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What is your notion of leadership?

We have difficulty in contemplating events of our everyday lives as quantum phenomena. Yet, the principles of quantum physics are an essential component of what is happening around us. We still tend to see our world operating within the empirical science that is based upon seventeenth century, Newtonian cause and effect, mechanical physics and the Cartesian split of mind and body.

Way back in 1900, physicist Max Planck wrote a mathematical formula, on a postcard to a friend, that introduced to the world the notion of tiny, discrete bundles of energy, which behaved both as waves and as particles, and came to be known as quanta. This formula has become the basis of quantum physics, the strange new science that tells us reality is discontinuous and deeply paradoxical---a reality that doesn't follow the cause and effect rules of our ordinary empirical science.

Analyzing the century of progress since Planck's formula was created, theoretical physicist Amit Goswami has summarized the weird nature of reality in a quantum world:

1. A quantum object (for example, an electron) can be at more than one place at a time.

2. A quantum object cannot be said to manifest in ordinary space-time reality until we observe it as a particle.

3. A quantum object ceases to exist here, and simultaneously appears in existence over there; we cannot say it went through the intervening space (the quantum leap).

4. A manifestation of one quantum object, caused by our observation, simultaneously influences its correlated twin object---no matter how far apart they are (quantum action at a distance; nonlocality).

Principles of quantum physics have led to high technologies like lasers, transistors and CAT scans but we have difficulty in contemplating events of our everyday lives as quantum phenomena. Yet, the principles of quantum physics are an essential component of what is happening around us. We still tend to see our world operating within the empirical science that is based upon seventeenth century, Newtonian cause and effect, mechanical physics and the Cartesian split of mind and body.

As a result, the dramatic quantum discoveries of the twentieth century have not yet been included in business practices. However, there are some who envision a change in consciousness, a paradigm shift, which would include quantum phenomena into business practice learning, such as leadership development.

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The question, "What is your notion of leadership?" was asked of Ralph Kilmann (, author of the new book, "Quantum Organizations", by Russ Volckmann, editor of the Integral Leadership Review (

Here is Kilmann's response:

Leadership, just to put it in context, is one of the most discussed topics in the last 100 years. There originally was a belief that if we had a great leader, all our problems would be solved. We still have that hero myth about leaders: if you find the right leader with the right traits, the right abilities, the right disposition, this will save us. I think there still is that fantasy.

Based on my understanding of the new paradigm, what if we embrace what we know of reality through quantum physics, cosmology, neuroscience and the evolution of consciousness, and we take that all very seriously. What does that say about the notion of leadership?

I come out two ways on this. First, everyone can be a leader. There can be shared leadership and servant leadership throughout the organization. I am not perpetuating the myth that this is one person on top who gives orders and the rest are supposed to follow like a well-oiled machine. That's the Newtonian model. Leadership is more about adult responsibility in today's world and today's quantum paradigm.

What is this person, leader if you will, doing about his or her own self-development? There seems to be a need for a special responsibility to develop oneself. I can't be a good role model. I can't impact other people effectively. I can't help other people grow. I can't be involved in creating functional and healthy systems and processes if I don't know who I am and if I haven't done my work in growing and evolving. So there is a very inherent need for people, if we want to call them leaders, to develop themselves because they are in special situations, special roles where they can touch upon the lives of others. My question for leaders is what have you been doing about your own development, growth, spiritual enlightenment and your own sense of self. In other words, what work have you done in developing your soul and developing your spirit?

The second feature is do leaders understand the nature of systems in today's world? Do they understand infrastructures, systems and processes? Or do they have an outdated worldview of what is an organization and what is reality in today's world? It's not enough just to develop yourself, whether it's through meditation, therapy or enlightenment. No, that is not enough! We also have to understand the context, the environment of our world. That means leaders have to know some of the things I talked about earlier (in the interview): that there are these hidden quantum waves in organizations that have tremendous impact on what people see and what people do. We need to help people participate in self-designing and self-managing strategy, structure, reward systems and all the processes and improvements, if we are going to make full use of people as well as providing opportunities for people to self-develop. That's a two way street.

Organizations are for products and services. But organizations are also the setting where adults spend their lives and therefore are fertile ground for helping people to continue growing and developing, knowing their true essence and expressing their true essence in everything they do. To what extent have our leaders been trained to be aware of the complexities of organization? Are they just equipped to deal with marketing, finance or accounting? To what extent are they aware of systems, processes and infrastructure? Are they in touch with the way reality has unfolded?

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Leadership development is not an event.

Albert Einstein once said, "We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve."

Leaders know and science has discovered emotionality's deeper purpose: the timeworn mechanisms of emotion allow two human beings to receive the contents of each other's minds. Emotion is the messenger of love; it is the vehicle that carries every signal from one brimming heart to another.

Leadership happens in a series of interactive conversations that pull people toward becoming comfortable with the language of personal responsibility and commitment.

That is why leadership development is not an event. It is a process of participating in respectful conversations where the leader recognizes his or her own feelings and those of others in building safe and trusting relationships.

For human beings, feeling deeply is synonymous with being alive.

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