The art of dignity is a belief
There was an unplanned and satisfying consequence when I decided to lead and manage teams. As well as learning about leadership, and the best way to lead others, I learned a more important skill. This skill is not often discussed but was the most important path I found myself on. That was the skill of becoming self-aware. Treating others with dignity was part of what became an essential value. Raising self-awareness is surprisingly not mandatory in leadership programmes. And sometimes the most self-aware people, who lead the best, are not in leadership positions. This just goes to show that leadership is not a position; it is a way of being.
Say what I say not as I do
When I was a child, I was told to be kind, say please and thank you, and be respectful. These sentiments about how I behaved were good and commendable. However, they didn’t really help me when I felt mad at someone, or if someone did something which wholly disrespected me or people around me. I was told hurting others was bad. That stealing and lying were not acceptable. Yet all around me was a world where these behaviours were rife.
As I grew, I realised that dignity and respect were often only skin deep. I remember in my early 20’s feeling deeply confused about the double standards even some of the closest people around me appeared to hold. How could a parent tell a child not to hit another, only to smack the child for behaving like that? How could we talk about peace in the world, and then declare war? Little did I know then, the confusion I felt was a gateway to an understanding which proved to be a gift for me personally.
Beliefs are dispensable
Most of the world’s problems are dealt with at the level of behaviour. The amount of legislation in the world designed to tell us what we can and cannot do is phenomenal. Penalising people when they step out of line, often even when not intended is the norm. We have to pass laws to prevent the worst acts of indignity. For example, killing each other or polluting the environment.
As I grew and I became more self-aware, I realised that beliefs about ourselves and others are simply filtered which we can put on and take off like new or outworn clothes. As I grew and wanted new experiences I had to change the beliefs I had about myself. The surprising thing is when I changed my beliefs, I changed my behaviours. The only real reason why anyone acts with a lack of dignity towards another is that of outworn and outdated beliefs about ourselves and each other.
We are all connected
One of the most empowering beliefs I realised worked again and again, which made the only real sense, and which could not but help but change the way we behave towards ourselves and each other is that we are all connected. Quantum science is indeed showing us that energetically, every action affects everything else in our universe, and at the very fabric of our being, our cells and the particles we are made up of are communicating with each other.
World leaders who practised the most dignified of lives; consciously or unconsciously understood this. It was demonstrated by their actions. Think about Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Mandela. The work they did, their vision and their understanding that we were all connected influenced not only the difference they made in their work but the way in which they acted to achieve their vision. If we truly understand and believe that we are all connected; not only that but our every action affects everything else, then our behaviour simply has to change.
Lack of dignity arises from a belief in separateness
If we have poor and hungry people in the world, we realise they are part of our being and we must feed them. Where there are threats of war, we realise that bringing the energy of peace can dissipate the energy of war. Where there are behaviours which come from a belief in separateness and difference, then we realise at the very essence of our being, we are connected and the same.
Finally, if we realised that every unthoughtful, dismissive, fearful or uncomfortable act or thought, which stripped another of their dignity affects us. Then we would act and think with dignity, caring and love.
To truly dignify others, without conditions, without judgement, requires a change of belief about our separateness. Then leaders at all levels will truly lead with dignity.