Transcendent Leadership

Michael Useem, Wharton professor and author of The Go Point (see review) participated in the recent World Economic Forum and reported about the experience over on The Huffington Post yesterday. The World Economic Forum: A Call to Exercise Global Leadership, Not Just Self Interest. Useem wrote:

…the event also served to define and reinforce a shared culture among participants. Central to that culture is an emphasis on transcendent leadership — the idea that standing above all other values is the ideal of a joint commitment to bettering the planet.

Business leaders, the British prime minister (Tony Blair) suggested, must therefore move beyond “corporate social responsibility” to embrace a “strategic engagement with the moral imperatives of the era.”

Powerful and ambitious words are what we should expect from our leaders; however, several recognized that they will ring hollow if not converted into action.

E. Neville Isdell, CEO of Coca-Cola and co-chair of the Forum, warned that the outside world sometimes viewed Davos as “the epicenter of ego” — and that the calling was now for all participants to make it, instead, “the epicenter of commitment.” James J. Schiro, CEO of Zurich Financial Services and another co-chair of the Forum, followed with a call to action. “I’ve been coming here for 15 years, and what’s evident is the rise of a focus on leadership and change.” Consequently, “I would ask everybody, when you return home, to exercise your leadership.”

Leadership is about making possible what was once perceived impossible. Transcendent leadership presents a vision of optimism, hope and a better world for all.  Does transcendent leadership represent what would be Collins’ Level 6? 

Only time will tell whether or not these world leaders who meet in Davos can set aside their provincial mindsets and make a collective difference in solving some of the world’s most difficult challenges.

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

3 thoughts on “Transcendent Leadership”

  1. Michael: We have got to meet! I am a sailor and have written a book that will be published in a month called “The Art and Practice of the Transcendent Leader” (Also the topic of my thesis). I am also a lifelong poet. The book is written with sailing as the metaphor. Look up my website and call me when you can. Pam Boney

  2. Sara;
    Thanks for visiting and commenting.
    I agree. The greatest potential will be realized when the vision, leadership and action are shared. A leap must be made to get there. Hope that those voicing their concerns in Davos have the courage to make it. Time will tell.

  3. Even with transformational and transcendent leadership theories, the focus is on the individual leader, calling her to put aside questions of ego or provincial country/corporate concerns. I believe we will never change our leadership trajectory, no matter what we call it, until we change our leadership concept. For me and many others, leadership is the interaction among a few or many, that leads to co-created, and co-implemented change. It is time to slay the individual heroes, and recognize that all leadership is shared.

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