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A New Norm in Business Demands a New Norm in Leadership: Let’s Unlock Two Powerful Tools for this New Norm

May 5, 2021

We are in the midst of a metamorphosis. Profound shifts are affecting the way we work, how and why we do things, and the purpose and meaning we bring to our organisations and wider social systems.

There are myriad factors contributing to this metamorphic moment.  To start with, there is immense stress in all systems.  According to a recent global Gallup poll, we have never been so stressed out before as we are now. Ditto for our workplaces and wider social systems, and rising stress across industrial, political and financial systems.  Likewise, there is immense stress across the ecological systems upon which all of life depends.

This wide-spread stress ripens the conditions for breakdown-breakthrough.

When we look at the organisational level there are other factors ripening the conditions for breakdown-breakthrough. For instance, rapid digitization, new ways of working, lower transaction costs, disruptive innovations, system-shocks like COVID and climate change, and social-shifts: Gen Y/Z, the search for purpose and meaning through work, life-time learning, career mobility, corporate responsibility, diversity and inclusion, agile ways of working, and more.

These increasingly complex and volatile times demand organisational development and leadership development that enables future-fitness, agility and resilience in ways as yet unseen.

The number one most important thing facing our leaders today is the capacity to embrace this complexity and transform the organisation amid turbulence.

One global CEO that took part in a leadership study I contributed to with Henley Business School used the impactful metaphor of leadership these days being like having to retrofit an aeroplane in mid-flight while keeping the ground-crew, in-flight crew and all the customers on-board happy, all while outside turbulence is rising.

Change upon change upon change – volatility, complexity, uncertainty.

This new-norm requires a shift in way of thinking. It requires a shift in consciousness no less.

This shift in leadership consciousness is from a narrowing-down reductive perspective that compartmentalises the organisation like a machine, with silos, units of command-and-control hierarchies, with predictable and measurable cause-and-effect linear relationships to be managed and controlled through carrot-stick levers.

This mechanistic-mindset is born out of a militarised mind that has created a worldview of separateness, hyper-competition, scarcity, fear and control. Its roots span way back in human history, yet it has become overly-dominant in business during recent decades.  Aspects of this reductive machine-mindset have served us well during the Industrial Revolution, and yet as a dominant paradigm it is wholly unfit-for-purpose for the new-norm of 21st century business.

We are now witnessing a new leadership consciousness emerging.  In the book Regenerative Leadership, we explore this new way of leading in detail, and refer to it as Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

This new way of leading is able to sense into not just the parts but the relationships between the parts and also sense the whole organisation as a complex living-system.  This capacity to sense the organisation-as-a-living-system draws upon two core capacities we have as leaders: self-awareness and systemic-awareness.  We can (and must) learn to cultivate, practice and deepen these natural capacities of self-awareness and systemic-awareness in order to become a future-fit leader.

Self-Awareness:

Self-awareness has two dimensions to it – horizontal and vertical.

The horizontal dimension of self-awareness is the quality of attention we bring to each moment, in the here-and-now, which has two aspects to it – presence and purposefulness.

The purposefulness we bring to each moment depends upon the power of our intention.  How engaged are we in what we are attending to?  Can we – through our intention – allow ourselves to attend whole-heartedly to this moment?  This power of purpose is not an ‘outer’ grasping for a desired outcome or some future ‘north star’. Instead it is an inner-outer alignment found through our own inner-coherence and deep inner-connection with our own true nature.  This purposefulness is simultaneously a daily practice, a path we learn to walk, and an inner sense of discernment and rightness that provides direction.

IMAGE – Power of Purpose

This inner power of purpose empowers us to sense inwardly and outwardly in an ungrasping, fully available, yet intentional way – beyond predefined outcomes, yet fully-engaged in the unfolding process of what is emerging in the moment, whether during an in-person conversation or on-line meeting. 

This purposefulness contributes to creating flow inside ourselves and also through our relations with others.  It is much more than a well-crafted mission-statement or values-charter stuck on the wall, it is something that is lived in the day-to-day through practice, discernment and inner-coherence.

This relates to the second aspect of this horizontal dimension of self-awareness: Presence.   If purposefulness calls upon the power of intention, then presence is the power of attention

Intention + Attention = Flow

Purposefulness + Presence = Flow (aka, heightened Self-Awareness)

The presence we bring to each moment depends upon our capacity to sense, to be fully available, alive, undivided, fully-here, listening attentively, intimately engaged with everything that is said or unsaid, the whole gestalt of what is here in-this-moment.  This requires us to be awareness of our own triggers, blind-spots, emotions, and inner-constrictions that can distract us from being fully present.

