When we think of leaders to watch in 2014, we are expecting to see leaders who will be capturing the headlines and generating success for their business or organisation.

But, according to Sarah Alexander author of 'Spiritual Intelligence in Leadership', we should also be looking towards the leaders who are working with less media attention to create meaningful and positive changes in our world. These are the people who can really inspire to make the most of our lives and our business.

So Sarah has drawn up a list of some of the leaders we should all be watching in 2014. They are people who are using their talents to create a better world and can inspire us to do the same…

· Karen Armstrong, the English scholar and author who has studied all of the world's religions and found the common thread that joins them all together: compassion.

Karen, having won the TED prize in 2008, launched the "Charter For Compassion", with the ultimate aim of making the world a more compassionate place. The Charter now has over 103,000 signatories.

Karen herself is committed to spreading the idea of compassion and The Golden Rule in organisations and cities worldwide.

· Francine and David Wheeler, who lost their six year old son Benjamin in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in December 2012. The Wheelers now speak out about the importance of community, forgiveness, love and also preventing a similar tragedy through gun control.

Francine Wheeler spoke to the nation giving President Obama's weekly address last April, calling for "common sense gun responsibility reforms."

In November 2013 they launched "Parent Together", a further national campaign to educate and empower parents, emphasizing the importance of mental wellness, connection and community to tackle the issues of gun safety.

Thich Nhat Hanh by Duc (pixiduc)

Thich Nhat Hanh by Duc (pixiduc)

· Thich Nhat Hanh, the 88 year old Vietnamese Monk who travels worldwide to promote the Buddhist principles of mindfulness, awareness, and compassion. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr for his efforts to bring reconciliation in the Vietnam War.

He completed a US tour in 2013 speaking to thousands, and will be touring Europe this year starting in Spain this spring.

· Marianne Williamson, an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher, is standing for the House of Representatives in a California district in the November 2014 Congressional elections. Marianne believes that the transformational principles that she has been teaching for over 30 years are now embraced by much of society. However, the political system remains rigidly outside of this growing awareness and understanding of a more caring and relational approach to life. Marianne wants to change that.

She is standing as an Independent, believing that as an Independent she can speak, free from the influence of the two major parties.

· Amanda Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry is leaving the organisation mid-2014 to join Apple as Senior Vice President on their Executive Team. Amanda joined Burberry in 2006 and, under her leadership; the company has tripled its revenues to more than £3.1bn. The legacy that Amanda is most proud of is that she has created, within the company, "one of the most connected, creative and compassionate cultures in the world today".

· Malala Yousafiz, who in November 2013, won the Sakharov prize for free speech awarded by the European Parliament. Malala believes that what makes a nation powerful is not its arsenal of guns but it's "educated society, human morals… and equal rights for both genders".

Malala has written a book "I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" which tells her story. This year she intends to continue to spread her message of equality and education for all, including a boy's right to education instead of child labour.

These are just a few of the examples of the leaders we should all be watching in 2014 – they deserve our interest, support and encouragement. The qualities they display make them the true leaders of the 21st century.

Image: By Duc (pixiduc) from Paris, France. (Thich Nhat Hanh Marche meditative 06) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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