The word "Leadership" in the title of this book is the Trojan horse that suggests that those who are in or want to be in leadership positions order this book off the Internet and drag it within their mental and emotional gates. Reading it, we wake up to the fact that the leadership the authors speak of has nothing to do with (and everything to do with) leadership in the normal sense of the word. The key is the adjective that precedes it, i.e., "personal." The book is actually a presentation of a self-development methodology or spirituality of being and doing that consists of two principles (mindfulness and creativity) and six practices or steps for cultivating those principles.
The authors represent a training enterprise, Personal Leadership Seminars, LLC, whose programs are delivered by experienced interculturalists using the methodology described in the book. The methodology itself is a combination of humanistic psychology, spiritual disciplines and philosophia perennis that bloomed in the late 1960's and has continues as a subculture in the USA as well as abroad. There are no surprises here, just a well knit set of mental and emotional disciplines and an invitation to a community of support.
If not new, what is the currency of such training and a book about it? The key is, as the authors point out, practice. A bankruptcy of ethics and spiritual discipline as well as the deep desire for it has resulted in a search for fundamental well-being that has led many into extremes of religious fervor where self-immolation and Armageddon are seriously embraced and encouraged by the so-called political, religious, and military "leaders" of the day. So, Personal Leadership proposes an alternative set of spiritual practices aimed at bringing about awareness of self, one's internal and external environment and how the "others" live in them for us so that our responses are creative rather than destructive, real rather than stereotypical, affirming rather than conflictual.
We might say that "leadership starts at home" in the sense that enlightened leaders in politics, business and organizations will do well to have their personal act together if our world is to find its way out of the wars and destruction that much of its current leadership has presented it with.
But it is not only leaders who need personal leadership, in the sense that following the crowd and the demagogue is as much a part of the problem as are those who maladroitly direct the world scenarios. It is trite but true that people get the leaders they deserve.
So there is a set of values here that eschews knee-jerk certainties, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" The silver bullet is practice, practice, practice. Shakyamuni's dying words are reputed to have been, "Be a lamp unto yourselves."
Today's psychologically-honed expertise for economic and political manipulation is not going unobserved. Naomi Klein in her recent book Shock Doctrine how a runaway economic paradigm enables political and financial leaders to manipulate populations through fear and misinformation. Psychologist Clotaire Rapaille, in The Culture Code points out how people around the world live and buy as they do behaving according to predictable culture codes, largely driven by unexamined unconscious urges--the lizard brain. In other words, great careers and great fortunes are to be made if the blind can be encouraged to invite the blind to lead them, and are satisfied with the cake crumbs that fall from their masters' tables. Whether one blows the whistle on these practices or strives to make a buck off them, the effect is the same, more of the same, more of the same...
This book shows us a way of stepping outside the maelstrom. It is long overdue, particularly in the sense that the intercultural field has largely ignored psychological and spiritual factors in the development of intercultural competence in personal development. This negligence has to a great degree contributed to the irrelevance and ignorance of intercultural work for religious, now become political contexts.
Personal Leadership is evidence that the Buddha and the Tao and Fritz Perls are still pointing the way to enlightenment for those willing to take the steps to seek it. The payoff of personal leadership is in the experience itself, as the many personal accounts of self-engagement in the book illustrate--the book is worth reading for these alone. Coming to see the self and the world more directly and clearly is empowering, but there is no cheap grace. Fortunately we learn to drag ourselves kicking and screaming, leading ourselves to places in and life where we have not been before.
In a sense, this is a book that I didn't know that I was waiting for until I read it--an impetus to do more and better of what has made me do somewhat well in directing my own life and enriching and empowering those around me.
"Letting this book into my psyche" strongly reminded me that Moses, Jesus and Mohammed have left great spiritual traditions with powerful disciplines for development that unfortunately lay dormant but capable of being aroused even in those whose starting point is fundamentalist and authoritarian. Who will have the creative flash that will lead to taking greater benefit from sunnah, theosis, the Exercitia Spiritualia and the halakah etc., in those traditions that so many people feel themselves a part of, the empowerment rather than the opiate?