MIT leadership specialist Otto Scharmer, in his Theory U, notes that all the time we are flickering between absencing and presencing.  Just spend a few moments in silence noticing your own awareness, and you will come accustomed to how you sometimes are distracted and sometimes present.

When we are absencing, we are tuning-out of the moment, getting caught up in our own inner-dialogue, only seeing what we want to see, and projecting ‘our stuff’ on to the other, rather than really tuning-in and being present to what is emerging.

Hence to cultivate presence, we have to notice our own stuff and connect more deeply within and also all-around-us with the present moment, unencumbered, undefended, authentic, humble, curious and courageous.

We often do this quite naturally when engaging in a new activity, playing a sport or musical instrument, or going on holiday to a new place.  The challenge is being able to call upon this quality of presence amidst the hum-drum of back-to-back meetings or during a difficult conversation with a colleague while meeting a deadline.

Scharmer speaks to 3 voices we have inside us that can get in the way of our ability to presence: the Voice of Judgement, the Voice of Cynicism, the Voice of Fear.

We all have these three voices inside us.  They are here to protect us. They keep us safe in the status-quo by judging, being cynical or fearful of anything that does not fit-in with our pre-defined filters of normalness. Yet these voices get in the way of our own learning and growth, and reduce down our capacity to deal with change, uncertainty and complexity.

In order to tap into Regenerative Leadership Consciousness we need to be able to notice these three Voices within is (Judgement, Cynicism, Fear) and allow these voices to ease their power over us, so that we can be more attentive to the moment, and see beyond the judgement, cynicism and fear within us.  This is the self-mastery that comes with cultivating this first dimension – the Horizontal dimension – of self-awareness.

So, the Horizontal dimension of our self-awareness consists of presence and purposefulness, which we can learn to deepen with each day of life. Life is the meditation. Life is the learning-classroom.

We are learning how we embrace life in-the-moment by becoming less reactive and defensive, and more attuned, alive and in flow with whatever arises.  We are learning to tune-in to life by letting-go of our inner-voices and filters, and notice our inner dis-eases and distractions, so as to overcome them.

Then there is the Vertical dimension – the worldview we bring to bear on the present moment.  This worldview is the sphere of consciousness we see the world through, which can shift from being a narrow limited view into a more expansive and relational view, as we move up the Vertical dimension.  This is about learning to open-up to more of life, undefended, open-hearted, coherent and whole.

Self Awareness (Horizontal Dimension) = Presence + Purposefulness

Self-Awareness (Vertical Dimension) = Worldview Shift in Consciousness

Inside each of us as human beings, we have an immense capacity to sense reality. Yet much of the time we are tuning-out a large part of reality in order to cope with the complex, fluid and emergent nature of real life.  Habits, old-wounds, unconscious biases, judgements, inner-constrictions, and such like, filter the way we see the world.  Our ‘inner-stuff’ influences how we see the outer world.  As the novelist Anais Nin insightfully noted, ‘we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are’.

We are managing, controlling, filtering and limiting our experience of life all the time.  Yet, we can open up our control-filters as we expand our worldview.  This is a ‘vertical’ shift in consciousness, that allows for an expanded perspective, that deepens our inner-outer connectivity with life.

This ‘vertical development’ is the land of Adult Developmental Psychology where different levels of consciousness have been scientifically researched and categorised by various psychologists over the years.

One such adult developmental psychologist, whose original research underpins models used in business today, is Clare Graves.  His levels of consciousness have been applied to Spiral Dynamics and also used by Ken Wilber and more recently by Frederick Laloux in his work on Reinventing Organisations.

Graves’ research reveals a step-change shift from Tier 1 Consciousness to Tier 2 Consciousness at both the personal (leader) and collective (organisation) levels.   Such a step-change in worldview, is also identified by other adult developmental psychologists, for instance, Jean Gebster’s structures of human consciousness, Abraham Maslow’s theory of psychological health culminating in self-actualization, Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, Jane Loevinger’s and Susanne Cook-Greuter’s work on self-identity, Bill Torbert’s and Barret Brown’s post-conventional action-logics leadership research, and Bob Kegan’s work on constructive-developmental levels of consciousness.   For the purposes of this article, we shall draw upon Clare Graves’ work and also how it relates to Frederick Laloux’s work on Teal-Evolutionary next-stage organisations and leaders.

