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This is cross-posted from an internal Food and Agriculure Organization of the United Nations (FAO) blog. The post is created by Elena Di Paola. Elena is my colleague and Knowledge and Information Management Specialist in FAO’s Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension.

”In Kabuki theatre, there is a gesture which indicates ‘looking at the moon’, where the actor points into the sky with his index finger. One actor, who was very talented, performed this gesture with grace and elegance. The audience thought, ‘Oh his movement is so beautiful!’ They enjoyed the beauty of his performance, and the technical mastery he displayed. Another actor made the same gesture, pointing at the moon. The audience didn’t notice whether or not he moved elegantly; they simply saw the moon.”

This passage is taken from the book “The Invisible Actor” by the Japanese Master Performer Yoshi Oida. In his work the author expresses preference for the actor who shows the moon to the audience; the one who is able to become invisible. According to him, an actor’s role is not to display how well he performs but, through his performance, to enable the stage to come alive. In this way the audience is carried along and becomes part of the story.

Management experts drew inspiration from Yoshi Oida’s lines to describe the features of an effective leadership style, typical of some Asian countries: Invisible Leadership.

As Professor Tojo Thatchenkery, Director of  M.S. in Organization Development & Knowledge Management School of Public Policy at George Mason University says, in most Western countries …: 

“Leadership is closely connected to charisma and visibility. If you are not visible, you are not a leader. In many other parts of the world, especially in Asian cultures, leadership is not about being visible. It is the opposite: quietly doing your work and assuming that rewards will come. […] they practice a form of quiet or invisible leadership because of an unconscious, deep rooted cultural assumption that leadership is about enabling and empowering, not about bringing attention to oneself and shining”.

The behavior of invisible leaders exercises a relevant influence on knowledge sharing dynamics. Research by Fritjof Capra concluded that:

“The most powerful organizational learning and collective knowledge sharing grows through informal relationships and personal networks via working conversations in communities of practice.” 

The invisible leaders are those who belong to and promote networks of conversation within the organization that go from bottom to top and top to bottom and, back again, in a continuous flow of feedback exchange. The use of these networks provides them a more complete overview on the organization’s resources and needs, and helps them make informed decisions.

Invisible leaders’ core values, privileging the collective over the individual, are beneficial to a knowledge-sharing culture.

If you are interested in more practical details, here is my personal vade-mecum for those who want to practice invisible leadership.

The invisible leader promotes:

  • Open door policy
  • Team work
  • Facilitation versus direction
  • Informal relationships through networks of conversation.

The invisible leader involves the team in:

  • Setting goals and visions
  • Decision making
  • Consensus reaching.

The invisible leader increases sense of inclusiveness, responsibility and gratification by:

  • Confidently delegating
  • Sharing successes with team mates
  • Giving voice to all (even to the silent that tend to hold back valuable input when overcome by predominant personalities)
  • Making feel everyone equally important.  

To go to heart of the matter, the key to invisible leadership is mainly about doing the best things in the best way for a common objective. This attitude leads to quicker and more successful results than when power is exercised as dictated by hierarchical differences.

On that note, find the invisible leader within you and let them express what you want to see happening in your team, in a way that is subtle, delicate and yet determined. This is what will make you effective in leading your team.


Yesterday a friend (thank you Steve) sent me The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink. Watching through the ten minute video unleashed thoughts I’ve been having, since always, that I would like to share.

Dan makes an excellent point about what motivates us, ultimately, to excel at our jobs, our work and all our activities. It does not have much to do (to me not surprisingly) with financial reward. Rather, it is autonomy, mastery and purpose in what we do. If, within the terms of our work, we:

  • have the freedom to work on what we want and how we want,
  • we have the opportunity to develop mastery and skill in what interests us and
  • we feel connected to some higher purpose in the achieving of which we believe,

we excel at what we do. Not only that, but what we do is relevant to us and our societies. Money is not the key to a better world Dan says. Rather, we are the key, with our beliefs, ethics, sensing and motivation. We just need the conditions in which to unleash ourselves, and, in a world founded on control and money, we can’t.

In other words, in order for us to evolve as species, we need to forget about systems of control (which is what all kind of management is, essentially). Instead, we need to focus on enabling and fostering systems of openness and uncertainty, therefore innovation. Could this be the key to a higher level of consciousness for humanity to achieve, in order to be?

Dan’s words reminded me of Presence, a book by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty sue Flowers, that I recently picked up, once and again. In the epilogue, the authors discuss, amongst other things, whether, if man were to die, there would be a better chance for the gorilla. They conclude there actually would not be, contrary to what most environmentalists would perhaps say.

Yes, if man were not to exist on our planet, the gorilla, as we know it, would probably thrive undisturbed, under no threat of extinction. However, in this scenario the gorilla will remain, always, a gorilla.

