An African proverb that has been cited many times in the last few years says, “If you want to go fast, travel alone, if you want to go far, travel together.” The route to sustainable development is a long and winding road. We can only travel together. I believe that a contribution to more sustainable action in the world requires parallel development of our inner resourcefulness, reflection, mindfulness and its expression in the outer world as redefined leadership contribution. While the inner process can – but must not be – done alone, the outer journey requires collective leadership. When we have come this far, we can sense that there is interdependence between inner changes in consciousness and the development of collective consciousness.
Leadership for sustainability has more impact when it is grounded in a process of inner transformation. Outer and inner development need one another and have a reciprocal effect – if one is missing, the other is lost or falls short of its potential. But why collective leadership? Because leading for sustainability is not an act in isolation, neither is it a heroic contribution others willingly need to follow. It requires leadership by various individuals towards a similar goal on a collective scale, sometimes without knowing about one another, rarely with central coordination and always as a collective learning journey.
It is also the acknowledgement that the capacity for leading, initiating, facilitating and sustaining the construction of meaningful futures is enfolded in all of us. Some take it up, others not; some are more skilled, others less so. But the inherent capacity resides in all of us. Collective leadership, then, is more than collaboratively doing things together as leader or aiming at something ensuring collective input. It is taking on our leadership responsibility with a flexibility and awareness that is in line with what we sense is needed. We hold our leadership in an inner space of responsiveness and contribution to the common good with no need to excel or impose. We cultivate our capacity to see future possibilities and facilitate innovation and inventiveness. Our strength rests on our mindfulness because we have taken steps to access the whole of humanity in our own humanity first. As a result we become caring, compassionate and more deeply concerned with the collective good.
Take a deep dive into the application of collective leadership by reading The Art of Leading Collectively.