Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter, brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.
This week’s article is written by Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute. It is a companion piece to her interview with Mike Hardy and Hyppolite Ntigurirwa on Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future titled Nurturing Peace from the Ashes of Violence, which premiered on November 14, 2023. Mike Hardy is Chair of Intercultural Relations and a founding Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations at Coventry University. Hyppolite Ntigurirwa survived the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. He later started a foundation for peace in Rwanda, and traveled to America to deliver a series of lectures at universities using theatre to address issues of hatred and racism being transmitted from one generation to the next.
Link to the entire interview:
In today’s increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, fostering peace and creating positive change is not just a noble aspiration, it’s an absolute necessity. Leaders, in particular, have a crucial role to play in shaping a more empathetic and inclusive world. In our rapidly changing world, cultivating a culture of empathy and love can be a strategic advantage, enhancing social cohesion, boosting productivity, and fostering innovation.
1. Addressing Inequality
Differences in socio-economic status create a divide amongst individuals and communities across the world. These inequalities can become a breeding ground for despair and conflict. So how do we bridge this gap and promote a peaceful co-existence? By cultivating societies that allow for all voices to have influence, we foster an environment of inclusion and equal opportunities, creating a ripple effect toward peaceful co-existence. Mike Hardy, speaks about the importance of dismantling existing resource distribution models, believing firmly that these challenges are surmountable through dialogue and a people-centric approach to negotiations. In fact, the key takeaway here ties in remarkably well with the role each of us can play in our individual capacities. The value of approaching others with empathy and understanding facilitates the creation of peace on a micro level. This practice, multiplied numerous times over, can serve as a catalyst for change on a broader scale. When we look beyond our personal gains and losses and prioritize collective growth, we’re laying down the groundwork for a peaceful society — and that’s what truly matters.
2. Resource Distribution
The world we live in is shaped by the distribution of resources. Whether we’re aware of it or not, the systems we’ve created, the power dynamics that govern us, all trace back to how we allocate and manage our resources. As we face escalating global challenges from climate change to social inequality, it’s clear that the models we have in place are not sustainable. The conversation with Hyppolite and Mike brought forward this critical issue, emphasizing the need for reform. It expressed the urgency to challenge our existing resource distribution models and advocate for a more equitable, sustainable approach where everyone can live dignified lives. Achieving a more equitable resource distribution model requires not just financial investments but emotional support, education, and a change in societal attitudes. Empathy, understanding, and a collective approach can help rectify systemic imbalances. The unsustainable resource distribution models we have in place fuel conflict, perpetuate inequality, and violate human dignity. By rethinking and challenging these models, we have the opportunity to create a more equitable, peaceful world. It will be a monumental task, involving not just governments and businesses but each one of us. It will require us to rewire our attitudes, our ideologies, and question our complacencies. But it is an urgent and necessary pursuit if we yearn for a more inclusive, sustainable, and just world.
3. Power of Education
Education has an undeniable transformative power. It not only equips individuals with knowledge and skills but also imparts values that form the bedrock of one’s character development. In our rapidly evolving world, the significance of education transcends academia, contributing to the broader dynamics of societal progression and change. Growing up in post-genocide Rwanda, Hyppolite saw firsthand how education and supportive systems could be instrumental in healing and rebuilding a society torn apart by conflict. It was education that steered his journey from a genocide survivor to a peace advocate, shaping his worldview and equipping him with the necessary tools to catalyze positive changes. Hyppolite echoes the same sentiment when emphasizing the importance of what we give, rather than what we ask for. He strongly advocates for emotional support and empathy in our interactions with others. This form of education offers a twofold benefit. Firstly, it cultivates a deeper understanding of the surrounding world and its complexities, fostering critical thinking and informed decision-making. Secondly, it nurtures a sense of empathy and humanity that humanizes the ‘other’. The world today is fraught with divisions and conflict, often stemming from deeply ingrained prejudices and a lack of understanding. But, leaders armed with an empathetic and human-centered approach to education can spearhead positive change, bridge divides, and foster sustainable peace.