  • Could it be that the purpose of mankind is higher than what we can foresee, currently? Could there be something that we know but science can not tell us?
  • Could it be that, as we are increasingly looking up to our nature, our Earth, and (despite only some of us) trying to preserve it, in the same way gorillas are looking up to us?
  • Could it be that man is hope for gorillas to expand and grow as species, in a way that is best for them, and best for humankind?
  • Could it be that people will come to be aware of the larger purpose that connects them to the gorilla through mastery and autonomy integrated as part of the systems based on which we live our world?
  • Why do we need religions when we have ourselves?

I don’t have the answers, but I’ve been thinking.

Dan’s mastery, autonomy and purpose could be just one key to presencing our live and environment.

Perhaps the degree to which we, ultimately, are related to one another, first to the people and things we love, then to all people, then our environment and world, and then the universe, comes most striking in our awareness when we loose somebody we love.

Because of the strong connection that exists between us and them, we, deep inside of us, know how they are, metaphysically, even though they are no longer with us, at least not in terms of how they used to be.

Although they are not anymore present in our physical world, we know they are there in the world, in the universe, still. They are not dead, their bodies are, but they are not, and that is not just because we think about them and remember them, and dream about them. It is more fundamental than that. It is an awareness that it is good to accept and enjoy.

In such moments, we realize nothing disappears, just changes form. And then we know that if they are no longer here, in the form in which we used to see them, they are someplace else in the universe.

Nothing appears as clear to us as when we see with the heart.

And so, I’ve been thinking. There is a greater purpose for humanity that humanity is yet to realize, and this has something to do with how connected humanity is within itself, as well as with the world and the universe. Becoming aware of this purpose, and the bigger whole, will be a stepping stone in humanity’s evolution. Achieving it will be amazing.

I’ve been thinking all of us, people and/or organizations, have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to find our pieces of this purpose and achieve them. Perhaps it starts with autonomy and mastery. Does your heart tell you what the purpose is?


Amazing, beautiful, hopeful and truthful. Speaking out of the very bottom of my mind and putting it all out there with facts, numbers, thoughts, ideas, hopes, and directions for action. This is what the 11th hour movie is like to me, now. I think you should see the movie, now. See it and see how it makes you feel, then do something about your feelings.

You can watch the 11th Hour movie online for free:

I admit the movie greatly inspired me.
Synchronicity (Peter Senge et al) is when things come to you when you are thinking about them, when you want them at their very best, and finest, when you are ready to face them.
Law of attraction (Ronda Byrne et al) is off course the same thing under a different name, i.e., when you are thinking about and calling something in your thoughts, then it comes to you, because the wavelength of your thoughts attracts the wavelength at which the things you want are at. 
Law of attraction has been around for much longer than synchronicity btw, btw. Which came first does not matter though, what matters is that we know.
And so I’ve been thinking about complexity, systems thinking, environment, business and international organisations, and how the system in which we are all, inherently, should change and how are of the above have a role to play in all this. And then off course the 11th Hour comes to me, like an order I’d placed (a friend sent me the link, a friend I almost never talk to but we are on the same wavelength, and we know it). And so that is that, I am not at all surprised, I’ve learnt to not ignore the seemingly insignificant, and am now inspired. 

Some facts, thoughts and ideas for action that I drilled out (not that I like that verb …) from the movie:

Some facts:

A recent study in the US showed that, at a certain age, after watching on average 2.5 hours of TV per day, children in the US can recognise on average 100 corporate brands …  In other words, children grow up well tuned to a society driven by consumption, consumerism, speed, wealth, and greed (in a way, albeit not always greed in a straightforward sort of a sense). Many of them want the same things they see on TV … unless when they see through and change their thinking.

The Earth is our mother, our base, you name it. If all of the Earth life support systems were to be switched off. Today, it would cost us 35 trillion of USD per year (I think this is what it was …) to maintain our life here on Earth. Meanwhile all of the economies on Earth generate about 18 trillion USD per year. And so the Earth is super generous to us, she holds us, she protects is. Meanwhile, we’ve been driving its ecosystems out of balance. And this is a problem. It is not good behaviour. We’ve got to stop it.

The Earth is such an amazing place. Here, temperature is right for life to exist, and we can breathe oxygen from the air. The carbon dioxide we breathe out is recycled by forests and trees. A simple expression of our life in a system that is life-supporting. We are so lucky to be on this planet.

We, people, are disconnected from nature and all other species. We keep thinking we are the most supreme species on Earth, and so can rule over, govern everything else. And so we exploit everything else, including we ourselves as people. (I think of New York, a city where I would quite like to go to, and think there such disconnection would be at its finest.) However, such disconnection is far from true. We are inter-dependent on everything else, on every animal, every plant, every insect, on the water we drink and bathe into, on the air we breathe … the cells we are made of give out and take back from our environment. We live in a system, we are part of a system.
Some of us would be taken aback by such a statement, some would agree in theory, and some, and I think we should all be like those last some, would not only agree, they would feel their inter-connectedness throughout the system of life down to their very bones, and heart, and mind. And every day, they would want to do something about that, every single day!

