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 help me when I felt mad at someone, or if someone did something which wholly disrespected me or the 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 20s 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.

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, we are killing each other or polluting the environment.

As I grew and 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 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 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 also how 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 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 realise 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.

Dignity in Action

What follows are examples of historic leaders who have demonstrated dignity in action.

1. Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi, a prominent leader in India’s struggle for independence from British rule, is renowned for his deep commitment to the dignity of all individuals. His philosophy of non-violence (Ahimsa) and Satyagraha (truth force) was rooted in the belief that all life is interconnected. Gandhi’s approach to social change was inclusive, advocating for the rights of all, regardless of caste, creed, or colour. He believed in the inherent worth of every individual and fought against social injustices like untouchability. His life’s work was a testament to the idea that respecting the dignity of others is essential for true peace and harmony.

2. Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa, is celebrated for his unyielding efforts in fighting apartheid and fostering racial reconciliation. Mandela’s belief in the interconnectedness of humanity guided his actions, even during his 27 years of imprisonment. He emerged with a message of forgiveness and unity, rather than vengeance. His leadership in transitioning South Africa towards a multi-racial democracy was marked by his commitment to equality and respect for all people. Mandela’s legacy is a powerful example of how the recognition of our shared humanity can lead to profound societal transformation.

3. Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun and missionary, dedicated her life to serving the poorest people in Kolkata, India. Her work was driven by a profound belief in the interconnectedness of all human beings. She saw the face of God in every individual she served, treating each person with utmost dignity and compassion. Mother Teresa’s approach was not just about providing material assistance but about affirming the intrinsic value of every human life. Her selfless service to the sick, destitute, and dying stands as a powerful testament to the practice of true dignity.

4. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr., a pivotal figure in the American Civil Rights Movement, championed the cause of racial equality with a deep-seated belief in the interconnectedness of all people. His philosophy of non-violent protest was rooted in the conviction that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech eloquently expressed his vision of a society where people are judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. His advocacy for dignity and respect for all individuals, regardless of race, has left an indelible mark on history.

5. Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is renowned for his teachings on compassion and interconnectedness. He consistently emphasizes the idea that every individual is part of a greater whole and that recognizing this interconnectedness is key to fostering respect and dignity for all. His messages often focus on the importance of empathy and kindness, transcending religious, cultural, and national boundaries. The Dalai Lama’s approach to life and his interactions with others reflect a deep understanding that honouring the dignity of others is essential for peace and harmony in the world.

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I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.