Dream of Love: Exploring the Inner Work of Modern, Quantum Leadership Through the Novel
by Karin Jironet
Karin Jironet Ph.D., is a leadership scholar and Jungian psychoanalyst. She works internationally with executive leadership development and organizational transformation. She was author and co-editor of Leading with Spirit, Presence, and Authenticity, 2014, and Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World, 2016. Her book Female Leadership. Management, Jungian Psychology, Spirituality and the Global Journey through Purgatory, was nominated for best book of the year by the Gradiva Award in New York. Purchase Dream of Love at Amazon or your favorite bookstore.
The Challenges Faced in Modern Leadership
Until recently, successful leadership meant excelling at managing material and processes. Management literature focused on operational and financial processes. But a new paradigm is emerging.
The lens through which we perceive the world, our whole cognitive, emotional, and spiritual framework, is categorically different compared to the linear model that prevailed throughout the industrial era.
Propelled by advances in technology and natural sciences, mainstream society has begun to acknowledge the interconnectedness between human beings, and also between ourselves and objects, nature, and even the cosmos. Fast-paced environmental, financial, and demographic shifts – together with globalization and increasing societal complexity – create a new context, to which leaders can only adapt through an alternate way of thinking and perceiving. Interconnection isn’t new, but technology driven developments demand direct and immediate cognizance of interconnection.
As a consequence, the modern leader’s focal point shifts from the individual – that is, my consciousness of the world around me and the other’s consciousness of the same – to what lies in between and in fact everywhere: the interface of consciousness with consciousness. They must become conscious leaders.
Leaders can pro-actively benefit themselves, their organization, and the world at large by regarding interconnectivity as the baseline, placing value in relationships based on trust, intuition, and respect, and realizing that we live and work in a participatory universe, in which consciousness plays a great role. How leaders can achieve this is one of the key topics I explore in my novel, Dream of Love.
An understanding of the interaction between internal and external experience is an essential part of leading through consciousness, as it means relinquishing the aim of uniformity and creating room for spontaneity, intuition, and creative expression. Your identity – at work or elsewhere – is being defined not by playing a game by its rules, or by denying who you are in favor of blending in. Instead, your identity must be formed from self-realization. This shift incites new organizational forms, defined not by hierarchy but by relationships.
Dream of Love points at consciousness competences that are within human reach, yet infrequently viewed as leadership aptitudes. It addresses how to ‘manage’ energy in the context of leadership and personal evolution. The two protagonists, a man and a woman whose age, nationality, and upbringing remain vague, find themselves delving into these very issues, prompted by their love for the other. Across a number of international locations, they each deal with non-locality, uncertainty, and, each experience multiple mind-states at the same time. Feeling into probability, interacting with what could emerge, participation is based on choice of mindset. These factors are identified in quantum physics and thus transfer into what can be defined as quantum leadership.
The protagonists’ thinking tends to oscillate between both models. They derive meaning from the ontic view – things are the way they are independently of interpretation. Simultaneously, they believe things to be fluid and continuously changeable, epistemic. In their view, events happen for a reason that is observable and possible to interpret based on experience, as well as full of unknown components, that might play the bigger part in what evolves in a given situation. They undergo this uncertainty with mostly innocent acceptance, trust and doubt in equal measure.
The linear paradigm, often further informed by religion and moral philosophy, placed ‘meaning’ at the end. But isn’t meaning a deep sense of knowing pervading all levels of action and interaction, rather than order in a hierarchy of needs? Don’t we need meaning, in whatever form we find it, every day? Where can we derive meaning in leadership? These are questions they grapple with – as many leaders do.
The power of the central characters’ encounter guides them through their personal development and individuation journey, and gradually they cope with the inner work of unlearning and releasing limiting imprints. It exemplifies how to achieve mental and emotional breakthroughs by means of self-reflection, contemplation, meditation, and having the courage to face and renounce self-limiting habits of mind and create a desired future. The course of their relationship forms a powerful reminder that this is easier said and wished for than actually realized. Their love guides them forward and throughout the course of the book, their relationship exemplifies how to balance objective and subjective consciousness - an essential technique for modern leadership.
Individuation as a Leadership Tool
Individuation is a term coined by Carl Gustav Jung to signify the journey of psycho-spiritual development that leads to self-realization. When the true self is realized, it becomes the platform for a person’s interaction with the world and is therefore inherently interwoven with all else in creation.
Jung identified three stages of individuation, and quantum leadership is concerned mainly with the third stage: realization of wholeness and self-transcendence.
