Following is a guest post from Alan E. Shelton, author of the new book Awakened Leadership. Through the story of his own personal journey from CEO to the ashram’s of India and back, he carries a message of hope that we truly can integrate our personal life, our spiritual selves and our career here and now.
Corporations and Personal Development? It’s Happening!
It’s not unusual to read in today’s media how global companies are cast in the role of Darth Vader. And then we hear the common refrain “If only we could get them to work on themselves”. My message to you is that you are reading old news.
Personal development is being delivered every day into the corporate world because companies demand it. How do I know that? Let me tell you my story.
The Old Way of Separate Paths
At the tender age of 38, I had climbed the corporate mountain. I was a merger and acquisition expert, a CPA, the CEO of a large company, and sought after as a speaker. It wasn’t unusual that I would be quoted in The Wall Street Journal or seen in conversation with the luminaries of the day.
But something was wrong. Internally, I was a miserable man.
It took me some time to figure out how I wanted to deal with my internal misery. After a period of time I became, what we commonly would refer to as, a seeker. In the old corporate world there was no room for developmental seekers. Or so I thought. So I set out on my own personal journey to the ashrams of India. There, I did extensive work while meditating at the feet of the masters. I experienced the shifts that many do when working internally. Here in the west, we call this developmental maturity. In the east it’s referred to as awakening.
A Return to the Global Market
My new book, Awakened Leadership has just hit the marketplace. In it, I offer up my discovery upon returning to the business world after my time in India.
I have observed that seekers are looking for truth, while corporate types are looking for authenticity. I have also noticed that when it comes to executive leadership, most leaders are looking for a safe place to be great, whereas aspirants are seeking a place where they can fall into a revelation of ultimate truth. These pursuits are one and the same. If it is held that the entirety of the human drama, corporate or otherwise, is simply a stage for the development and expansion of its participants, then it must be true that managing corporate transactions offers the same platform for evolving consciousness as anything else does. Conversely, what has traditionally been considered to be the exclusive domain of the seeker extends beyond the walls of ashrams and the living rooms of the great teachers and gurus. The potential for living in what is known as the awakened or mature state is equally present in every domain of life.
Upon my return, and to my surprise, I found that companies in the new global economy were engaging in the same kind of work. What brought on this change? Is it true that one can pursue development while toiling in a global telecom?
The Need to Be Competitive
All companies intuitively understand that they must stand in comparison to the other companies with which they compete. The natural driver of this stance is to follow the path that attracts the best leaders. For, with the best leaders, they will have the best companies.
Two things happened in our world to bring awakening or personal development into the mainstream of leadership development. The first was the recognition that all human beings live in a state of mis-identification. To corporate leaders that means that unconscious and reactive personal behaviors can be triggered that will derail or destroy the purpose of the organization itself. When this became clear in the last ten years, all companies began to help their leaders identify and become aware of these reactive behaviors. They knew that any obstacle that could keep them behind in the corporate race must be addressed. But this is just the most selfish reason.
Attracting the New Generation
The second and bigger thing is the emerging generation of leaders and their demand. We all owe a debt of gratitude this new generation. This digital tribe of social media addicts has taken a stance that their activities must serve something bigger than ‘just me’. They are looking for ways to serve each other in a bigger way than ever before. Why does this matter to the corporate world? It is from this constituency of people, who want to serve a bigger purpose than their own self-interest, that corporations today must select their new leaders. In order to attract this passionate group, they must offer opportunities that give them a way to serve in the spirit of service. And that is where personal development within leadership has come into play.
It is in these companies where leaders are invited to work on their own personal unconscious and reactive characteristics that the newer generation is attracted to go. As a result, these companies are building a footprint in their own corporate structure to serve society in a way that is sustainable and developmental. Just the other day at a large outdoor equipment company, I heard a young leader say, “We are creating the next generation of conservationists”. I don’t have to tell you that this is not the normal footprint of passion that one used to find in old-style corporations.
Maturity and Performance
Now that I’ve returned to the corporate world, I’ve migrated my own experience into current leadership development theory. It is because I have had the courage, that the younger generation reflects so well, that large corporations are making investments in old seasoned executives like myself.
Have you noticed this new focus on personal development? How do you see that this trend will affect your personal life and your corporate career?
ALAN E. SHELTON is a leadership coach, speaker, blogger, and author. His groundbreaking book, Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery, integrates the corporate leadership and spiritual worlds through his message that awakening is the felt sense that your actions seamlessly reside in who you really are and move in a perfect flow. You can follow Alan on Twitter, like his Facebook page, and learn more about him at his website, www.AlanShelton.com