This shift from Tier 1 to Tier 2 is the shift now required by leaders of today in order to deal with complexity and ambiguity while also inviting in a greater sense of purpose, authenticity and agility into the work place.

Here is Frederick Laloux’s application of Ken Wilber’s and Spiral Dynamics’ work on vertical development for organisations.

Let’s hone in on the Tier 1 levels of Orange and Green, and the Tier 2 level of Teal and explain these in greater depth. (What follows here draws upon Hutchins & Storm’s Regenerative Leadership)

Orange Level of consciousness

The Orange Level represents the enterprising corporate consciousness prevalent across today’s business thinking. At this level of consciousness, the main orientation is toward producing a good life and playing to win. Orange-thinking draws upon a mechanistic logic and prioritizes reductive analysis and sees mechanical cause-effect levers and power-and-control based hierarchies as the answer to organizational management. It’s great at creating technology-led innovation to meet our needs, achieving material success, engineering and innovating progress.

The organizational metaphor of Orange is organization-as-machine.  The core values of this level are: success, autonomy, self-interest, learning through experience, meritocracy, professional development, and the power of science and technology-led innovation. Orange leadership consciousness is concerned with hitting the numbers, capitalizing new markets, beating the competition, and management by objectives and financial incentives. Orange leadership does not concern itself with sustainability or ethics unless it is mandatory or directly impacts the bottom-line.

Green Level of consciousness

Green is a level up from Orange, an evolution of consciousness.The Green Level represents those who have become aware of how the Orange Level’s singular striving for material progress has created imbalances, selfish greed, social inequality, and environmental degradation. Green-thinking seeks to liberate humanity from greed and selfishness by promoting a sense of community and restoring a sense of human equality.

The Greenlevel of leadership consciousness focuses on an empowering human-centric culture to achieve extraordinary employee motivation for delivering stakeholder value. Green leadership likes consensus and recognizes the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy in leadership. At this level of consciousness, sustainability, corporate responsibility, ethics, values-charters, sense of community and purpose, all rise up the leadership agenda. Yet, these aspects often tend to be managed and controlled by a mechanistic, silo’ed, consensus-driven approach and can get caught in the mire of rules and bureaucracy.  Meetings upon meetings can stifle the vitality of the organization.   

Green is a healthy step up from Orange. It helps prepare us for the next stage: Tier 2 Consciousness.

Stepping up a level of consciousness from Green is a big shift – the shift from Tier 1 into Tier 2. Graves went as far as calling it “a momentous leap for humankind”. It is not something that can be rushed or forced, yet we can help create the conditions conducive for the shift to happen.

Unlike Orange and Green, Tier 2 consciousness is rooted in a systemic awareness of the interdependence of all the systems the organisation interrelates with. The organisation is perceived as a living, learning, adaptive system. Tier 2-thinking asks each individual to take self-responsibility for being part of this adaptive system, realising that we are immersed within a pattern that connects (to use a phrase Gregory Bateson coined when describing this systemic-awareness). Our inner-outer relations in everyday life are part-and-parcel of this pattern that connects – how we show-up and interact with one part of the system sends ripples throughout the entire system.

This brings us to the second Leadership Dynamic we need for Regenerative Leadership Consciousness:  Systemic-Awareness.

Systemic Awareness:

As we open-up our self-awareness both horizontally (presence & purposefulness) and vertically (worldview expansion from machine into living-systems) we open ourselves up to more of how life really is.  This is an emancipatory process, and yet can be painful and challenging, just like any birthing process, with fits and starts, and courageous contractions to overcome inner constrictions.  This is the metamorphic process of the caterpillar becoming the butterfly: a death-rebirth no less.

As we start to open-up to life more, we learn to sense into the relational and systemic nature of how life is, and how our organisations are. Beyond the superficial confines of our org-charts, silos, power-plays and politics, we can start to sense hidden ordering forces in ourselves, in our team dynamics and across the organisational system.  This systemic capacity to sense and respond to hidden dynamics, flows, stuckness, nodal points and emergent dynamics within the organisation-as-living-system is crucial for allowing the organisation to adapt and evolve in these turbulent times. 

Systems Thinking has been on the rise in leadership consciousness for some years now, yet systemic-awareness is more than systems-thinking.