The individuality that arises from the third stage of individuation is made up of a unique collection of common human elements embodied in one particular life, and this one life is not cut off from others or made more important than any other life on the planet (Stein, 2015, p.135)
This third stage has important implications for leadership. Leaders will be recognized for their abilities to reach and inspire the consciousness of employees and the entire organization, irrespective of their location or network.
The realization of wholeness and self-transcendence has reached into organizational design in the form of social architecture, distributed leadership, self-steering teams and more. Dream of Love gives real-life examples of this form of leadership, as the protagonists – each in their own style – lead by engaging individuals’ subjective narrative and aligning this with company purpose as well as meaning.
A Place for Non-Empirical Knowing
A central tenet of Dream of Love is the ubiquity of consciousness. Christof Koch, one of today’s most well-known experts on consciousness, contends that all living things, including animals, nature, and the elements are able to perceive and feel. In Consciousness: Here, There and Everywhere he treats consciousness as “an intrinsic, fundamental property of reality” (Tononi & Koch, 2015, p.11).
Quantum theory entails the notion of ambiguity – wave or particle? No. Both. Quantum leadership transcends this duality by including a third option – uncertainty. “I don’t know”. The central characters in Dream of Love actively explore the power that lies in the uncertainty, demonstrating that, if held with purpose in the firm grip of the present, it can be far more powerful than taking a position. Allowing uncertainty to exist stretches time and space boundaries while allowing room for organic self-organization. The tension of not knowing and the freedom to create go hand in hand. Dream of Love exemplifies how all options co-exist in a united whole, showing that no possibility is an island unto itself. Through the experience of the protagonists, I demonstrate what I have witnessed time and again in my practice: modern leadership means something other than simply taking the lead over others. Modern leadership entails inner work. It is founded in inner practices including sitting still, quiet observation, spending time in solitude, and tuning into the energy of the space in which people operate with clarity.
Metaphors and stories are helpful leadership tools for making associative thinking more conscious, because they embody multiple layers of tacit knowing, including emotional, experiential, intellectual, and physical knowing. In /span>Dream of Love I chose to experiment with a narrative form of expression for the metaphor of “leadership” in order to re-contextualize its framework and include overlapping patterns of dynamic energy. Below you will find an excerpt focusing on a technique for creativity.
Throughout Dream of Love, the protagonists employ the practice of active imagination. Active imagination is a meditation technique that translates collective and personal unconscious content into images. C. G. Jung linked active imagination with the processes of alchemy in that both strive for oneness and inter-relatedness from a set of fragmented and dissociated parts. For a discussion of this see, for example, https://drtism.com/2015/06/30/jungs-active-imagination.
Chance has brought Randall to a Dutch dredging company, where he has been charged with the task of producing a marketing vision of competitive dredging. Randall, a former CEO and PR exec, struggles with what to make of the varying information and messages he receives. In the following excerpt, he is in his hotel room after a company visit. He reaches beyond the facts and reformulates given data and, rather than simply affixing a new label to existing concepts, creates something truly new:
His room overlooked the majestic Amstel River where a few tiny, open boats were passing in a leisurely manner, passengers waving to each other as their paths crossed. It was a flow of comings and goings, the river and the canals that connected into it.
Lying down on the bed with a pillow partly covering his face, still swaying on the coming of going, his eyes dimmed and he looked deeper into the dark beyond. The red light on the television glowed. He turned over, shifted the pillow and looked further and deeper into the dark, reaching, now closing his eyes with determination and noticing colours entering the periphery of his visual field, dancing into the centre in soft waves, rising up and falling into the depth. Then, for a moment he saw the hotel room and projected the shades and movements into the dark as if it were a huge screen, not flat but deep as the ocean. Completely still, he waited for the dance of shapes and hues to quieten and then crystallize. Once fixed there, he relaxed his gaze and directed his thought to the information he had gleaned about the dredging mission. What was needed, how to make it reality?
Randall waited for an image to surface, based on experience he anticipated precise detail and surprising truth. Still waiting, unsure, looking deeper into dense darkness for what was not of his own making. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Hana’s profile flickered before him and he saw them sitting together at a café near the Pantheon…He witnessed a moment of their connection in this same timeless space—he was sure she was feeling it too.
He sensed the heaviness of his pounding heart and gasped for air…something wasn’t right, and he sighed at the decades of self-blame.
Feeling the familiar weight on his chest of something dead but not departed, he decided to let go of these reflections and resume his work: waiting for an image to surface. Refocused, he looked again into the dark—the moving colours were still there and again he waited for unforeseen shapes and patterns to form.
Now the image gelled into a more solid shape. “Is it…a landscape…no…a sun…no…an animal? It looks like a butterfly in the sea…Hmm…a cascade of images…” Having a hard time capturing images and associations, he held his breath and carefully slotted them one by one into a network, a tapestry.
