Conscious Leadership Exemplified: Ricken Patel

Ricken cafe

The last couple of blogs have looked at the 21st Century versions of the seven deadly sins and how they’ve been playing out in business and the economy. And one of the things that struck me was that it would be very easy to flip those things around to make a real and different impact. When it comes to generosity, philanthropy and doing things for the greater good i.e. altruism there are similar traits and some shared behaviours but the drivers and values are different to those who want control and power for their own benefit.

And so when Sarah asked if I’d like her to share a guest blog on conscious leadership it fitted in perfectly as this is part of the sea change that’s taking place… yes its acorns to grow mighty oaks but there’s a change… and this man is one of those who is leading the change…

– Yvette

Ricken Patel is a man with a mission.

Ricken Patel’s mission is to organise ‘citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want’, an idea that he had been cultivating since the age of 18. This world incorporates for all people peace, social justice and cohesion, human rights, an end to poverty, the rule of law and environmental sustainability. It is a democratic world achieved through love, hope and an awareness that generates profound transformation.

Based on that thinking, in 2007 at the age of 30, Ricken set up Avaaz meaning ‘voice’ in Persian. Avaaz is a not-for-profit global online network which encourages its 35 million members (at the time of writing in May 2014) to take action on issues globally that they most care about.

Beneath his quiet, cool exterior, Oxford and Harvard educated Ricken holds many higher aspirations and it is clear that he has undergone an inner soul searching that underpins effective leadership. In his address to the Commonwealth Foundation in 2013, he publicly recognised the link between the quality of his leadership, his judgment and his effectiveness at bringing about change and his own inner journey to know himself. He acknowledges that when he comes to a place of total self-love and acceptance he is able to show compassion, patience and acceptance for others, regardless of their race, upbringing or religious orientation. And, he is able to act from a place of love and belief in himself. Ricken also spoke out in support of Jeremy Rifkin’s “Empathic civilisation” concept which states that within us all is a deep desire to have empathy and connection with others. If we can connect with this consciously, we can use is as a powerful force for good.

Through Avaaz and the global internet technology of the 21st century, Ricken is able to bring mass public attention to the issues that need to be exposed for their injustice, inequality and plain wrong doing.

He mobilises us, as members of Avaaz, to take action through online petitions to force government to act with fairness and justice and by asking for donations to provide for the active work that Avaaz carries out. Email campaigns that I have joined recently have included petitioning the Jersey Government to stop Jersey being used as a tax haven for millionaires wanting to hide their wealth, tax free. Another was a petition to prevent the US government from passing a bill that would allow an oil pipeline, that will transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil, from Canada across the US. If it wasn’t for Avaaz I would not know about these issues, let alone be able to join with others to speak out again them.

We recently received an email from Ricken about some of the many successes Avaaz has had as a result of online donations. It said: “Over 90,000 of us donated enough to give $1 million to conservation organisations like the Rainforest Trust who are buying land and connecting two vital preserves in Borneo that can keep the orang-utans alive on this planet with us. I love this job :)” He also told us about another success story from our donations: “Yamama and her cousin Hayat are Syrian refugees, but they’re in school in part because our community raised $1 million …to save Syria from a lost generation of children without education. We just got word that governments have matched us over 100:1!!” The Avaaz community’s biggest success to date though has been on climate change with the Avaaz team working full time to pressurise governments worldwide to act now to halt climate change.

Ricken sites three reasons why Avaaz is so effective through its use of modern technology:

  • “Our community calls the shots. We don’t accept any money (ever!) from governments, corporations, foundations, or large donors — making our community our only boss. Most of the non-profit sector is funded by very rich people, whose preferences deeply shape the work done.
  • We’re super fast. Even for urgent problems, it can take months or even years to raise money from foundations and large donors — but we can raise over $1 million in hours!
  • We’re political. Because our donations are not tax deductible, we have no government restrictions on calling out politicians, and politics is where many battles to save the world are won and lost.”

I wrote in Spiritual Intelligence in Leadership: From Manager to Leader in Your Own Life: “What Ricken knows is that each and every one of us does have the power to shape the world and act powerfully on issues we feel strongly about if we join together and act as one voice: members are encouraged to put forward ideas for the campaigns they would like Avaaz to undertake; Avaaz polls around 10,000 of its members to ensure their choice of campaigns is supported by a large number; those that are not supported in the polls are not taken up….and what holds the group continually accountable is the recognition that they are only as effective as the number of members who participate in their campaigns. What all their campaigns have in common is a belief that we all have a responsibility to each other, to our future generations and to the planet at large.”

What I believe Ricken demonstrates through his conscious leadership is an acknowledgement of the intrinsic value and worth in all human beings; he uses his power to expose wrong doings and bring about a return to justice; he has the ability to empathise with the poor and those wronged by society and governments and Ricken rules not through wealth, prestige and fame but thought effective influence, influence which is both transparent and completely ethical and he leads by example, running Avaaz with focus, clarity, conscious energy and too, fully audited accounts that always are available for anyone to see. In short he has that wonderful blend of total humility and yet, great power.

Sarah Alexander runs 8 week transformational programmes for business owners and leader worldwide and uses Spiritual Intelligence to help them to make the most of their life’s work and fulfil their potential. She is the author of ‘Spiritual Intelligence in Business: The Eight Pillars of 21st Century Business Success’ and ‘Spiritual intelligence in Leadership: From Manager to Leader in Your Own Life.’

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