4. Emphasizing Empathy
In a world that is becoming increasingly divided and polarized, it’s more important than ever to promote an atmosphere of empathy and understanding, fostering a sense of peace and compassion in our immediate and extended communities. Empathy isn’t just about understanding another’s point of view, but feeling with them and acknowledging their experiences, emotions, and realities. It goes beyond mere tolerance and acceptance, requiring an active step towards understanding and sharing the feelings of others. During our conversation, Hyppolite highlighted the power of empathy by sharing his own experiences. A child survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Hyppolite’s journey has been shaped by unimaginable hardships, but he is a testament to the power of empathy, love, and kindness. Hyppolite believes that through empathy, we are able to create spaces for dialogue, understanding, and, ultimately, peace.
Today’s leaders are at the helm of navigating the complexities and challenges faced by societies and communities across the globe. Leaders who incorporate empathy into their leadership style cultivate a culture of understanding, respect, and open communication. Empathetic leaders foster trust and collaboration, which can lead to more sustainable and constructive solutions for the challenges we face. Moreover, an empathetic approach enables leaders to recognize and appreciate the diversity and individual experiences within their teams, thereby promoting inclusivity and equity. Emphasizing empathy, therefore, goes beyond individual relationships and has the potential to transform organizational cultures and societal dynamics at large.
5. Unconditional Love
As we navigate through life, we often ‘box’ love and its outpouring into segments, allocating it where we see fit or where we deem it’s deserved. However, within the context of leadership and fostering peace, setting boundaries and unwavering commitment calls for the practice of unconditional love. Unconditional love helps leaders see beyond initial judgments, nurturing an environment that flourishes on honesty, compassion, and shared humanity. Mike Hardy places emphasis on approaching others with an unyielding commitment to humanity without surrendering oneself to hate or antagonism. Meanwhile, Hyppolite stresses the reciprocal importance of emotional support, epitomizing the heartfelt connection that underlies unconditional love. Through a practice where humanity is cherished and people are encouraged to invest their efforts into the welfare of others, it demonstrates how unconditional love intertwines with the endeavors of empathetic and progressive leaders.
Unconditional love allows you to perceive individuals beyond their flaws, offering a clear insight into their struggles and hopes. It propels you to lead with compassion, to understand even when you disagree, and to hold space for growth — for yourself and for those you guide. Implementing this learning bolsters your interpersonal relationships and enriches your leadership drive resulting in a more positive, encouraging environment for growth, prosperity, and peace. It’s what transforms you from being a leader to an inspiring agent for change and harmony.
The crux of our dialogue couldn’t be more relevant in today’s swiftly evolving global landscape. As leaders, it’s critical to recognize the role we play in shaping society, especially when it comes to fostering peace and driving positive change. The key takeaways from our conversation, namely addressing inequality and challenging existing resource distribution models, are pivotal in creating societies where every voice matters. Moreover, the power of education serves as a cornerstone for social change. But what truly binds these elements together is the emphasis on empathy and unconditional love — the propellers of understanding, compassion, and unwavering commitment. So, let’s make a conscious decision today to model these principles in our leadership. Let’s be the change we wish to see; one decision, one action at a time.
ABOUT THE GUESTS:
Mike Hardy is Chair of Intercultural Relations and a founding Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations at Coventry University. He is an adjunct professor of leadership at the LSPR Institute of Communications and Business in Jakarta, Indonesia. Mike has been twice honoured in the UK, awarded the OBE in 2001 for his peace-building work in the Middle East, and appointed a Companion of Honour of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the HM Queen’s Birthday Honours June 2010 for his work internationally in Intercultural Dialogue.
Mike is a Board Director and Chair of the International Leadership Association (www.ila-net.org), Chair of Trustees of The Faith and Belief Forum (http://faithbeliefforum.org) the leading interfaith charity in the UK, and life-fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts.
Hyppolite Ntigurirwa survived the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. When he was seven years old Hyppolite, lost many members of his extended family and witnessed the murder of his beloved father. He struggled after the genocide to gain an education and to learn to forgive the killers.
By the age of thirty he had graduated from university in Rwanda and worked as a journalist and radio presenter, a playwright and a theatre director. He raised enough money to travel to England and achieved a Masters Degree in Sociology from Bristol University. He started a foundation for peace in Rwanda, and travelled to America to deliver a series of lectures at universities using theatre to address issues of hatred and racism being transmitted from one generation to the next.
In 2019, Hyppolite became an international news item when he performed a hundred-day walk across 1,500 kilometres of Rwanda to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide, inviting people to join him and to share their stories of peace and forgiveness.
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