…Butterfly—land—sea—in the middle—waves—light— white foam—reef—light—under the surface—coral—sand— oyster—pearl—transformation… …butterfly reef… Shallow breathing…what is it?
What is transforming? Trans…form…Across form? Above form? Settling for ‘above form’ he wondered, “What does it have to do with their new marketing…?” “Ahh! They want to ‘move up,’ their new image has to do with what they bring up from below, what they reveal…not what they move from one place to another, but what they discover…unearth…and that is the pearl…the process of refinement… sophistication…So far from the current image of dredging,” he finally concluded.
Quantum Leadership in Practice
In my practice working with CEOs in the finance, healthcare, and corporate communities, it is clear that many face heavy additional demands due to global and domestic financial developments, and the challenge of finding a new way to lead in flat, rather than hierarchical, organizations. They are confounded by issues including how to stay grounded in chaos and how to stay creative in unknown situations. At the same time, particularly with the impact of digitalization, literature regarding modern leadership tends to date quickly, and guidance is scarce.
I agree with Yuval Noah Harari and his important statements in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century , that resistance is futile: Science, digitalization, and robots are here, contributing to global upheaval. I also welcome Harari’s appeal to meditation as a tool to cope. I would add, though, that self-realization is more than a technique and that human consciousness and sensitivity remain – so far – exclusive to humanity.
It is a real thing, not an abstract notion, because it is informed by individuality and embedded in experience. To lead with that consciousness and sensitivity any individual must acknowledge the gift of being human as a fundamental resource, which, when put into service and fully utilized will create meaningful relationships in which love can be practiced.
Evolving for Leadership Success
Psycho-spiritual development is essential for leadership success. This is because transformations experienced around the globe – including those mentioned above that emanate from or are caused by a shift in human consciousness – require of leaders the power to surrender structures of the past rather than clinging to them.
The chief factors necessary for psycho-spiritual development are:
- A meditation practice. With this I mean a solid practice attended to daily, preferably at the same time and place. It can be objectless Buddhist Vipassana (also known as ‘mindfulness meditation’) or Zen meditation, or a Mantra meditation, or Yoga meditation, or Sufi meditation, or an Active Imagination practice.
- A trusted guide. A teacher proficient and experienced in the meditation practice of your choice. Just as the eye cannot observe itself, you truly cannot monitor your own progress on the path. Choose your teacher carefully.
- A relationship. Relatedness through love, the prime force inherently braking down ego-confinements – perceptual, cognitive and spiritual - that stand in the way for psycho-spiritual development, forms the basis for growth. Brother, sister, mother, father, lover, friend, colleague – most often we do not choose our significant relationships, representing the first, and maybe final, step of surrender.
As Dream of Love sets out, personal psycho-spiritual development results in consciousness that is naturally geared towards transparency, collaboration, and awareness of interconnectivity and interdependence. Leaders who have crossed this threshold can continuously factor these into in their decision-making for positive, successful change while creating deeply meaningful products and services with their teams.
A Guide for Today’s Leaders
It is imperative that leaders take active steps towards self-realization. Learning to trust oneself, the implicate order of things (see e.g., David Bohm), and the invisible web that connects everything is perhaps the most liberating and enriching experience a person can undergo. By constructing my novel around this journey for each of the central characters, I have sought to provide something of a blueprint, and certainly a source of inspiration, to those leaders seeking to carve a new sense of what leading in today’s world entail.
To this end, Dream of Love is both a novel and a leadership guide. It goes beyond a textbook or PowerPoint presentation. It seeks to provide entertaining and potent insight into the essential elements of modern leadership for today, tomorrow, and beyond.
We need fiction to come closer to a more profound truth, a sense of meaning that cannot be reached by talking about it, as I do now, but by illustrating it.
Bohm, D. (1980). Wholeness and the Implicate Order. New York, NY: Routledge.
Harari, Y. N. (2018). 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.
Jironet, K. (2010). Female Leadership: Management, Jungian Psychology, Spirituality and the Global Journey Through Purgatory. London, UK: Routledge.
Jironet, K. (2016). Use It or Lose It: About Leadership Ethics in the United Nations. In: Schuyler, K., Baugher, J., Jironet, K. (eds). Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.
Jung, C. G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy. Bollingen series. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Koch, C. (2012). Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Stein, M. (2006). The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice and Applications. Ed. Renos K. Papadopoulos. London, UK: Routledge.
Stein, M. (2015). Soul: Treatment and Recovery: The Selected Works of Murray Stein. London, UK: Routledge
Tononi G. & Koch C. (2015). Consciousness: Here, There and Everywhere? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20140167. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0167
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