In early 2020, almost everything stopped. What began in the East as a strange new disease, rapidly spread around the world, forcing the World Health Organization to declare the COVID virus a pandemic. Millions of people became ill and hundreds of thousands died. Entire economies ground to a halt. The stock market took a dire plunge. Health care institutions struggled to cope with an emergency situation they had not seen since the 1918 influenza. Distraught leaders conducted frantic searches for equipment like masks, gloves, and protective gowns. Millions were told to work from home. Schools shut down, switching to an online format, expecting overwhelmed parents to become “teachers.” Colleges and universities switched their courses and university services to online formats, causing chaos and discomfort for both students and faculty. Thousands of seniors died in long-term care homes that were not equipped to withstand a pandemic. Some government leaders played a blame game; others called for collaboration.
Rates of anxiety, addiction, depression, and other mental health conditions began to skyrocket. The world, as we had always known it, suddenly trans-formed in ways no one ever expected, and psychologists began talking of the pandemic as an international trauma.
The culprit: an unseen aggressor, a microscopic new virus called COVID-19 cut a wide swath of damage and destruction around the globe. With no sure treatment and no cure, it was a Darwinian nightmare—the power of a force of nature that seemingly had us and all our carefully crafted systems in its clutches, threatening our survival and our way of life.
As devastating as this was, the virus also revealed to humanity that all our previous concepts of “normal” are not working. It showed us the divisions within societies—economic and racial inequality, dysfunctional political systems, preoccupations with violence and power —all of which came into such sharp relief that we could no longer look away or adopt mere Band-Aid solutions to deeply festering wounds. And for those of us who had been sounding alarm bells about the state of our planet pre-COVID, the irony was not lost on us that as COVID shut us down, the Earth began to heal. Air quality improved, the earth’s waters got clearer, you could see the night sky, you could hear the birds. And so we began to ask the questions: Does it take a pandemic to show us this stark truth? Or are there things we should have been doing all along? Were new models of leadership accessible, or do we need to reinvent leadership with transformative models to catalyze a post-COVID society?
One way or another, our world is broken! It’s been broken for a long time. The need for profound systemic change is no longer an option; it’s a necessity. If you disagree, and you like the status quo, put this book aside. Otherwise, join us and we can work to transform it! We must create The New Harmony.
Our survival depends on it. Any book dealing with change can easily get lost in the vast conversations on burning global issues. What’s broken, how is it going to be fixed and who is supposed to do it? No wonder we have spent more than a year in deciding WHY we are writing this book. Starting with WHO is this book for? Is it aimed only at dissatisfied people or all people facing change, wanting to understand it, and more importantly manage it?
This book is a deep dive into our purpose, namely, an exploration of how to fix and transform the broken world. Hopefully, this is not just an idealistic dream of possibilities. It stems from our passion for dramatic change in our current world, combined with our consulting experience, as well as our love for working on transforming executives, managers, teams, students, businesses, organizations, and government agencies in 50+ countries. We began with the book title, The Shattered World. After writing three Guideposts we realized that we were positioning ourselves as victims of the current conditions and not as catalysts for the change. So we had to “transform” ourselves once again. The thread that unifies the book is the call for all leaders to adopt change and act on it.
EmPower Us! is about all of US! The power of multiple, intersecting generations striving for a sustainable life. It invites the reader to listen for the harmony of the Rising Voices (Next Generation, Women, Marginalized) who demand inclusive impact and equity with the resonant wisdom and expertise of progressive leaders. It guides us to empower our values and purpose; thus reducing the “activation energy” and resources required for adopting new services and transforming our organizations. Each “chapter” is named a “guidepost” to point the reader on the transformation journey.
This book is for those who want to reinvent the world, propel The New Harmony, driven by universal values and a higher ethical compass, digital technologies, and sustainable business practices. It is for those who want to transform a business or an organization; to catalyze political change; or to disrupt outdated, unresponsive policies in healthcare, ecology, education, government, economics, or other institutions. We mean people of all political persuasions: executives, politicians, educators, profit and nonprofit managers, entrepreneurs, students, change agents, parents, concerned citizens; in other words, You!
Most people see what’s wrong and are apathetic or paralyzed. We want to share our passion to transform the world to what it can become, instead of accepting the present situation as the default. We provide a breakthrough in thinking about institutions, and the false “truths” we accept and live by. We offer a resilient approach to managing and innovating, and a roadmap for transformation. We are targeting all generations (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z) across all cultures as the “broken-world-condition” is not beholden to one culture or economic class. And now, the tragedy of COVID has put the opportunities of transformation into our laps.
During the writing of this book, one of us (Ira) became ill with COVID for a month, ending up in a hospital and fighting for his breath. Along with his slow recovery and healing process came an even stronger determination that fixing the broken world is of paramount importance. There is nothing like a taste of our own fragility and mortality to make us realize that time does not wait for anyone, and that if we want to make a difference, we need to do it now, not in some far-off future. We see that central to all changes are the forces of Power and Love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr expressed a need to find a balance between the two forces in his famous speech at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.” For our world to change and become more harmonized, our leaders must reflect on their beliefs and actions. Power-driven leaders focus on control and try to achieve goals without considering the impact on citizens, employees, and community, and those focused on love, compassion, and empathy miss their targets by being inefficient. These forces are at present playing a complicated game full of inconsistences and double standards that fertilize our myths and compromise the direction of our ethical compasses. Staying the way we are shatters of the world. Daring to dream and enact a more transformed world leads to a more sustainable and harmonious Global Order.
Power and Love are the forces that underlie the existence of every politician, chief executive officer, principal, dean, change agent, and responsible citizen. In times of great challenges, great people are called upon. But are we in search of a realistic saga or a fairy tale?
Since the turn of the millennium, we’ve witnessed a fascination with the figure of the “superhero” rising all over the world from Spiderman to Batman, from Wonder Woman to Black Panther, from Iron Man to Captain America, from Thor to The Avengers and other Marvel heroes. In the meantime, the Next Generation have generated a new genre, young adult science fiction, the technological future animated in terms of Good and Evil. The world is broken, and we seem to long for some kind of superhero to fix it!
Of course, this book is not a superhero manual aimed only at people with exceptional qualities. The qualities we see in superheroes are innate in all of us. We each have a superhero within us. This book is a template to understand the conditions and Empower Us with the tools necessary to rebuild the broken world.
It begins, integrates, and ends with optimizing VALUES. This is the catalyst for transformation as it permeates every fiber of our body, or organizations. Or does it? According to Superman, “there is a right and a wrong in the Universe. And the distinction is not hard to make.” So maybe it has become hard, and we need to realign our compass. Or according to Black Panther, “Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not if we want to be a force for connecting mankind and helping those in need. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe. Or maybe we need to transform!”
Globally, people are in search of a new balance and meaning, what we call Strategic Harmony. We need strategies that align Power, augment Love, and reduce resistance to transformational change. Strategic Harmony is a transformative business model for organization change necessary to generate a sustainable world. Focusing on integrating mind and heart, it is a blueprint for an equitable economy and society able to overcome the conflict-based corruption and greed inherent in our global environment.
It seems that in the present business and political environment, the needs, concerns, and values of citizens, customers, clients, students, members, and voters are not being met. They are expecting change; a growing number want to become agents of change. Our book targets entrepreneurs and emerging and current leaders of businesses, nonprofits, and institutions, providing tools to realize sustainable impact on the path to transformation. Our objective is to make this text relevant as a roadmap describing the stages and components of Strategic Harmony.
In order to bring life’s lessons to our current challenges, we have interspersed the text with teaching stories from many ancient traditions. This provides the reader the opportunity for contemplation and self- reflection…essential elements in the personal transformation process.
Of course, there is still another essential ingredient to make this book relevant. The path to Strategic Harmony should resemble a creative play. For centuries, philosophers called humans the playful creatures. The concept of playing is responsible for happiness, pleasure, success, victory, exploration, prosperity, creativity, learning, socializing, team spirit, togetherness. The games we play make us who and what we are, help us evolve, grow, learn, socialize, and change the world.
Our childhood and adolescence are best remembered as the playing time, the beautiful age of innocence and curiosity, the joyful years of discovery, the time to explore endless possibilities of Power and Love, in search of unrestrained joy, freedom, and creativity. The broken world can only be changed by people who are able to look at every challenge and issue with the fresh eyes of a curious child.
One more thing: striving for Strategic Harmony requires collaboration. We are grateful to 40+ passionate Catalyzers (you will learn more about Catalyzers in subsequent Guideposts) who joined us and shared insights and resources, making this book possible. They helped to guide the development of this sustainable framework aimed at fixing the broken world. They reflect diverse functional perspectives, generations, and cultures, as well as an unswerving commitment to values-based solutions. Their commentaries are integrated throughout the text.
Many of us have heard the following saying, such that it’s become a bit over-drawn, but nevertheless contains some good advice:
»Dance as though no one is watching
»Love as though you have never been hurt
»Sing as though no one can hear you
»Live as though heaven is on earth.
We propose an innovative variation on the saying—one that reflects our model of creating a new generation of Catalyzers all over the globe.
This book is dedicated to the searchers for Strategic Harmony, to all the people sharing and living the following set of values:
»Speak out as though everyone is listening
»Serve as though everyone is in need
»Collaborate as though there are no boundaries
»Live as though global survival depends on you
There is more, in keeping with some solutions we offer in the Guideposts to follow:
»Listen as though you feel everyone’s pain
»Innovate as though you’re open to limitless possibilities
»Create as though no obstacles exist
»Manage as though sustainability is your bottom line
There is still more, but you will discover it by reading the 14 Guideposts to the transformation journey. Join us in our modest mission to catalyze transformation and create a world of Strategic Harmony!