Thought Leader : New wisdom at work

The challenge of successfully leading in the face of an ever-increasing rate of change requires new wisdom in the workplace. All leaders can benefit from Wisdom at Work approach which can enable them to navigate uncharted territory and meet the demand for ethical excellence and true sustainability. Yet, many managers are not yet grasping the opportunity to use powerful tools for moving their organisations forward with greater awareness and effectiveness.
According to most wisdom traditions, none of us are as aware and effective as we could be. Wisdom at Work draws on philosophy, psychology and spirituality to support people individually and collectively to fulfil their potential for greater awareness and making greater difference in the world. It is transformational approach that yields tremendous benefits for employees, customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.
What does it involve? The driver is developing wise leaders throughout the organisation: leaders who demonstrate transformation in themselves and evoke transformation in others. In doing so, they attract and retain the best staff, engender customer loyalty, win more support from other stakeholders and deliver increased economic returns.
A foundation principle for Wisdom at Work is the recognition of interconnectedness. By encouraging an ethic of care, Wisdom at Work challenges the dominant worldview that reduces people to independent and solely self-interested economic units, and discounts the value of the environment. Where an ethic of care is present, multi-dimensional wellbeing – spiritual, cultural, social, environmental and economic – occurs through better personal relationships and better relationships with the natural world.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that humans become human through relationships and that to “be” is to “belong”. Wisdom at Work requires understanding that “I belong, therefore I am”. Service is key to belonging. In serving others, one is serving one’s extended self; and through relationships of service, people can fulfil what psychologist Abraham Maslow described as their potential for self-actualisation.
Management researchers Bolman and Deal encourage “leading with soul”. They are not promoting religion, but simply having genuine concern for the human spirit. They refer to the dictionary definition of spirit as “the intelligent or immaterial part of man”, “the animating or vital principal in living things,” and “the moral nature of humanity”. With this in mind, leaders are encouraged to help people reflect upon and answer key questions such as: “What is the purpose of my life and of our collective existence? What ethical principles should we follow? What legacy will we leave?”
The challenge of operationalising this approach has led international academics to New Zealand. Here, practices such as karakia at the start of business meetings are being celebrated as exemplifying new way forward. In setting the intention for the meeting, karakia creates pact between the spiritual world and the physical world.
My research into Māori business practices has highlighted the importance of each party really knowing the other. This requires an investment of time and authentic engagement with each other. When both sides of an engagement focus attention on finding out who the others really are, they establish genuine platform for connection, recognition, appreciation and understanding.
The art of practising presence is also integral to being Wise At Work. The contemporary manager can, through reflective practices, develop formidable ability to gather and evaluate information, solve new problems and achieve deeper understanding of new situations.
Wisdom at Work leads to individual and collective awakening, which creates increased wealth and wellbeing. Transformational leaders committed to this challenge are developing new way of being and navigating towards an ethical and sustainable future for business and society. It’s time to take the challenge.

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