I’ve just sat through nearly a dozen presentations on ethical leadership in the past week, with local leaders in the Pacific Northwest from a variety of backgrounds and credentials, most, if not all, from historically underserved communities. I’ve survived my first twelve months in the doctorate program in leadership, with ample time to reflect on what it means to lead in today’s “modern” world. And, quite honestly, as a precocious child prepositioned to metacognition and precognition, I’ve had over five decades to ponder leadership.
Due to the massive human population of brains and minds, there is a massive pool of leadership theories, constructs, and traits. (Albeit most based on able-bodied, white privileged male experiences in Western society capitalistic nations.) That said, there is an emerging thread of best leadership practices weaving through the plethora of espoused values.
Organizational leadership is in a transitioning state with those in authority recognizing it is a business imperative, both economically and ethically, to hold space for our humanity.
As technology expands, many of us, especially citizens born before the computer and Internet revolution, are faced with a duality: the staunch but reluctant pull to connect more and more through electronic devices, and less and less through in-person or real-time encounters. Popular brick-and-mortar gathering places are sparse. Just happen by a shopping mall. The act of approaching a stop sign or stop light, whether crossing a street or behind the wheel, is littered with preoccupied and disengaged humans. Grocery carts come to a halt in unpredicted places with the ding of a phone, their owners seemingly removed from the aisle way. As it is, the majority of the Western world has their veins all but wired into tech devices. Screens and text, and random words of strangers, have replaced traditional human encounters.
Zzzzzzooming into online meetings is akin to a circus act: distorted floating heads obscured flickering backgrounds with odd auras, and magical images in which what is behind the human back is suddenly facing forward. There, in those virtual rooms, I mourn the nostalgic relics: the folded paper from passing notes.
We’re bombarded with technology-induced fatigue. Sensory overload and brain overload often mark the end of our days. We’ve moved away from natural and nature; morphed and removed ourselves from organic human relationships. Engaged, interactive, live human interactions, those in-person connections that provide the benefits only real, physical human contact can provide, are markedly endangered. The couch has replaced the dinner table. TikTok, parental guidance. Twitter, small talk. Instagram, the neighbor. Yes, technology has advanced our causes, given voice to some, and connected us globally in ways unimaginable. No doubt. Case in point, The Autistic Traits List that I scribed over a decade ago is now recirculating, passing the proverbial baton from Generation X to Generation Z, and beyond. Technology connects us through differences: the young and elders, the red and the blue. It connects us to a degree. But only to a degree. There are many gaps and missing lines. Technology also spawns ruthless division and staunch binary outlooks: rough-edged comments, gaslighting, opinion blasting. Pick your passive-aggressive or angry weapon of choice.
Have you, like I, experienced the emotion of self-shame and mindful query, after the undeniable moment of feeling disgust for a stranger you haven’t known for more than a sentence?
Our world is bleeding for acceptance and belonging in the real-world sense. Not a universe that demands followers and likes. Not one that is predicated on an imaginary smiling face or hundreds of shares. I argue that our planet is dying in part because our humanness is dying. We’re missing degrees of connection. The important degrees that aren’t dictated by algorithms of reality.
What are we to do as leaders of organizations and communities? I believe it is a time for radical leaders. A time for radical approaches to creating containers to hold our humanity. I claim it’s time to place humanity front and center. We need a space for our human condition. We need a place for our suffering–ample space for reflection and healing amongst other humans. I am long past tired of reviewing the latest diagrams of successful leadership. The four-framed boxes within boxes with adjectives, acronyms, and trendy trends. The truth and solution are facing us straight in the mirror, straight in our selfies: humans.
The radical organizational leader of tomorrow, the CEO, the manager, the executive team member, will find ongoing resources to build ongoing community.
We as a people can’t eradicate suffering, any more than we can eradicate differences. But we can pull together to begin to formulate ways to eradicate loneliness, isolation, and loss of hope. We can begin to break down the barriers to union and communion and belonging. Our workplaces and neighborhoods grant us the opportunities to re-engage, starting now. Remote workers might choose local hangouts based on demographics. Larger corporations, retreats. Communities, block parties. It’s time to go knock on your neighbor’s door, even the one that has the annoying barking dog; even the one who has no roof over their head.
We have much healing to do as a family. It’s time to gather. We need to bring in the young with the elders, the downtrodden with the encouragers, the disengaged with the engaged. We need to scramble fast to rediscover live human physical contact and connection, despite the inherent or perceived dangers.
Humanity is endangered.
Did I say I’m tired of formulated ideals of leadership theory? It’s worth mentioning again. At the foundation of ethical and transformative leadership is the goodwill of the people. It makes sense to put humanity at the core of leadership. Without our emotional strength, fed hearts, and nurtured callings and minds, we wither.
On the side of logic, with “the great resignation” and reports of up to 50% of workers considering leaving their current place of employment, it’s time to be radical or it’s time to fold your cards and move on.
What I call “expired speak” might dictate we are shedding the more “masculine” aspects of leadership. “Radical speak” dictates we are arising from the ashes toward a nonbinary approach to leadership: Radical leaders that not only balance the KPIs and the budget, the offering basket and hymns, the playground and teacher union, but leaders who nourish the human ecosystem and align missions and vision with a better future for humanity.
My name is Marcelle Ciampi. My LinkedIn profile provides more information. You can find me here: Diversity With Dignity Global Roundtable