Leaders as Warriors for the Human Spirit with Margaret Wheatley

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“We need leaders who recognize the harm being done
to people and planet through the dominant practices that
control, ignore, abuse, and oppress the human spirit.
We need leaders who put service over self,
stand steadfast in crises and failures, and
who display unshakable faith that
people can be generous, creative, and kind.”
Margaret Wheatley


Why do leaders need to be Warriors for the Human Spirit?

To be a life-affirming leader or activist has become increasingly difficult. Forces beyond our control have created a global climate of fear and conflict.

Leadership skills that worked well in the past no longer are sufficient.

Warriors appear in every culture when hard times come upon the people. Warrior weapons can be aggressive or peaceful, yet they share one value: They commit to protect and preserve what must be saved.

Warriors for the Human Spirit train to develop the qualities and skillful means necessary to protect and preserve the human spirit and the spirit of life.

They have only two “weapons”—compassion and insight.

You’re ready to train as a Warrior for the Human Spirit if:

You want to continue to make a difference with your work and life, but are frustrated by your inability to lead or promote your cause effectively.

You are aware of the increase in fear and conflict but refuse to succumb to these.

You care about your community and want to contribute to its wellbeing.

You feel grief, sorrow, and anger for what is being lost, from individuals to species to the planet. Yet you still have faith in people’s potential for generosity, creativity, kindness, love.

You have chosen service over self-interest many times before. You refuse to give up—you are determined to find a path of meaningful contribution.

You yearn for a community of people who seek to nourish life, with whom you can console, celebrate, strategize, exclaim, grieve, laugh.

This world needs leaders to be Warriors for the Human Spirit

To be a life-affirming leader or activist has become very difficult. The skills and methods that once worked now hit up against strong barriers:

People are withdrawn in fear and self-protection–they are less willing to contribute or participate.

Senior leaders react to uncertainty and lack of control by demanding more control from staff through plans, objectives, and guaranteed outcomes.

Policies and governments shift frequently and incoherently. It is rare to reach consensus; partisanship and politics destroy the future.


The leadership skills that worked well in the past no longer are sufficient. New skills and qualities are necessary now: Patience, perseverance, presence.  Insight, clear seeing, discernment.  Compassion, caring, availability.  Trustworthiness, honesty, humility.

Forces beyond our control have created a global climate of fear and conflict. Leaders hold onto power by making us afraid of one another. Greed and corruption predominate in politics and business. Elites take everything for themselves. People seek security in tribal behaviors. Values about the common good, morality, caring for one another no longer summon people to work together.

These dynamics occur in every civilization at the end of its life cycle. They will intensify, causing more problems and greater suffering. As leaders, activists, and citizens who have made a difference, who still need to make a difference, what can we do? Can we define a role for ourselves that truly contributes for this time?

Throughout history, when times grow dark, Warriors arise to protect and defend what is being threatened. Their weapons are either aggressive or peaceful. But they share one core value: to train themselves as protectors for what is being lost. To fulfill this role, to prepare for greater challenges, they commit to training to develop their skills. They bind together as a community dedicated to this purpose. Today, we name leaders who make this commitment Warriors for the Human Spirit.

Warriors for the Human Spirit train to develop the qualities and skillful means necessary to protect and preserve the human spirit and the spirit of life. They have only two “weapons” – compassion and insight.

  • They learn how to calm situations of conflict and distress by offering their presence and equanimity.
  • They learn how to embody sanity by being responsive rather than reactive, conscious rather than compulsive.
  • They learn to see beyond their filters and judgements so that more information is available for decision-making.
  • They learn to see what’s needed rather than imposing their own needs on a situation.
  • They learn to trust themselves, to act with confidence not burdened by arrogance.
  • They learn to see clearly so they can act wisely.
  • As they train together, they develop a strong and reliable community for support, ideas, consolation, humor, and grace.


Taking our place in history

When we consciously commit to train as a Warrior, we are taking our place in history. Countless others have gone before us to serve the needs of their time. Personal family lineages are filled with Warriors: those who went to war, who migrated, who endured poverty, injustice, conflicts, dislocation, natural disasters. Without their valiancy, we wouldn’t be here.

Standing on their shoulders, we find strength and determination. Looking forward, we discover a path of meaningful contribution. We commit to doing what we can to serve the needs of our time. We join this lineage of brave, generous, and noble people who offered their hearts, hands, and spirits for what they believed in, for what they knew must change.

It’s just our turn to serve the world.

Warrior training for leaders

January to June 2022

The Berkana Institute began training Warriors for the Human Spirit in March 2015. Over 400 people from 35 nations have trained and many continue to deepen their skills and practices and also stay together as a community. We have learned that the outer work of life-affirming leadership requires us to do the inner work of self-knowing. Only then can we develop the clarity, confidence, compassion, and equanimity to serve the needs of this time as leaders, activists, parents and citizens.

This form of Warrior Training is intentionally designed to benefit individual participants, their organizations, and their local communities and regions. Over six months of working together, it develops a cohort of dedicated and sane leaders who have the skills and capacities to contribute meaningfully to the needs of their communities and organizations. Training together, they also create a community of Warriors that supports them to persevere and overcome the obstacles and challenges of leading in this difficult time.

