“…ongoing awareness practice, ongoing commitment to sustainability and people and ongoing engagement with the possible/potential”.

As peace leaders we are meant to confront the reality of ordinary life by inquiring and seeking to understand what lies beyond ourselves in a spiritual quest for wisdom.  This better equips us to engage daily challenges and inform wider reaching practices. At the same time, it presupposes critical discernment and continual personal transformation focused on honing the dispositions and skills of a peace leader. Committing to this endeavor requires a tenacity of spirit and comfort with ambiguity amidst the complexity of life and ever increasing amount of information we are asked to incorporate.

It is important to note lest we become disillusioned in our efforts, that in spite of our spiritual quest, critical discernment, commitment to personal transformation and tenacity of spirt, conflict will inevitably arise. However, drawing strength and wisdom from all of these efforts, we can engage respectful dialogue and a restorative approach to conflict.  Such an approach has the potential of revealing previously unforeseen considerations to inform the peace process and enrich decisions.  Reflection and discernment will also help to live the wise  words of Thomas More: “Happy is the person who can distinguish between a rock and a mountain; it avoids so many inconveniences.”[i]

In her edited volume Leading with Spirit, Presence, & Authenticity, Kathryn Goldman Schuyler presents a model of embodied leadership[ii] that includes many of the dispositions and practices a peace leader grounded in wisdom and spirituality should keep in mind.  She particularly mentions “ongoing awareness practice, ongoing commitment to sustainability and people and ongoing engagement with the possible/potential”.  American systems scientist Peter Senge affirms this leadership approach saying:

Until you can stop the habitual flow of your mind, you cannot see what’s around you. If you’re going to be in a position of authority, you’d better have a high level of awareness of what’s going on. Otherwise, all you can do is project your inner dynamics on the other world.”[iii]

Fostering these dispositions and practices is worthy of scheduled time.

Ongoing attention to honing these dispositions and practices is recommended for effective peace leadership. Since leaders are often very busy individuals with an imperative to prioritize their responsibilities, the implication is that fostering these dispositions and practices is worthy of scheduled time. It is important to recognize that consistently fostering this way of being leads to purposeful action and the potential of peace.  The cumulative effect of leaders intentionally practicing these disciplines and approaches has the potential to effect macro level social change.

Perhaps discussion of leadership disciplines and macro level social change seems esoteric

and hard to implement faced with the myriad of questions and problems leaders try to solve:

  • What works in conflict resolution?
  • How do I manage team dynamics?
  • What do I need to know about ethical and political issues in the public sphere?
  • What are the current hot topics in my field and how do these fit my framework of good education? Good business? Good healthcare….
  • How do I effectively supervise and evaluate others?
  • How to I lead adults in continual learning?
  • How do I collect, present and analyze data?
  • How do I allocate the budget?
  • What is ethically acceptable in regards to relationships in community?
  • What resources (human and other) shall I utilize?
  • How can I best work with various stakeholders and manage varied expectations?
  • What method of performance review shall I use?

These essential questions face every leader and if we consider them in light of power dynamics, restorative principles, inform them with foundational concepts such as people, process and results, we might better be able to see the role of an individual’s dispositions in this context and relevance to peace leadership.

The Pugwash Group is a good illustration of the significance of an individual’s decisions and dispositions.  The Pugwash group, founded in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada is a Nobel Peace Prize winning group of scientists involved in global security, related scholarly research about the prevention and resolution of armed conflict and environmental threats. The work of these scientists informs government policy nationally and internationally.[iv] It is remarkable to note the individual oath that each scientist involved pledges:

I promise to work for a better world, where science and technology are used in socially-responsible ways.  I will not use my education for any purpose intended to harm human beings or the environment.  Throughout my career, I will consider the ethical implications of my work before I take action.  While the demands placed upon me may be great, I sign this declaration because I recognize that individual responsibility is the first step on the path to peace.[v]

The last few years I have been striving to live these peace leadership dispositions (though I didn’t name them as such).  As a Canadian educator one key challenge I face is the mandate to indigenize the curriculum.  This is part of a broader call to educational leaders to work toward healing and reconciliation. It is peace leadership in action. In Canadian history, education was used as a tool of assimilation to extricate children from their culture and language. A statement of the   Indigenous Healing Foundation succinctly summarizes the gravity of this call to action:

No other population group in Canadas history has endured such a deliberate, comprehensive, and prolonged assault on their human rights as that of Indigenous people. Yet, despite growing recognition of past wrongs, many Canadians remain unaware of the full scope of these injustices or their impacts.[vi]

An approach of intellectual humility, curiosity and respect for all people has taken much of the fear of ‘doing it wrong’ away.

We need to realize our moral responsibilities to relate accurately and acknowledge fully our regrettable past. I propose that the effort educators in Canada are undergoing parallels that of peace leaders in other contexts.  For me, this has been, and continues to be, a process of developing knowledge of my own ignorance, discovering my own prejudices and myths and having the courage to change views and practices. It has required the disposition to work through intellectual and emotional complexities that have caused confusion and frustration. But I am willing to be disturbed and unsettled. An approach of intellectual humility, curiosity and respect for all people has taken much of the fear of ‘doing it wrong’ away.  I offer this work in a spirit of solidarity with all peace leaders.[vii]

What follows is a prayer from an Indigenous group local to where I live in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. I conclude with this Sto:lo prayer because it expresses well the importance of prioritizing peace leadership for the present and the future:

A Stollo prayer for a better future

Help us use the wisdom of our ancestors, the knowledge of our   elders, the strength of our leaders, the vigor of the youth and the purity of the unborn to make a better tomorrow for our children. Together it will be done.[viii]



What we value, we prioritize and this directs our work and lives, shaping not just what we do but who we become. We need to start practicing now who we want to be in the future.[ix]  Since who we are impacts the culture of our organizations and further impacts society, if we want peace we need to be peace leaders.

Our world is in need of leaders with a wideness of spirit dedicated toward the welfare of others.  This is magnanimity – what Aristotle called the crowning virtue in his hierarchy of virtues.   A peaceful world is possible if leaders and followers work together in serving people and purpose.




[i] Garrido, A. 2013: 124.

[ii] Goldman Schuyler et al, 2014: xxiii.

[iii] Goldman Schuyler et al, 2012: 326.

[iv] https://pugwashgroup.ca/#

[v] Gardner, H., et al, 2001: 235.

[vi] Rogers and Degagne, 2012: 8.

[vii] Castellon, 2017.

[viii] Langley School District, British Columbia. Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement: 5.

[ix] Bregman, P., 2016.



List of References

Bregman, P. (2016). You need to practice being your future self. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/03/you-need-to-practice-being-your-future-self

Castellon, A. (2017). Indigenous Integration: 100+ Lesson Ideas for Secondary and College Teachers.

Gardner, H., Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Damon, W. (2001). Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet. New York: Basic Books.

Garrido, A. (2013). Redeeming Administration. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press.

Goldman Schuyler, K. (2012). Inner peace – global impact: Tibetan Buddhism, leadership, and work.  Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Goldman Schulyer, K., Baugher, J. E., Jironet, K & Lid-Falkman, L. (2014). Leading with Spirit, Presence, & Authenticity. San Francisco:   Jossey-Bass.

Rogers, S. & Degagne, M. (2012). Speaking my truth: Reflection on reconciliation and residential school. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.