As our world spirals forth into deeper and faster changes, it is clear that new generations of leaders will have to guide society through unprecedented challenges -and beyond, towards unprecedented opportunities. One of Kumu’s incubated projects, Compassionate Leaders, is working with teenagers to explore a new kind of leadership that is grounded in mindfulness and catered towards community service.
If we define leaders as people of social influence who aid and support others in the accomplishment of a common task, one wonders what attributes will define social influence, what skills will be needed for such guidance, and what type of common tasks will become pivotal over the next few decades.
If we try to answer these questions in reverse order, and we start by asking ourselves what type of common tasks will rally humans in the years to come, it appears that everything related to resilience, especially in cities, will become of paramount importance. In addition, it will be essential to foster a consciousness shift to avoid falling back into the industrial growth paradigm that prevails today.
We may ask ourselves next what attributes will be required of the leaders that will guide us towards collective resilience. Some practical skills that come to mind are conflict resolution, empathetic communication, emotional intelligence, and project management applied to community service. In addition, systems thinking, ecological thinking and long term vision will beneeded in oder connect the collective decision making process with the well being of all life systems, present and future.
A new type of social influence or prevalence may thus arise that is not so much based on power, or on material success, but rather on the ability to stay grounded, emotionally stable, value-driven, service-oriented and compassionate throughout times of collective change.
Were are starting to see hopeful signs in this direction, such as new forms of economics, collective action, and governance that stress sharing, giving, collaboration, sustainability, and legacy, and which place the benefit of the collective over that of the individual.
The school system, however is failing to provide children with the skills they need to become future leaders. Vlad Moskovski of Berkeley, California decided to take action and in Spring 2013 founded Compassionate Leaders, an after school program for teenagers that combines mindfulness meditation, leadership development skills, and local community service projects.
With the help of a growing network of supporters, Vlad was able to start a pilot program at Berkeley High school in the Fall of 2013. The teenagers who enrolled in the pilot worked collaboratively to learn and practice mindfulness techniques, public speaking, empathic interpersonal communication, and project management skills. From the get go students were encouraged to put in practice what they learned by leading each other in mindfulness practices and applying their skills directly to benefit local community organizations.
At the end of 2013, Kumu awarded Compassionate Leaders a full incubation program to help this visionary idea grow and propagate.
“I use the skills all the time, especially in the connections I make with other people” says Emerik Laverne,a High School senior who took part in the pilot program. He went as far as to say that ”keeping these practices in my life makes me a much happier person”.
It is too early to measure the impact of Compassionate Leaders, but research shows that mindfulness reduces anxiety, improves emotional intelligence and grows the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with learning and memory. Studies also show that service learning boosts teenager’s self esteem, sense of responsibility and are more likely to become active, positive contributors to society.
A second semester of the Compassionate Leaders program is already underway at Berkeley High School, and with great anticipation teachers from 3 other local high schools have reached out to bring the program to their institutions. To achieve this goal, Vlad is hoping to crowd fund the necessary money.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I know that in order to create a better future we need a new generation of leaders” says Vlad “Leaders like these are sitting in the classrooms all around the world, most of them unaware of their own potential.”
Please visit and share Compassionate Leader’s crowd funding campaign and make a donation to support this visionary program.