Visionary and Inspirational Leadership

‘I don’t really have a vision of where we’re heading’, said Natasha. ‘And I’m not able to give that vision to those who want to know about our work in the Academy.’

With that, it dawned on me that ‘visionary ‘and ‘inspirational’ are not the same, although I had tended to put them in the same basket. So often we explain ‘visionary’ in terms of the capacity to inspire.

If having and sharing a vision is inspirational, then inspiring people is what visionary leaders do.

So if you inspire people, you have all the makings of a visionary leader, right? Not so, I realized.

Inspiring people is not the same as sharing a vision. There are many ways to inspire people: by expressing beautiful stories and ideas, by exposing them to inspired art, music, or dance, by introducing them to a great book or movie, for instance, or by simply sharing what moves you. You can inspire them with your eloquence or your passion. But that doesn’t mean you are inspiring them with your vision – even if you are inspiring them in some way from your vision.

And not all visions inspire in the same way. We may have visions that are simple or humble – a vision of how or where we want to live, for instance, or how a derelict building might become a dream home.

Such visions may inspire us to action but they are not necessarily the great dreams and visions that will also inspire many other people.

Visions and Leaders

Visionary leadership presupposes that the leader has a vision that can inspire many of those in his or her sphere of influence and bring them into alignment with that vision.

But what is the relationship of that inspiration to the vision? Is it somehow intrinsic to the vision itself or is it an expression of the leader’s relationship to that vision?

I suspect it is something of both. And, besides the meeting of the vision and the visionary, there is a third element: a meeting of the vision with something in those who receive and share it. Great visions are timely.

Great visions speak to many people when they touch a need that has been unacknowledged and comes into new focus – such as Martin Luther Kings’ ‘I have a dream’ speech, in which he catches a mood and a moment to call for the end of discrimination and for a society in which there is racial equality.

Martin Luther King’s speech was a mix of the prepared and the spontaneous. Responding to a call from the audience to ‘tell them about the dream, Martin’ he departed from his prepared speech, but wove elements that he had already reflected upon and connected. There was a perfect meeting of a readiness in the mood of the nation to embrace a new sense of civil rights and King’s capacity to acknowledge that shift and be a channel for it.

How a dream is expressed makes a difference. Great dreams arise from a place within where individual and collective consciousness resonate.

A need and a possibility for deep transformation meet. The vision emerges like a crystallization of what had hitherto been half formed and unspoken within and between people into a clear and vibrant call to action.

Great dreams, timely dreams – when expressed from that fluid and unformed place within us where transformational impulses emerge – arrive infused with passion and a vital charge that sparks from the being of the leader to ignite the being of those who listen. The dream is shared.

Peter Wrycza, PhD, Moscow

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Transformational Turning Points

I just happened to sit next to Martin (not his real name) in the circle after the free movement in Ubud. He was a big man, with a wad of curly hair, above a lined and chiseled face, set with piercing ice-blue eyes, probably late 30s or early 40s. We began to chat and I discovered quickly that Martin had sold up his home in Copenhagen, and, in January, about 3 months ago had begun a journey to find himself and his true direction. He was writing about his own transformational journey.

Martin, a former journalist, confessed that he had been active in the music business, marketing, promoting in Copenhagen. He lived, worked, and played hard. Till about 3 years ago, he had been an alcoholic and drug addict. Sensing a process of deep transformation had begun and was still playing out in this tall man, I was curious to know more.’How had things shifted?’ I asked.

‘I’ve always gone beyond the boundaries others kept to. I felt that there was a juggernaut inside me hauling me in a certain direction that I couldn’t control. I would drink, party, further than others. And I guess I touched bottom.’

‘So what happened?’ I asked.

‘Well, although I could drink and take drugs to excess, I realized I couldn’t completely let go and just let things totally fall apart.’

‘So you chose for life?’ I offered. ‘Yes’, he said thoughtfully and definitely.

I asked Martin, if there had been a particular turning point, a before and an after. He was intrigued by the question, because he wasn’t sure and couldn’t find one, even though he had been writing about this period of his life.

It seems the transformation had happened gradually, partly consciously and partly in the subterranean flow of his experience. The realization that he couldn’t and didn’t want to go on in the old direction, that he needed to shift his life because he wanted to live seems to have ripened gradually inside until he could recognize and acknowledge it.

And as it became clearer inside, things began to happen in his world. It was as if his internal shift engendered a response in the larger field.

To begin with, someone he knew offered him a place to live, which took him out of his old scene, where pot-smoking friends were an unavoidable part of the daily routine. His benefactor also pointed him to a temporary job working with people who had severe mental problems. At this point, Martin was still drinking and taking drugs somewhat, but the work he was doing helped turn him around.

