21st Century Leader Social

Leadership in the 21st Century Is an Inside-out Journey

Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership is the path we all must follow in the 21st century.

— Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus, Visa

When I left my corporate job in 2009, intending to discover better ways of introducing change to improve organizations, I didn’t realize what it would set in motion. In hindsight, I realized I had started on a path many call an “inner-leader journey.”

Perhaps one of the most well-known and recognized authorities on that journey is Joseph Jaworski, author of Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership and two other books and chairman of Generon International. In Synchronicity, Jaworski shares the story of his escape from an inauthentic life and his journey to a deeper understanding of leadership. Leadership, he discovered, has more to do with our being — our total orientation of character and consciousness — than with what we do.

From Jaworski, we learn that people and organizations can pass through a journey of inner transformation that enables them to shape the future instead of simply responding to events and circumstances. In Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, Carl Jung defined synchronicity as a “meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” In effect, leaders can learn how to create the conditions for “predictable miracles,” or synchronicity.

One of the most intriguing things we learn from Jaworski is that anyone can choose to be a leader through new capacities that are brought forward when we begin the inner journey. This shifts the conversation on leadership beyond formal power hierarchies. And increasingly in today’s world, hierarchies are weakening throughout most businesses and organizations. Much of the work today now occurs through informal networks and self-managed teams that form, do the work remotely, then dissolve, making the need for leadership at every level and in every person even more critical.

Think and Act in New Ways

We also learn that most of us aren’t very good at perceiving reality as it is. Rather, we relate to internal remembrances of our own history evoked by whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. When we open ourselves up to begin an inner transformation, we begin to see things as they truly are. When we see what is true, we allow something new to show up. We begin to think and act in new ways and interact differently with others. Change happens naturally as a consequence and flows through us to our outer experience.

In 2014, when I read Jaworski’s Synchronicity, I recognized immediately that it was my journey as well. I sought him out and began to learn from him. Since then, I have met many others who are traveling this path, and I have helped others get on the same path.

The inner-leader journey begins within yourself and your state of being. In a recent survey I conducted, one hundred percent of the respondents strongly agree or agree with this statement:

By enhancing our ability to look and listen within, we access greater awareness and creative power to shape our world and be a force for good. 

Frankly, I was a bit surprised at the level of support for this statement. However, my experience is that most people publicly support traditional business values (more growth, profits, and performance) but privately yearn for a softer, more humanistic, more sustainable approach to work and business.

The survey also revealed that 72% of respondents agree with Dee Hock, founder and CEO Emeritus of Visa International, who said: “Synchronicity [the inner path of leadership] is the path we all must follow in the 21st century.”

Having traveled this path myself, I agree. Again, I found the level of support among respondents surprising, especially since these statements expand the scope to include everyone. While the inner path of leadership is not a mainstream business topic, it is a form of leadership that I have observed is gaining more awareness as people become disenchanted with existing forms of leadership and a younger generation moves into leadership positions.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt taken and adapted from our article, The 21st Team Member Is a Leader of One: Themselves, published in the Cutter Amplify Journal. A copy of the article is available from Cutter, or contact Bill Fox to request a copy.