The Slovenia Times

The AEIOU of Leadership - With love for 4P's: profit-people-planet-purpose


If we want to bequeath our planet with decent living conditions to our descendants, we need to drastically transform the economy. I believe that this can only be done by conscious leaders who perceive the world as a unified whole, who place their role in a wider context and are aware that their decisions directly affect the quality of many people's lives. Such perception goes far beyond the narrow understanding of responsibility as being connected only to the material resources of an organisation, the results in a profit and loss account, and balance sheet. Conscious leaders do not manage their organisations solely as business ventures, but also as platforms for fulfilling their mission and the mission of their employees, thereby contributing to the welfare of the community. They know that their responsibility extends far beyond the limits of the organisations they manage.

They strive for 4P's: profit, people, planet and purpose. But I add to this a fifth dimension of conscious leadership: leading with the energy of love towards everything and everyone. Love is expressed with respect, encouragement, support, nurturing, compassion, inspiration and enthusiasm.

The metaphor the AEIOU of leadership uses to illustrate all five dimensions of conscoius leadership. The powerful sound and vibration of vowels is reflective of the effect that leaders have on the people around them with their energy and vibration. Vowels are the carriers of syllables and, together with consonants, they form shorter or longer strings, either accented or not. Syllables dictate the rhythm and compose words. Words form sentences that carry meaning, purpose and message. This is analogous to how modern leaders act: they connect between themselves and with co-workers so that they all assume an important role, create in their own rhythm and find meaning in their work and in collaboration with others. Together, they innovate products, services and solutions for the prosperity of all. The AEIOU is indeed an acronym of five powerful words: aroha, eb, ikigai, oikos and ubuntu.

Aroha: Leading with the Energy of Love

Leading propelled by the energy of love is respectful towards everyone and focused on integrity. The leap from rational thinking to seeing with one's heart - as put by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in The Little Prince - is a formidable challenge that only a few leaders can take on. However, it is precisely this shift - from an intellectual grasp of concepts and the search for causes to a loving and respectful embrace of the unified whole and all there is - that holds the key to acting with the energy of love. When we act with the energy of love, we accept everything as is, support it as such and gently nudge it towards improvement.

The Maori word aroha is composed of a further four words: aro, ro, ha and oha. Thus, it is multi-layered and rich in meaning. Aro represents thought, life principle, also focus; ro means internal, introspection; and ha is life force, breath, energy. Oha corresponds to generosity, progress, abundance and health.
Aroha is therefore a more than appropriate word to capture all the nuances of what leading with the energy of love means.

Eb: Interconnectedness and Interdependence

In natural ecosystems, changes and disturbances are a normal occurrence. Systems always respond by trying to restore biological balance. In nature, this process continues until equilibrium is reached, as allowed by the climate conditions in a certain area. 

Links between living organisms and the environment also bear relevance to business communities. A business ecosystem is an interdependent community that provides products and services which generate added value. Customers are just as much a part of the ecosystem as are suppliers, manufacturers and other stakeholders. The members of the ecosystem develop their abilities and roles together and align themselves. They progress towards a shared vision, coordinate their contributions, and find roles that are mutually supportive. The emphasis is on the ability to collaborate and inclusive models. Competition among stakeholders is morphing into collaboration. "Playgrounds, not battlegrounds, are the training grounds of creativity and inclusiveness," illustrated the difference in our perceptions Ladeja Godina Košir, founder and executive director of Circular Change.

Our connectedness and interdependence is even better encapsulated in the Mayan word eb, which has several meanings. Eb is a road, grass, abundance, growth, harvest, vital energy, the spiral ladder of life. Eb is the connection among people, places, dimensions and worlds. It was because of this very profound symbolism that I included eb in the five dimensions of modern leadership.

Ikigai: Meaning and Mission

Ikigai was coined from two separate Japanese characters: iki (life) and gai (value). It is hard to find a literal meaning but it roughly translates to "the meaning of life". It stems from the understanding that the sum of small joys in everyday life results in a more fulfilling and meaningful life. 

Ikigai is where the four primary elements converge: mission, passion, profession and vocation

If managers see their vocation as their mission through which they can, as leaders, influence the development of the people they lead, as well as affect the wellbeing of the community through their organisation - they found their ikigai.

Oikos: Responsibility for the Wellbeing of All People

The word economy traces its origins back to the Greek language. It derives from the words oiko (house) and nomo (laws, rules). In his work Politics, Aristotle describes two kinds of economies. The first, or the actual one, is based on oikos. This is economics in relation with human needs, where people are producers because they require certain things in order to survive. This is natural economics whereby a product is converted into money so that a person can satisfy his or hers existential needs. The second economy, by contrast, is chrematistics - accumulation of wealth as an end in itself. Money is invested in goods with the sole purpose of earning even more money - hoarding money just for the sake of it. Aristotle warned that amassing money as an end in and of itself is an unnatural activity that dehumanizes those who practice it. All too often the concept of the economy is exploited to justify chrematistics. The spirits of oikos, however, instills in an economy the rules of mutual respect, fairness, accountability and taking care of everyone.

Ubuntu: Relationships Based on Trust

We influence ourselves and the people around us with our thoughts and actions, and our intention alone can infuse a moment with beauty or bitterness, open or close the doors of opportunity, create favorable circumstances or barriers, deepen a relationship or merely scratch at its surface. 

As a synonym of building relationships, I chose the word ubuntu that comes from South Africa. It says that I am who I am because you are who you are. We become who we are as a result of our relationships with other people. The power of the word ubuntu was carried into the world by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu who used it to foster forgiveness, thereby setting the foundations for connecting the black and white inhabitants of the South African Republic.



4 P's are reachable with practicing the timeless wisdom of indigenous people 

By linking the selected words aroha, eb, ikigai, oikos and ubuntu into the AEIOU of Leadership, we can also symbolically interconnect all the continents or the entire world; just as the interlaced Olympic rings united the five continents under the guidance of Pierre de Coubertin. The interlocked rings of the Olympic symbol represent coexistence, mutual respect and friendship among nations, from the five continents of the planet Earth, depicted in different colors. Blue is Europe, black is Africa, red America, yellow Asia and green Australia with Oceania. These are also the continents where from originate the words which convey the ancient wisdom of their first, indigenous inhabitants. The words aroha - love, eb - interconnectedness, ikigai - mission, oikos - responsibility for the well-being of all people, and ubuntu - relationships, together as AEIOU represent a universal collection of five dimensions for conscious leaders from around the globe.

Five different ancestral traditions, who survieved through time and across geography, are here and we can use them for the benefit of all. The Four P's - profit, people, planet, purpose - are reachable through practicing oikos, eb, ubuntu and ikigai. Leading with love, aroha, can make it happen.


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