First, his focus shifted from himself to others, because some of the people he was working with had no control of basic bodily functions and were totally dependent on him. Second, he realized that he had to be totally present. Crazy folks have a way of knowing where other mortals are. If you’re out to lunch, they seize on it and all hell can break loose.

With this work and stumbling on a book by Louise Hay, the brakes were on the juggernaut and the process of transformation deepened. Without joining a 12-step programme, Martin, stopped taking drugs and drinking. He experienced relapses in social situations, but realized that he couldn’t easily drink in moderation. That process of learning about his limits, as I understand it, is not over yet. Martin began to explore alternatives, such as meditation and the free movement where I met him to balance his life. He had reached a point where he found that even small amounts of mind altering substances gave him relatively little in relation to the disruption that they caused in his sense of well-being and his ability to function effectively. The price to pay was not worth the lift any more.

So, still in an early phase of his world-journey, Martin was well on his way. What I learned from our conversation was how delicate the relation could be between conscious insight and the subterranean processes from which insight arise, and which they feed back into.

Martin didn’t have a Saul/Paul moment in which the whole direction of his life turned round. Rather, it was as if, still in a somewhat besozzled phase of his life, it gradually dawned on him that his Titanic was headed for an iceberg and that he didn’t want to sink. From that point the ship began to turn and fortunately there was enough time to avoid the iceberg. The icebergs too began to recede as warmer weather came to assist him. Now he is moving into clearer waters and while documenting where he has been, he is looking for his true course and destination.

It seems that sometimes it takes time for a decision, an understanding, a choice to ripen in us, and even once it crystallizes in our consciousness, there may be a further period before that choice is orienting our life concretely, before we start to act on it.

And the new steps we take may compete with the old habits and tendencies for a while, as we drift back or relapse to the old ways, before we can truly say we are on our path.

But fortunately, there is a mysterious and supportive responsiveness in our context to the choice for Life, which confirms and affirms that somehow we are not struggling in our separateness. Life hears us as we begin to harken to it.

As we chatted, it crossed my mind that Martin’s shift involved three cycles of deepening self-reflection. Firstly, there was the dawning almost inarticulate realization that he was at a fork in the road – one way led to utter self-destruction; the other towards a new life. Second, there was the growing conscious understanding of what was happening inside, and what he needed to do to support that growing shift. Third, there was his embarking on a journey out into the world to find himself.

The words ‘journey’ and ‘journal’ somehow reflect each other nicely. In his journal, he enters the third cycle of self-reflection in which he digests more fully and completely the lessons he has been learning, he comes to understand and own what has been growing and ripening inside him. When this process is complete, I feel sure, he will be ripe and ready to return, ready to assume the new and next phase in his life and what he has to do in it. You can be sure it will be deeply rewarding, both for both himself and for those who are to be part of it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Is ‘Deep Transformation’?

‘What is “deep transformation”?’ The question took me by surprise, coming just as we had conducted a short ceremony in Jakarta to launch the International Academy for Deep Transformation.

I had treasured the phrase as a handle to my work with people for years and used it frequently. But faced with the question coming very innocently from the bright and curious face of a young sari-clad Indian woman, I was at a loss.

Not totally, but I faced a transformative moment. There were no stock answers rushing to my rescue, no calculations about what could or could not be received, but the blank recognition, that, to be honest, I had no solid idea as to what we truly meant by ‘deep transformation’. 

This felt both exciting and alarming. There was a space of freshness and newness in which old certainties had dissolved and nothing had as yet arisen to bridge the gaping chasm, restore solid ground, and establish a reliable new order.

As fragments of thought surfaced, a couple of questions appeared: Had we foolishly rushed in to pursue something we had no knowledge of? Or was it simply that our new Academy needed to start from a place of transformation? That is to say from the kind of ‘not-knowing’ in which something new and fresh can come forth.

Wittgenstein said ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ Is that true of ‘deep transformation’? The phrase has meaning, but precisely what? Can we approach the mystery without losing that quality of mystery? Can deep transformation be something that we know and don’t know at the same time?

I like to think that our Academy will stimulate and support transformation from a place of transformation. I hope that our new Academy, which supersedes the previously named ‘International Academy for Transformational Coaching and Leadership’ can become a vehicle for deep transformation in individuals, organizations, and communities. And also a context for deep transformation in ourselves.

And so I open this blog to explore that original question ‘What is “deep transformation”?’, to share answers, arrive at new questions, and hopefully, in the process stimulate something of what we are exploring – deep transformation.

Peter Wrycza,
Founder, International Academy for Deep Transformation

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments