Thought for the week

Scilla Elworthy (blog): Why Peace is Possible

A retrospective blog written about Serenity in Leadership's interview with Scilla Elworthy, 3x Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and founder of Peace Direct

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Scilla was raised in a family with four older brothers.  At the age of 11, they taught her how to fire a shotgun. Curious, Scilla took the gun into the woods, pointed it underneath a nest and pulled the trigger. As pieces of feathers, sticks and debris fell to the ground, she was overcome by the extreme violence of which she was capable. This moment became a turning point that compelled her to dedicate her life to peace-making.

Everything that Scilla does is fuelled by her passion for peace and the prevention of war. As a result, she founded Peace Direct and co-founded Rising Women Rising World. Her latest book “The Business Plan for Peace: Building a World Without War (2017)” received critical acclaim from experts in the field. She advises the leadership of selected international corporations as well as students and young social entrepreneurs.

When we sat down to talk with Scilla about her childhood, the skills required to facilitate peaceful dialogue and how she has come to view the state of leadership, one thing was apparent: Scilla is succeeding in transforming the ways leaders approach power and conflict. We’ve extracted some of her key perspectives and tools that Scilla recommends all leaders adopt, so that you can, too.

Seek first to understand

“I will listen for as long as it takes”

Scilla has come to realise that it is possible to communicate and enter into dialogue, even with people you profoundly disagree with. Her 3x Nobel Peace Prize nominations for her work in developing effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide, is testament to this fact.

While the dialogue process is long and uncomfortable, the ability to sit through disturbances can have remarkable results – namely a deeper, more compassionate understanding of the opposition.

Tip* Create safe spaces where people are able to reach a place of respect and understanding, without the necessity to always agree.

From inner-work to outer change

“Those who have done inner work are most effective in their outer work”

While practising deep-listening is a critical step in the process of dialogue and understanding, the first real step toward developing empathy is through self-awareness. Scilla believes that unless we have tended to our inner emotions about the subjects at hand, it is always possible to project our feelings onto the person we are trying to persuade. The peace-builder shares that it was only when she learnt how to look inward and resolve her inner feelings about certain situations, that she was able to avoid making assumptions about those she was in negotiation with.

Tip* Try a daily reflection practice to increase your self-awareness as a means to develop your listening skills. This could be activities such as  walking in nature and meditating to  writing down what you are grateful for each morning.

FQ: The Feminine Intelligence

In order for humanity to survive, we need a vast change in human consciousness; a radical shift in the way we, as a society, live and express ourselves. Scilla looks to the role of the Feminine Intelligence in shaping a safer, more awakened society. From using our influence with greater responsibility and less force to rethinking the distorted notions of “male” power – the role of compassion, listening and collaboration are just some of the feminine traits that are going to play a critical role in this societal shift.  

Tip* The first step to developing your FQ is through understanding it. Traits such as  intuition, receptivity, creativity, and co-creation are available for everyone to use regardless of gender. Try to develop these skills daily through promoting more listening,  dialogue and inclusivity in your organisation. Leaders must lead by example in order for this culture of curiosity to flourish.


The above is just a taste of the lessons we have learnt from Scilla. For more videos, which are packed with plenty of wisdom and practical advice on bettering your leadership, subscribe to any of our channels below. Don’t forget to share with your community!

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