How the warriors train

Warrior Training focuses on three essential areas


Skills and capacities:

  • Skills for dealing with situations of high conflict and polarized positions
  • Skills for dealing with situations of high volatility and strong emotions
  • Perceptual tools to see what we fail to see because of blinders and judgements
  • Systems thinking to understand webs of interconnections and the consequences of ignoring these in decision-making
  • Practices to create Islands of Sanity within one’s sphere of influence


Skills and capacities:

  • Meditation practices to cultivate a stable mind that is less reactive, more responsive
  • Self-awareness practices to know one’s triggers and judgements; with awareness, reducing their influence on how situations are perceived
  • Practices to act with compassion and insight rather than aggression and fear
  • Practices to transform negative emotions –anger, grief, sadness–into energy for intelligent action
  • Role formation as a Warrior for the Human Spirit that strengthens the ability to act with clarity and integrity in all situations
  • Confidence to step forward as a role model and mentor of the best human qualities of sanity, generosity, insight, patience, compassion


Warriors rely on their cohort-community to endure the loneliness, criticism, setbacks and failures that are part of this path. Warriors know they can call on each other at any time, that they will be there for each other. In forming their own community, they learn the skills necessary to build healthy communities.

Skills and capacities:

  • As a community of practice, developing new insights and competencies through shared experiences and exchanges
  • Learning firsthand what supportive community demands from each member
  • Learning, as a leader, how to create the conditions for healthy community
  • Strengthening personal capacity to grow and persevere as a member of a supportive community
  • Thriving on moments of clarity, humor, joy and grace that are always present when humans work well together, no matter how difficult the external circumstances

Developing locally, connecting globally

Each cohort is regionally based – you have been invited to consider this opportunity by an organization within your community or locale that is partnering with Berkana, and who will host the monthly sessions. Every cohort brings together people from a broad variety of organizations and activists from that specific region. As leaders from the whole system, you’ll learn a great deal from one another, understand the complexity of issues and challenges, and work together to create new possibilities for the region as well as for your own organization.

Cohorts are forming in the U.S., Canada, U.K., European nations, South Africa and Zimbabwe. There will be opportunities for you to learn together as a global community during the six months of training. In the monthly sessions, all cohorts will be present together for some part of the time.

Monthly training

Every month from January to June, the cohorts meet in their own locale for a full day of teachings and practices, hosted by the Partner organization. These sessions will be either in-person or online depending on local conditions. The teachings are in English; all other practices and activities are in the local language. Each session is on Friday for eight hours.

Two to three hours of the full day will be live teachings and interactions (via Zoom) with Margaret (Meg) Wheatley and other faculty. These teachings are in English, everything else is in your language.

Program details, schedule & tuition

Cohort-based training

As a participant, you will be part of a cohort of about 20 people. We will do our best to create these cohorts regionally so that you have the possibility of meeting in-person if conditions allow. As a cohort, you will work together during both the live sessions and the interim weeks between sessions, facilitated by trained Warriors. Everything you do together will build a supportive community. From time-to-time, cohorts from different continents, nations and regions will meet together; we are a global community and we want you to know one another.

Live training sessions occur once a month for six months on a Friday (see calendar) from January through June 2022. The live training day is eight hours; two hours are live interactions with Meg Wheatley and other faculty. The remainder of the time is group practices with your cohort. We know well the limits of Zoom and design these days for lively participation and the avoidance of Zoom fatigue.

Schedule: March – July 2022

Welcome to Warrior Training: Delights, Expectations & Obligations
This session will be recorded if you cannot attend live

Monthly Live Trainings. All sessions meet on Fridays.

  • 25/26 March: First session (in person at SI on both days)
  • 22 April: half day in-between session (online)
  • 27/28 May: Second session (in person at SI on both days)
  • 24 June: half day in-between session (online)
  • 29/30 July: Final session (in person at SI on both days)


  • Standard Tuition (for individuals): R16 500

Tuition includes:

  • Six full-day live training sessions, plus an additional Saturday session
  • A trained Warrior facilitator to work with you as a group and individually.
  • Abundant resources to support your development during and after the program (Warrior Training never ends).
  • An online platform that gives you access to our global community of warriors.

Financial Assistance: If you cannot pay the full tuition, we have a limited number of scholarships for partial (not full) support. Once accepted into the program, we will be happy to speak with you to determine what might be possible.

Payment Plans: We offer two different plans

Pay in full before program starts


Three payments:
1/3rd upon acceptance

1/3rd by 30 April 2022

1/3rd by 30 June 2022

Contemplation: Is warrior training for you? Submit your application here!

Date and Time

Schedule: March– July 2022 (see more detail in ‘Program details, schedule & tuition’ on the left)

  • 25/26 March: First session (in person at SI on both days)
  • 22 April: half day in-between session (online)
  • 27/28 May: Second session (in person at SI on both days)
  • 24 June: half day in-between session (online)
  • 29/30 July: Final session (in person at SI on both days)


  • Standard Tuition (for individuals): R25 000
  • Gift Tuition (yourself and gift to another)*: R27 000
  • Discounted Tuition (students and those needing support): R16 000

*If you have the means to pay a little extra this will go a long way in supporting someone else’s training costs that may not be fortunate enough to be able to afford the standard tuition. Pay it forward if you can.

** Please reach out to us if you really want the join the training but the costs are still prohibitive. 

Payment plan

We offer the following payment plans:

Pay in full before the training commences on 25 March


  • 1/3rd upon acceptance
  • 1/3rd by 30 April 2022
  • 1/3rd by 30 June 2022


Be The Earth Foundation is offering discount bursaries to the Warriors for the Human Spirit Training with Meg Wheatley. South Africa-based people who focus their lives and work on making a difference, are welcome to apply. Please first complete the self-nomination on the SI website, before completing the Expression of Interest on Be The Earth’s website.
(Click anywhere on this block to go to the website page)


Monthly online trainings with two in-person gatherings at the Sustainability Institute (dependant on COVID regulations at the time)


Applications close 10 January 2022. Please go to the ‘Contemplation: Is warrior training for you’ section at the bottom of the page to apply.

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