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A Chat With Richard Barrett March 31, 2008

Posted by davidzweig in Uncategorized.
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Academy Fellow Richard Barrett is an internationally accomplished consultant and author who works with organizations to align the values of employees with those of the enterprise to attain transformational success on a large scale. His signature contribution is a unique 10-level model of personal and organizational values that maps progressively higher levels of individual and group consciousness, but can drive a firm’s core strategies, policies, and tactics.

Q. You were recently on Deepak Chopra’s Sirius radio program. What did you discuss?

About two or three weeks ago we gathered at the Alliance for a New Humanity meeting down in Costa Rica, was an amazing event, sold out. More people showed up and they could accommodate, but anyhow… basically social entrepreneurs from all over the world collecting to make a difference in the world and prior to the full conference we had a 1-1/2 day meeting with business leaders, thought leaders in business, to talk about new paradigms in leadership and how business needs to amend its goals and objectives so that they match the goals and objectives of society.

It is impossible to live in a world that is so connected now, if business goals and society’s goals are at loggerheads. That was our discussion for a day and a half.

It was just the beginning of the discussion because many of the issues that come up have to do with the structure of business and even the laws and rules that regulate business.

I am merely talking about the perception that the only responsibility of business has, is to its shareholders, when everybody recognizes that that is not true. Business has a responsibility to employees, customers, local communities, society and the planet. We cannot live a schizophrenic existence anymore.

At least the CEOs or leaders of these institutions do not embrace this idea: they are living in a schizophrenic existence.

During the evening executives come home and they are with their families, with their children. They are concerned about their children’s future. They are concerned about the environment. And then of course they go to work the next day and they are concerned about the short term and not the future. They are concerned about making money and the environment is simply something to be exploited for gain. This schizophrenic existence is simply not tenable in the long run. We are out of alignment, basically, and there needs to be a huge it readjustment in the global systems and processes that regulate business. I think that is going to happen because it just makes sense.

When I wrote in Liberating the Corporate Soul as 10 years ago — the famous Willis Harman quote I put in the front of my books — business being the most powerful institution on the planet, business doesn’t have the tradition of being responsible for the whole. But the most powerful institution on the planet does need to have that responsibility.

I think we are an exciting times of change and transformation just about everywhere, including exciting times around leadership. I think that is the big crisis we have right now. We just don’t have the leaders with the full spectrum of consciousness capabilities to be able to handle and manage all the complexities of the world and run a successful business. These people are in short supply.

My thesis in a new book that I am just finishing right now on leadership is that leadership development should look a lot like the evolution of personal consciousness. These can’t be separate things. I have noticed there are so many books on leadership, I first thought that is because nobody knows what it is.

But then my second thought was, “Oh, I know why. It’s because each of these people writing about leadership writes about it from the perspective of their level of consciousness that they operate from.”

I have been reviewing quite a number of leadership books and this weekend I was reading Donald Trump’s book which is called Think Big And Kick Ass. My model allows us to see or classify all of these books at the different levels of consciousness. Interestingly, Donald Trump talks a lot about passion which is a high level value per (Level 5 value on my model). That is brilliant, but he also talks a lot about revenge, which is a limiting Level 2 value, because for him he is passion is doing deals. His passion is not real estate. It is doing deals. So if he doesn’t win in a deal, and he gets screwed, he looks for revenge. This is his reality, what he puts out into the world, and this is what he is writing about.

On the other hand, Joe Jaworski writes about synchronicity and higher-order things. Jim Collins in Built to Last writes about big hairy audacious goals, which is also what Donald Trump is about. Think big.

What I have been able to do is take all this modern thinking, and look at it from the perspective of levels of consciousness that these writers are operating from. I can see that very few of them are actually writing from the full spectrum leadership position, where they are focused on which of these different issues which are required to live a successful life in all dimensions.

I define consciousness as awareness with a purpose. But their consciousness was focused on a purpose: their sole purpose was making money in the short term. They got so mesmerized by that particular goal they lost sight of every other aspect of consciousness, of every other aspect which leads to a balanced life. Ultimately when you get way out of balance and crash. This is what they did. They got so out of balance that they risked all and failed. For me this is not good leadership. This is lousy leadership! It is the worst leadership you can imagine! It is people who are imbalanced, unhinged to who would want to be married to someone like that? Someone who is so focused on one thing, and can’t balance everything necessary to lead a happy and successful life! This is really terrible leadership.

Q. It’s coming out that officers at Bear Stearns were concerned about their company’s strategy, but were worried that if they abandoned it, their profits would lag their competitors’. What do you think about that?

I was on a panel in the plenary in the Alliance and I was talking about how much business needs to shift. There was someone on the panel who was attacking business as the fountain of all evil, but who agreed with me that the biggest issue on the planet is poverty, because unless you eliminate poverty, you are not going to be able to get people to self- actualize into higher levels of consciousness. Maslow’s hierarchy: they are going to be focused on survival all the time, and they will not be able to focus on higher things in their lives.

My response to this person was, “So, do away with business tomorrow. What do you think that is going to do to poverty?It is certainly not going to solve this, and some of the things that are wrong with business need to be changed, but we need to have a long-term plan to do that, rather than precipitously going into that overnight.

A huge proportion of the population is involved in business. Everybody is not an employee. Everybody who owns a corner shop or is in trades, is in business. It’s impossible to do away with business. That’s just the way things are! In the Communist world they tried to do away with personal motivation in a sense, for collective motivation, and it went nowhere.

Again, it’s a question of balance. We need to find a way for business to create profits, but for those profits to be more equally shared in different ways so that we can create a sustainable future. The way that the world works now. People have money and are in business to make more money, so there are many people who are getting more and more rich–you can see that in the Forbes magazine annual review–but there needs to be some sort of balancing mechanism that would allow this wealth not to trickle down, but to be shared by the poor, so they also can become consumers. It is in the interest of everyone, and particularly business, that people not be in poverty. It is that sort of thinking that is just not there at the moment, in the rules and laws that man has created a round of business won’t support that. Why can’t we change the rules?

Let’s not do away with the profit motive. Many people are motivated to do well in the world and to share at the same time. You take money out of people’s lives and we just move into a communist society. That is not going to work for anybody.

We are going to see some significant readjustment in the world over the next decade or two... some significant realignment. The issues that we are facing in the world right now are global, and the structures that we have to deal with them are national. The national structures cannot deal with these global situations.

Eventually, we are gradually creeping toward, I think, a global governance structure, and I’m not necessarily saying that it is a political structure but it is a global structure that is able to regulate human affairs. The concept of humanity actually becomes palpable; right now we are not there because we are still operating as individuals and nations, and we have not quite lifted ourselves to create that higher order entity which I would call humanity.

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