People have been expanding on Earth, but the Earth itself has not been expanding. Sure this is not sustainable. Sure we must do something about this.

One day, things will be green, and replenished on Earth. Balance will be restored. And you know why? Because the Earth has all the time in the world, whereas we don’t.

Some thoughts:

Global warming, climate change, and the like: these are symptoms, not causes. symptoms of how we think and feel, how we see life. The outside reflects the inside and vice versa. And so, it is not global warming and climate change we should care about, the most. It is how we think and feel that we should care about.
What is this about, at the end of the day? Money? Work? Ambition? Achievement? Sure it would be about those things, but motivated by what? I think it is mostly about responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones and then every other person on Earth. By what we do and how we do it, and how we think as by how we think we make things happen, too, we make things happen in a certain way. Firstly and most importantly, it is about seeing and understanding life as part of a system, and being humble, and happy. Then things happen as they should, and so not only individually but also (and importantly) collectively.
(Is this the above a distinctly female way of looking at things? Perhaps it is. … And both women and men can do it, it is not just women who can be feminine … and not just men who can be masculine. I mean actions, approaches, thoughts and ideas.)

If all people were to rise their level of awareness of not just global warming and climate change as issues but also and more importantly of what makes them happen collectively as part of a system, then people would be empowered to act by feeling, thinking, and doing. The biggest challenge for humankind, today, and for the future is learning to feel, think and behave collectively, be an organism, just like your body is. We must recognise that nature has rights, too … and so then That is evolution of mind which comes next for the human species. As they’ve been saying, the Earth will survive because it has all the time in the world. We don’t have all the time in the world and so it is time to recognise how small we are and so then how big we can be.

Culturally, almost everywhere on Earth, people are being cultivated into achieving more, into doing more, into making money, into progressing, into exploiting resources. I guess you can call this greed, drive, etc. Greed is perhaps the very worst, negative end of this spectrum … And, greed is institutionalised in corporations, and business, oil companies, food companies, travel companies, banks … So what do we do? Corporations are systems within the system that are eating it up, that are destroying it. This is OK actually, it is just that people may not be in the system once it’s been destroyed and transformed. 🙂

Some ideas for action:

How to make evolution of the human mind happen? Wanting it is the very first step. Educating oneself and others is the next step. Cultivating one’s feelings and intuitions is yet another step, like when you know about something taking place when it is, without nobody telling you. Then you move towards collective consciousness. I know that, have experienced it many times, mostly when facilitating meetings and group events. And, have you seen The Men Who Stare at Goats …? Another great one, see it and think about what it’s telling you.

How could we change our minds, and hearts, understand our part of the big system, and do something about it, every single day …? Well, it may sound a little hippie (well, to some of you Westerners … not to some of you Easterners) and I am sorry if it would do that, but the one thing that would make all of that happen is love. Sure love for your friends and family, and culture, and all that you care for. But not just that, love for people, for humanity, for high values, for what you are passionate about. Love that motivates all that you do and drives your passions. Love that makes you feel good. Love when you think, love when you dream, just love. It is a simple foundation for a number of complicated, complex, chaotic sorts of endeavours through which we can influence the system(s) in which we live.
(Oups, is this a feminine way of looking at things, again? Sorry boys, you can do it too though. It is easy. Guys can be a lot more feminine than ladies actually. It is all in the mind.)

Follow your passions, always. Find what you are passionate about when it comes to sustainability, and do it, everyday. Push for your workplaces to be conducive of your passions and dreams. (See what I wrote about this, here.) Be creative, feel the energy that’s coming your way when you are and create more in a positive spiral of some sort. This is what it takes, this is what makes us human … love, passion and high values all in one motivating what we do.

On a more practical side, slow movement seems to give many useful directions. Disengage from consumerism, do not want more than what you can responsibly handle (in terms of money and wealth), eat local food, take time out to spend with friends ad family (and so no need to make money, all the time), be frugal, i.e., use money wisely and thoughtfully, with an ethical strategy in your mind. I do that, try do, when I shop. Always wonder where the ingredients and the materials come from.

On a global level, it would take the tweaking of policies here and there for individuals and corporations to start walking an ethical journey. It would take willingness and courage to do this. Hopefully that will happen, it must.


What a beautiful movie and how it unleashed thoughts I’ve been having, for a while. Long live beautiful movies, long live life, and Earth.

What is the environmental impact of producing a movie of this sort? I don’t know. I would imagine not much. Not much, if as many as possible people see it and choose to change how they think, feel and behave.


July 2018
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