Are CEOs the new spiritual leaders of their communities in the 21st century?

Jun 16, 2023

From my 20 years of consulting and executive coaching experience, I think so, as do many of my colleagues and friends such as Norman Wolfe, author of The Living Organisation: Transforming Business to Create Extraordinary Results.

Leadership in the future needs to evolve towards approaches that are more personalised, predictive, participatory, and pluri-disciplinary – the 4 Ps, as I call them.

Being more personalised requires leaders to develop a higher sense of empathy and awareness, as leadership becomes even more situational and context-driven with wisdom as a shared capacity for making better choices and decisions.
Being predictive requires leaders to be able to anticipate mastering digital and data tools with a deeper knowledge and practice of artificial intelligence (AI) possibilities.

Taking a participatory approach requires that leaders have the ability to cooperate and mobilise differently, building on the power of the collective and betting on the intelligence of their people. And as the world we are living in is evolving extremely fast, a pluri-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary approach requires the integration and development of multiple know-how and intelligences, including artificial ones.

Data as the new gold

Life is increasingly becoming a digital eco-system impacted by AI in a world where data is the new gold. This hyper-connected and networked environment, unfortunately polluted by the tyranny of immediacy, brings unprecedented and paradoxical social challenges that make pleasure and wellbeing the new grail quest for many.

Despite evidence of a breakdown in trust caused by out-dated egoistic, hierarchical, and mechanistic styles of leadership still dominating many organisations, I am observing a promising shift in leadership mind-set and practices with the emergence of hybrid approaches based on symbiotic living systems principles. There is a new level of consciousness spreading with leaders who are developing qualities and skills to enable them to transform their organisations with courage and integrity, driven by a purpose beyond products and profits and the desire to positively impact the sustainable growth of people and the planet.

Leadership Wisdom

Based on the conversations that my colleagues and I have facilitated over the last 18 months in large global businesses, there is effectively a strong call for an evolution of the leadership focus. If we look at organisations as sustainable eco-systems rather than ego-systems, there are many different needs and requirements emerging.

At the personal level, a more meaningful and conscious way of being is required. At the team level, a more inclusive and caring way of working is needed. At the organisational level, a more connected and integrated way of relating is necessary. And at the societal level, a more symbiotic and harmonious way of living is essential.

I believe in a new breed of caring and daring leaders with an indefectible commitment to make a positive difference to the communities they interact with and the eco-systems they depend on.

There is definitely a new spirit emerging that is rapidly gaining ground. A new spirit embodied by some CEOs that embraces trust and cooperation over dominance and control. A new set of beliefs where compassion and care are not detrimental to performance and efficiency but at the heart of it.

Story living

Story telling is not enough anymore. Now, it is all about story living, a skill necessary for the leaders of the future to make purpose habitual and credible for all employees, as it becomes both a way of working and a way of living.
CEOs could then become spiritual leaders if they contribute effectively to the lasting development of a more harmonious world, starting with their own organisation role modelling of what a sustainable eco-system should look like.
It is time for a paradigm shift in leadership with the emergence of a Leadership wisdom culture.
CEOs, in this fast-paced and chaotic business environment where traditional boundaries related, for example, to functional title or formal authority are abolished, become alchemists creating the conditions and context for teams to win and thrive through innovation, transformation, and personalisation.

Starting points
I have framed the above as a starting point for the Companions for Leadership community to reflect with our global clients about what kind of leaders they are and want to be, what kind of legacy do they want to leave or contribute to?
I have been inspired by Dr Mark Jenner’s January 2018 article “Digital ERA Leadership: Enduring, Redefined, Augmented” in I appreciated his stance: “What endures in the digital era are the being aspects of leadership – purpose, authenticity, and courage. The thinking and acting dimensions, however, have to be redefined and augmented to enable a successful transition from analogue to digital era leadership.”
Only when CEOs become true spiritual leaders in their communities will they bring a new fervour, give a new impetus, and a real-life force to leadership and to the role of business in society.

Article updated from Cyril Legrand’s article “The Future of Leadership” published in the book “10 Everyday Trailblazers” by Mikaela Nyström – October 2019

Cyril Legrand

Partner & Leadership Companion, France

For over 20 years, Cyril has worked for large consumer-goods organisations especially in Asia, developing people and teams, and steering diverse groups successfully through tumultuous times. His ability to unite and transform, in situations of extreme pressure, has earned him a reputation of being a highly versatile and capable leader. Cyril himself has a thirst for knowledge and a belief in self-discovery and progress. He practices what he preaches – “collaborative action based on collective wisdom”. He has developed a range of highly effective leadership models and frameworks, and hugely enjoys the challenges that his work provides, often helping students on a pro-bono basis to address critical development issues.   

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