Peace Leadership: As Within, So Without

by Lisa Berkley

We cannot walk far and fast collectively if we cannot walk individually, on our own two feet.  To contribute to co-creating new social realities, we have only one instrument: ourselves.  We cannot rely on others to effect change for us; nor can we, without violence, get others to change. If we want to exercise leadership in helping others progress from falling to stumbling to walking, we must be able to do so ourselves.  If we want to exercise leadership in a changing world, we must be willing to change ourselves.” (Kahane, 2010, p.127)

Peace Leadership: As Within, So Without

Humanity faces serious issues, many of which must be addressed on a collective or internationally cooperative level.  Concerns of global warming, natural resource scarcity and a greater segregation between the “haves” and the “have-nots” are prevalent across the planet. Violent conflict and wars are widespread; according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s 2013 Global Peace Index, The world has become 5% less peaceful since 2008 (Vision of Humanity, 2014).

Human beings have become both deeply connected and frighteningly isolated.  Social media and the web have given us the ability to “reach out and connect” to almost anyone, anywhere in the world.  Yet we often do so in the privacy of our own home or office.  The connection is contingent upon the touch of a button, electrical current, or bandwidth, not the connection of eyes, or the warmth of a hand or an embrace. According to WHO (the World Health Organization) (2013a) despite all of our societal advancements, global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past 45 years. Additionally, WHO (2013b) has discovered that globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression; and this number is rapidly on the rise.

Heuristic and anecdotal evidence suggest that incorporating or applying emotional, spiritual, somatic, or social intelligence to policy making is taboo, considered too “soft,” and/or irrelevant. Yet, each of these intelligences plays a significant role in being human. So, how do we change the conversation so that they can be reflected within the governance and security sectors?

Leadership is about learning how to shape the future, or create new realities.  To do this requires the capacity to unite the separated (Jaworski, 2011, p. 182).  This concept is in direct contrast to how our present day social systems are structured. Much of today’s realpolitik—or fear-based—social structures are rooted in the early historical efforts of many western nations, to establish formal, centralized, rigid bureaucratic organizations such as large military, religious, and feudal organizations, such as the Roman Army, Catholic Church, and Kingdom of England (Daft, 2001). One might argue these types of constructs were intended to create unity and organization.  However, it could just as easily be argued that the primary benefit of bureaucratic systems and leading by fear ensures minimum levels of effort, organizational commitment, and performance, and creates an environment devoid of personal responsibility. People can be prevented from feeling good about their work which in turn leads to avoidance behavior, including feelings of powerlessness and low confidence, low commitment, enthusiasm, and imagination (Ryan & Oestreich, 1991). Most importantly is the effect of reduced trust and communication so that important problems and issues are hidden or suppressed (Fry, 2003, Nyhan, 2000).

The ultimate goal of a peace leader is to support our global evolution toward a world of peace and dignity.  For this to occur, peace leadership i.e., a unique leadership style—the foundation of which is dignity, care, compassion, and self-awareness—must support the growth of these qualities into mainstream consciousness.   Additionally, for a peace leader to implement long-term or lasting change, she must empower each individual and support her to become involved in the betterment of her community. When a person becomes a stakeholder within their community, they will take a responsibility, maintain a vested interest, and come up with practical, creative solutions when problems arise (Kusy & McBain, 2000; Owen, 2008).  “Empowerment of self is intimately wrapped up with the empowerment of others through creating community.  Empowerment involves mutual dependence. Peacemaking understands empowerment as emerging in interdependent relationships and contributing back to the growth of others in the community” (Lederach, 1995, p. 21).

Peace leadership is rooted in our ability to heal ourselves and, by default, our community.  A peace leader must draw from emotional, somatic, spiritual, and social intelligences to create an environment of collaboration, transparency, care, and dignity.  As the often referred to Buddhist perspective suggests: Peace begins from within—at the level of the individual. To achieve world peace, make peace with yourself.  From there you will make peace within your family, followed by peace in your village, then your community.  Next will be peace in the nation, eventually there will be peace in the world (Naht Hanh, 2004; Kahane, 2010).




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