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Enchant the future: the 7 facets of poetic sustainability leaders

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By Vincent Avanzi

· 10 min read

With six of the nine planetary boundaries crossed and recurrent disasters happening throughout the world these last few years, we are in the midst of imagining a renewed United Nations for global governance to take action in this climate-boiling emergency era ahead of the UN Summit of the Future in 2024. Let’s take time to reflect on the type of sustainability leaders we need to solve these poly-crises, change the narrative and the matrix and guide us towards a more balanced, regenerative and livable world tomorrow. 

We've heard of thoughtful leaders, regenerative leaders, heart leaders, servant leaders, enlightened or enlightening leaders, and leaders of the future. Perhaps what they all have in common is a wider sense of awareness of their living environment. How can poetic leaders help build a more enchanted future?

In ancient Greek, poiesis means “to create, to do”. The poet is not just a dreamer but a change-maker, a creator of new worlds. In ancient times, poets were called upon at the heart of the city to design new and uplifting horizons. Let us reconnect with this tradition and this original mission of being an activist of our common future.

Discover the 7 personality sides of poetic leaders and why they are essential to open the gates to a better future. Meet the dictionary, the imaginary, the humanitary, the visionary, the missionary, the revolutionary and the planetary — seven sides in the same story of harmony to reach our common human destiny. 

The art of the dictionary

The poetic leader seeks to handle words as a wordsmith and find his own words, as a writer and a speaker. His influence comes from his eloquence, his coherence and his conscience. He intends to find the right word with righteousness in order to have peaceful communications in the present and constructive collaborations in the future.

In the beginning was the Word,” said Saint John. Words always precede reality. The poetic leader aims to enchant the world by changing the words and creating memorable punchlines and slogans that touch his audience's heart. Like an Esperanto, his poetic message is delivered in the form of a universal language. You can watch Amanda Gorman's poetic election speech for Joe Biden “The hill we climb”. The speeches of poets - or the poetic speeches of leaders - are inherently inspiring, moving, touching, impactful and soulful. There is magic when you write poetry and when you recite what you have written. You are connected to the source of your being, to the soul of the world. As the poet Ferlinghetti said: “poetry is the voice of the fourth person of the singular form” opening a path between yourself and the world, the present and the future.

The light of the imaginary

“I have a dream,” proclaimed Martin Luther King, in anaphora, in his historic Washington speech. The poetic leader connects to the power of dreams to magnify reality, enrich life, imagine new outings, and return to the essentials. He switches from eco-anxiety to hope while gazing at the stars.

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder,” wrote G.K. Chesterton. The poetic leader marvels at the little things in life, at humans, at nature. He attempts to poetically inhabit the world, to see the good, the kind, the beautiful, the subtle, the invisible energies. Like Saint-Exupery wrote in The Little Prince, “We only see clearly with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes.” He welcomes life, the unexpected, the marvelous, the fragile, to live to the rhythm of nature, throughout the seasons. He sometimes leaves to invent and design futures, between the possible and the “I’m possible,” turning chaos into OK. What he sees in his dreams, he brings back into reality. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” would sing a utopian artist. That’s right, there are eight billion of us dreamers and poets.

The grace of the humanitary

Humanitary is defined as “wanting the good of humanity.” The poetic leader aims precisely at the good of mankind, with human kindness. His cause goes beyond himself, aiming for the greater good, the common good. He is connected to his emotions and opened to different forms of intelligence, emotional, relational, collective, and poetic. He assumes his share of vulnerability and intimacy which connects him to our deepest Humanity. Believing in the human richness of others, he thrives for elevation so that each team member enters into their talent zone, into their own singular flow. He manages his teams like an artist, with intuition, compassion, emotions and empathy, applying the golden rule “do to others only what you would like others to do to yourself”, hence aiming at general happiness and fulfillment. Joanna Macy in her book “Active Hope” pointed out that “when you act on behalf of a cause greater than yourself, you begin to feel a force greater than yours running through it. This is grace…... “ Let’s put grace in our thoughts, words and actions. 

The soul of the visionary

The poetic leader has a visionary soul. By projecting himself into daydreams toward the future, he anticipates and visualizes different scenarios and desirable futures, both utopian and dystopian. He invents new models of working, of building society and ways of living. He thinks outside the box and particularly beyond it, reaching for the stars to land on the Moon or back on Earth, trying to unravel a unifying, attractive, inclusive vision for tomorrow.

The subject of new narratives has become crucial today. Climate change and ecology has a triple tagline: first, it needs to be scientific to gather and make sense of the data available in the present, then it needs to become poetic to make us desire to go to that destination, and finally, it ends as politics in order to build it together and achieve it at the society level. As John Lennon reminds us “A dream that we dream alone is only a dream, a dream that we dream together is a reality,” the future will be written by all of us. What will be our common denominator dream for tomorrow, our vision of a desirable and sustainable future that makes us all want to mobilize to achieve it? One that is irresistible before climate change hits irreversible.

