Attending Davos a few years ago, I was invited to attend a panel session on the role of religion and spirituality in leadership
The panel was made up of representatives from the world’s mainstream religions and the conversation rapidly moved towards what can only really be described as the ‘politics’ of religion. Although I don’t remember exactly everything that was discussed, the issues of Israel and Palestine and the added implication of hatred between Jews and Muslims became a focus for discussion.
Towards the end of the session, I asked a question: What would it take for all leaders to recognize that their role was, ultimately, to be healers in their communities and in the world? I suggested that the role of spiritual leaders was to go beyond religion and politics towards a spirituality that required of us an ability to bring deep healing of conflict, disease, discrimination and suffering.
The panel agreed and, after the session, several people came up to me to further the discussion and agree that this indeed should be the ultimate direction with which we are headed.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if spiritual and religious thinkers were all able to bring a deeper, more nuanced understanding of their faith to such discussions and to move beyond the politics that so often crowds out the beauty and uniqueness of their particular religious affiliation? It seems the world is crying out for healing and that the world religions carry within themselves the truths that can liberate us all from limitation, suffering and conflict.
It is heartening to see a growing awareness of these issues and, even at Davos, an opening of thought to the importance of mindfulness and spirituality as a necessary part of the leadership journey. No matter what one’s own spiritual practice is, it can be desirable to maintain and pursue an interest in, and deep respect for, the essential truths found in all faiths and the deep commitment to Love that all religions and systems of enlightened thought express. It is a spirituality that goes beyond particular religious affiliation that most inspires me and, I believe, is the only force that will unite us all in the end, bringing an end to suffering and conflict.
Whether one is the head of a religious institution or is seeking to bring one’s spirituality out in a more secular form, we all have a role to play in expressing higher order thinking and enabling that to inform our leadership journey. Some of the greatest leaders in this world – Mandela, Gandhi, King – had a unique understanding of the importance for the divine order to be expressed in the human experience and, as we can now see, this brought profound healing transformation to our world.
I am a trained actress and founder and director of Hua Dan, one of China’s first and leading social enterprises. Hua Dan uses the power of participation in drama-based workshops to reveal and develop individual and community potential. Hua Dan has a particular focus on working with China’s rural-to-urban migrant workers, particularly women, who work in the manufacturing and service industries, at the heart of China’s economic boom.