.

Transpersonal Leadership is a concept that my colleagues and I at LeaderShape Global have been developing for over 10 years. It is an approach that was born out of many years’ experience as corporate leaders ourselves and our experience developing organizational leaders using Emotional Intelligence approaches.

We realized that leaders could be emotionally intelligent but also manipulative and self-serving. This phenomenon is driven by excessive egos that want power, prestige, recognition, and reward. While there is nothing wrong with these drivers, per se, when they are the dominant force in decisions, rather than the needs of the organization and its stakeholders (including the community and the planet), then the problems arise. This is when the incidence of corporate scandals increases, as we have all seen in recent years. A Transpersonal Leader operates beyond their own ego and personal drivers and balances the needs of all the organization’s stakeholders. This means they are making decisions in full consciousness of their sense of purpose, ethics, and values.


This approach self-evidently enables a mindset that offers a long-term perspective. Because, if leaders are balancing the needs of stakeholders in a values-conscious way, they will not cut corners or put short term gains at the forefront of decisions. This meets the need to slow down and not overreact. It naturally gives them the tendency to look ahead at or beyond the immediate horizon. It also means that leaders whose ego is not in the driving seat will have the humility to appreciate that in a crisis (especially), they do not have all the answers and that Leadership and decision-making needs to be distributed to those who have the best knowledge and information. Those who are driven by their ego, for example, will take center stage and proclaim to have the answers, ignoring or side-lining the experts who could give a more realistic assessment of a situation, managing people’s expectations. The leader who is transpersonal will value the expertise of those around and enable that to be disseminated to achieve the best outcome.

“During a crisis, leaders must relinquish the belief that a top-down response will engender stability.” —McKinsey

Involve More People

The next area to consider is the crucial importance of distributed Leadership, which follows naturally from the transpersonal perspective. To explain further, in a crisis, using diverse perspectives enables the unthinkable to be brought to the table, it avoids groupthink and enables more effective solutions. One way to devolve leadership in times of crisis is through the organization of a network of teams that can tackle discrete responsibilities and are empowered to communicate with each other to create a complete picture before coming to decisions. Decisions that they are authorized to take. That’s right, without a need for approval from the top.

To achieve this requires not just the humility previously referred to but also transparency, trust, and effective communication. A transpersonal leader has travelled a road where these attributes have been developed, alongside a honed appreciation of how to improve judgment and decision making. The transpersonal leader learns that we have 5 decision-making processes, of which only one is conscious. Harnessing and bringing into greater awareness, the processes that lie below consciousness enables them to detach from their emotional reactions or unconscious biases. This allows them to take a pause, stand back and allow the distributed responsibilities to be exercised by teams that they have assembled, using all these capacities.

5 decision-making processThis same approach can enable a group to be assembled to look at preparedness for the post-crisis recovery. The heightened awareness of the transpersonal leader means they can be freed up from the constraints of dealing with the details of the immediate challenges of the crisis itself. Thus, the transpersonal leader can set the ‘future-focused’ group up with the autonomy to use their fully conscious decision-making processes to create a myriad of ‘what if’ options. From this diverse and open thinking comes an agility to take the best actions, as areas of clarity emerge.

So, the transpersonal leader can use their own touchstone of values and self-determination to have the confidence in backing decisions and making any tough calls along the way. Such a leader will appreciate the level of thinking from empowered teams of experts. This shared understanding of how well-considered decisions are made results in both sides trusting the other. The environment of psychological safety and optimism which follows from these principles, becomes an underpinning enabler.

“Leaders with the right temperament and character are necessary during times of uncertainty. They stay curious and flexible but can still make the tough calls, even if that makes them unpopular. They gather differing perspectives and then make the decisions, with the best interests of the organization (not their careers) in mind, without needing a full consensus.” —McKinsey

The Transpersonal Touchstone Explored

Each of us will have our own list of core values that we can populate the touchstone with. Here is one example from a leader. Some of the values on the left are integral to them; other things they are keen to develop. Which might yours be? The qualities on the right represent the way the transpersonal leader brings their values into the world and guides their actions.

Transpersonal Touchstone

Checking thinking and decisions against one’s own values and the transpersonal qualities is the foundation. This stepping back to gain clarity creates the sound mindset and behaviours that are indispensable in leading through and out the other side of any crisis. It allows boldness to be tempered with just enough prudence to maximize the upsides of the situation.

Anybody can travel the path to Transpersonal Leadership. The journey is ideally taken with the support of an accredited Transpersonal Leadership Coach. It is a path you can choose to follow to lead your organization out of the depths of a crisis through to the sunny uplands of recovery.

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Leading Forum
Danielle Grant is a Director of LeaderShape Global with many years’ experience coaching and facilitating programs at CEO and Director level. A former businesswoman, she is a thought leader in blended learning methodologies. Grant, John Knights, and Greg Young co-authored Leading Beyond The Ego: How to Become a Transpersonal Leader. For more information visit www.leadershapeglobal.com.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:17 PM
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