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  • Cindy Mundahl

Trauma-Based Leadership



The last few weeks it’s been exceptionally difficult for me to maintain positive mental health. Australia is burning uncontrollably, families are still being separated at our southern border, and an attack was launched against another country bringing us closer to war. These events rage on in a world already fraught with unfathomable pain and suffering. I find myself daily trying to manage my flight, fight, freeze response to such events. I want to be a conscious being in this world, but so often I feel the world is making it more difficult with each passing day, so I’m left trying to determine how I’ll respond. Will I stay in bed and hide under the covers until it’s safe to come out, will I run away to a country I deem to be safer, or will I stay the course and fight for the world I want all of us to live in? I’m trying to make the choice to fight for consciousness, kindness and openness. To that end, I’m asking myself what do we want and need in the leaders of our world because clearly we haven’t been making the correct choices.


It’s become apparent to me that we are continually electing, supporting and accepting leaders that are deeply unconscious and who have not done the inner work of addressing trauma in their lives. These leaders are easy to spot as they operate from a place of scarcity and fear. They speak to our base fears and seek to divide and manipulate people. They create polarization and thrive on coming out on top whether that be through amassing wealth, power or both. True leaders seek to share the wealth with everyone and understand that true power is derived internally. It’s something you achieve through inner work, not through external validation. Good leaders also understand that power is not finite and that there are enough resources for every being on the planet, if we learn to share and put our egos aside and not operate out of a position of scarcity.


The Australia fires, family separation and missile attacks are all preventable events. If we have conscious leaders who look inside themselves, question their motivations, check their egos and act in accordance with our shared human goodness, these events would be far less common in our world and we would all thrive rather than be pitted against each other for some imaginable hierarchy that we’re told we need to be on the top of. This is how the systems of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism thrive yet today. The Earth isn’t a hierarchy, it’s an interdependent ecosystem. We all need each other to survive.


There are many new leaders coming forth that are exhibiting conscious leadership, and for that I’m grateful. Finland’s new prime minister Sanna Marin has proposed a four day work week to enable people to spend more time with their families, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has publicly stated that all immigrants are welcome in her country and New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern led her country from a position of compassion and kindness when a mass shooting at a mosque threatened to tear the country apart. These are the leaders I look to for optimism that the world is requiring new qualities in its leaders. I hope we will do the same here in the United States. As long as we accept the premise that wealth and power are scarce and finite, that we are to live in fear, that we need to be led by a certain demographic that doesn’t represent the majority of people and that consciousness in our leaders doesn’t matter, we are doomed to continue to live in a disconnected and unsafe world. At least for as long as this world lasts.


I’m looking for leaders who admit that life is messy, that they’ve wrestled with their past trauma and pain and that exhibit emotional intelligence. Do they seek out people with life experiences different from their own, do they welcome differences in opinions, do they evaluate their stances and change course when they deem it necessary, is there evidence they've grown as a human being? Old definitions of leadership qualities no longer serve us, if they ever really did. We need to demand that our leaders be evolved and continue to grow as human beings, otherwise our leaders will lead us nowhere but to our own demise.

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