The pact of the missionary

The poetic leader has a mission and more precisely is on a mission. He dedicates his life to “defending an ideal.” He is aligned with it. He embodies it. In his life mission, which is to put his singularity at the service of our humanity, he chooses a cause and as Picasso reminded us, "the goal of life is to find your gifts, the meaning of life is to give them to others". He intends to follow that mantra, marching in this path like a pact between himself and his soul, himself and the world, becoming his most beautiful version and embarking on his most noble mission.

One of the ways to find a path of contribution today is to look at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, in order to find your desire for a positive impact on the world. As the Persian poet Rumi said, “unfold your own myth” to realize your share of our collective destiny.

The heart of the revolutionary

The poetic leader is in essence a revolutionary. Against all odds and towards all wonders, he has this internal fire fueling his dreams and wishes for human and life evolution. He seeks to change the status quo and has the audacity to propose or even impose new realities when necessary. He transforms reality and radically changes eras and systems for a more livable planet. He dares to speak of love, heart, soul, wisdom, life, spirituality, and dreams, even inside organizations or places where it’s not expected.

He may put an end to the “story of separation” of the elements, such as nature and humans, established by Descartes a few centuries ago as rational beings, in order to enter into a new model where we could be and become one with the living, in an ecosystemic vision. He chooses to no longer be a pure product of his environment but rather a subject of his enlightenment. He goes back to the essentials. Elevation is our revolution until we reach our reconciliation and a possible universal communion. His quest is harmony, within all elements of the world. He seeks to change the current model and as Joanna Macy would say, he radically aims for this “Great Turning” towards a more re-enchanted era endowed with goodness and beauty. He is a revolutionary, perhaps like the Che Guevara or the French spirit of 1789 with a Declaration of the Rights of the Living, a Greta or a Malala… As Victor Hugo would put it, let’s march “from revolution to harmony”.

The eye of the panetary

Finally, the poetic leader has the planetary map hidden inside him and it guides him like a compass, to a new possible Atlantis. His ambition is the Earth in its interdependence and the galaxies as a far reference. He seeks alliances and collaboration, he takes into account the wholeness, the oneness, and the big picture. He contemplates, as the overview effect of astronauts who see the Earth from afar in the same gaze, a synthesis effect with macro and micro, global and local angles, as regeneration can take place at each level. He looks for partners for the Earth and aims to create balance in international organizations and local communities in all parts of the globe. His scope is earthlings and all living species on Earth in their biodiversity, as François Taddei of the Learning Planet Institute reminds us in the “Planetizen” manifesto.

This is our home sweet home. May we all now connect our dots and take not a moonshot but an earthshot for a peaceful life on this planet. Our mission may be poetically called “H.O.M.E.” as “Humanity On Mission Earth” (see the poetic odyssey attached that was created for Earth Day 2021). We can all design, find and build a haven where we feel good and do good on this planet.

In the end, poetic leaders are the revolutionaries with a visionary imagination, the humanitarian missionaries equipped with a dictionary on a planetary horizon. It is humanity o’clock and by far time to enter the long-term scenarios, not just quarterly to maximize our earnings but essentially to harmonize the living. So how about we rise, us, not the temperatures, but as mature leaders on our best human behavior?

I am convinced that poetry, like beauty, can save the world and that we are all poets, all artists, all poetic leaders, and all activists of our common future. Let us visualize far away the universe in a single verse, and try to unite all the living in the horizon of a new garden of Eden as a rebirth on Earth. We may be the last generation to reverse the trend for a happy land but only together are we the true re-generation of life. “Everything is vibration,” said Einstein. Align your vibe with that of the universe. Poetically inhabiting the world is perhaps precisely that, to live your life according to the law of nature, as the alchemist of life. 

“O captain, my captain!” as Robin Williams suggested in the movie The Dead Poets Society, the only questions that remain are "What will your verse be?" Will we have been collectively useful? The time of poetic leaders is coming. Be you and be useful, be great and be grateful, that’s the new beautiful. Make this journey meaningful and soulful. And as the sun rises on the horizon, let us believe in LIFE, because in the voice of poetry, L I F E also stands for “Love Is For Ever”. May we all become poetic leaders to enchant the world and cowrite the future.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Vincent Avanzi is Chief Poetic Officer, speaker, leadership coach, world artist, and sustainability activist. Founder of The Ink of the Future, he delivers poetic speeches around the world on how to enchant the future as a poetic leader. His life mission is to enchant the world with poetry.

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