“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” This is a quote by Desmond Tutu, the archbishop, human rights activist and 1984 Nobel peace prize winner, and refers to the value of inclusion. To embrace human beings equally, benevolently and with respect.
There are tons of books and articles that promote different perspectives on what good leadership is. When I coach my colleagues in the USA, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and Denmark, I’m less occupied by the complexity described by these many recommendations because good leadership is not necessarily complex – especially not now.
Leadership is, in the most elementary form, when people fundamentally require compassion, stability, and care, defined as “leadership of light.”
So, what is involved in “leadership of light”? It means initially uncovering what is light in leadership, in contrast to darkness in leadership, to successfully hire and promote the right “light” people. These “light” people are, as in Desmond Tutu’s quote, unselfish in their actions, and understand that their “humanity is bound up in yours.”
Light people, first and foremost, see themselves as humbly connected to other people. They consistently walk the extra mile for their fellow humans. They build security through leadership because they lead the way toward decisions that benefit the organization rather than themselves. Light people have a special energy surrounding them with the humane as their guiding star.
We need to return to being able to differentiate between light and darkness in leadership to be able to scale the compassionate leadership that is needed for psychological safety. But that requires a conscious effort.
Not necessarily consciousness in the form of company values, but consciousness to choose the right composition of people at leadership level who, through their actions, light up and define the values.
A talented coach once told me, “Stand up for what you want. Don’t fight what you don’t want. “
Looking back at my career, I realize that I have been fighting too much. Fighting for the light. Because I have been in organizations where peace was an exception and fighting is the norm – and looking back, it has become clear to me how the investment in energy is substantially different between fighting for what you dislike compared to standing up for what you want.
A strength for global leaders these days will, therefore, be if they, to a greater extent, become aware of what constitutes light and darkness in leadership. What grows themselves and their colleagues and what grows the company.
It is a strength if the leaders become crystal clear about their leadership project and are open to understanding the extent to which their egos drive their projects, and precisely what parts of projects are driven by their egos.
Understanding that will help clarify what we shed light on and what we allow to live in the shadows. Consciousness is scaling light. Lack of consciousness, or so-called sedation, scales darkness. The time has come to expand the consciousness towards what each of us contributes with – especially when we talk about being “human together.”
Founder of the Global Voices project. Belongingness officer and an experienced People Executive.