Written by: William D. Anton, Ph. D., Founder of CEO Effectiveness

Only our ability to learn, change and grow psychologically throughout life holds forth the possibility that someday there might actually be World Peace.

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The International Day of Peace is dedicated to world peace and the absence of war and violence. It is celebrated on September 21st when people around the world take part in various activities and events centered on the theme of “peace”.

As is the case with all aggregates of people, the problem starts at the top. The fundamental problem with world peace and creating flow in business organizations is essentially the same, except the former is on a much grander scale. The absence of world peace has a lot to do with who the leaders are, their connection with themselves, and the kind of people who generally rise to the top of organizations, institutions, and governments. But, as Einstein observed the solution must come from those who want a better world and are willing to do something to help create it. In Dante’s Inferno Dante Alighieri famously states that “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Even at that earlier time in history, he realized that those whose attachment to vested interest is only equaled by their self-serving character are unlikely to create inner or outer peace for themselves or anyone else.

It has been said often that “sooner or later the psychopathic element rises to the top.” In a previous http://ceoeffectiveness.com/ post we noted that the value system of the sociopath is immature, childlike and self-focused. Little delay of gratification is tolerated. They cause great suffering and generally only conform in the presence of external threat. When they are elevated as heads of organizations or governments, peace remains elusive and enormous harm is done to others. Dr. Fred Kiel has a short but instructive TED talk entitled Psychopaths in the C-Suite (Fred Kiel@TEDxBGI) that is worth listening to. It is a small extrapolation from the C-Suite to heads of state or government leaders.

Recall that for the sociopath, aliveness is experienced in response to increasingly high levels of stimulation. Levels of stimulation that persons with normal arousal levels (most of us) experience as toxic are exciting to the sociopath. Sociopaths are indifferent to their impact on others.

For the chronically under-aroused world leader, killing, controlling, manipulating and harming others is evidence of their fundamental belief: everyone is a sociopath and they are simply smarter than others. When they are heads of governments the prospects for world peace are close to zero and grave harm to others is much more likely. In their mind, “if others were smarter and had the chance, they would do the same to them.” But, they are wrong. They are still human and what they are really seeking (access to their truer self) will continually elude them. To use a vampire metaphor, “there is not enough blood in the world to keep them feeling alive.” They must always be expanding their supply no matter what the cost to themselves and others. Only engagement in high risk “adrenalin rush seeking behaviors” offers a temporary but fleeting reprieve.

Perhaps the best way to create world peace is to start with inner peace. The only way to create lasting inner peace is to know yourself as you truly are. The best way to know yourself is to first become self-aware. In his recent book Return on Character Fred Kiel lists six steps to increase self-awareness and in Business Success Through self-Knowledge I have listed ten activities that can move you from self-awareness to self-knowledge.

If all who are dedicated to world peace would start by knowing themselves first and confronting the reasons they create impediments to harmony in their own environments, their personal transformation might stimulate action in place of neutrality in others.  As others become energized by what they see, the collective human spirit could be moved to confront evil in a different way and create a lasting peace that could pervade our planet.