Systems Thinking refers to the shift from mechanistic thinking to a way of thinking that perceives the inter-relation of the parts within the whole system and understands that all systems are nested within other systems. This shift also represents the shift from overly dominant left-brain processing to a more integrated left-right brain awareness, where we see the parts along with the relationships between the parts that contribute to the organization-as-living-system.

Systems Thinking is a shift in thinking that takes place at the head level. It relates to what MIT leadership specialist Otto Scharmer refers to as open mind. We open up our mind to see things differently, to see the inter-relations, the patterns and dynamics at the systems level.

Systemic Awareness refers to a shift in our relationship with the system. In Systems Thinking we are looking at the system from outside the system looking in. For instance, an organization may map out all the inter-relations and draw-up a systems map. With Systemic Awareness we are now in-the-system, and opening our awareness to the seen and unseen tacit flows of knowledge, feedback and relational energy that are constantly fluctuating throughout the system. You might even call this the ‘baggage’ that people in the organization bring into meetings, conversations and relationships.

Systemic Awareness embodies the way we listen or attend to others, the judgements or cultural bias we filter through, and how these factors contribute to the way we participate in the system. The history of the organization, any trauma it may be carrying, and also the cultural and historic systems it’s inter-relating with all form part of the rich systemic picture we become more aware of. We transcend the level of observation to the level of immersion – a shift at the heart and body level. It relates to Otto Scharmer’s Open Heart and Open Will level of his Theory U, as it is an embodied participatory engagement with the system, and involves us opening-up and crossing a threshold within ourselves so as to be more vulnerable, available and open to sensing hidden dynamics in the system.

Clearly this level of systemic-awareness also calls upon our self-awareness, and both alchemise to create Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.  As leaders, we recognise that the organisational living-system is deeply immersed in myriad of ecosystem relationships within the organisation and beyond, both locally and globally. Employees, customers, suppliers, investors, partners, communities, society, and the ecological systems – nothing is separate, everything is interconnected. The organisation is constantly in dialogue with all of its stakeholders, just as a living organism within its ecosystem is constantly sensing, adapting and evolving.

Sustainability is integral to how the business realizes its mission, as there is an inherent understanding that all of life on Earth is interconnected and interdependent. Rather than silo’ed P&L responsibility and line-management, we find a desire for a more fluid and emergent way of working. It’s about a coaching culture of learning, feedback and adaptation. Leadership is distributed. Meetings and decision-making protocols encourage a rich quality of interaction where people share in authentic and respectful ways while giving open and honest feedback, learning and growing as individuals and a collective.  The organisational structure is much flatter; there is less parent-child behaviour within the culture and more self-management – everyone is a leader, everyday a learning journey. Mission-driven purposefulness, self-responsibility and integrative wholeness are the essence here. 

The core values of this Regenerative Leadership Consciousness are: inner rightness, self-learning, a life-affirming sense of purpose, self-and-systemic awareness, self-responsibility for cultivating the conditions for our true nature to unfold, and a sense of connectedness with all life.

Every inter-relation becomes an opportunity to seek deeper authenticity and wholeness through sensing and responding with compassion, courage and vulnerability. 

The psychologist Ken Wilber famously said that each higher level of consciousness transcends and includes the levels before it. This is an important point.  As we reach into Regenerative Leadership Consciousness, we are still able to draw upon and utilize the thinking of Orange and Green, as we have learned useful approaches and methods in these earlier stages. It’s not about leaving it all behind but rather evolving to the next stage. The challenge and opportunity for Regenerative Leaders is to integrate Orange, Green and Tier 2-thinking amid every day pressures, while being aware of our own ingrained patterns of reactivity.

There are aspects of Orange-thinking that we need to know how to include, and also how to transcend. Orange-thinking hits the numbers, manages deadlines and budgets, drives efficiency in production, and keeps tight compliance procedures. All of which is necessary to the running of a business; however, the challenge arises when Orange-thinking dominates to such an extent that it undermines the organization’s capacity to thrive as a whole. Likewise, Green-thinking is fundamental to developing a culture of respect and trust. It is Green-thinking that helps us sense-in to the values and perspectives of our stakeholders and to form values-based partnerships that can generate significant business value.  Yet, we also need to be able to transcend rules-based bureaucracy inherent in Green-thinking when self-management, creativity and agility are needed.

This image below shows the three levels of consciousness at the organizational level.

Orange is the base level – we need to draw upon this thinking. It provides efficient processes for organizational culture (human resource management) and operations (lean process improvement). Yet on its own, it provides for a mechanistic organization that lacks any deeper purpose beyond hitting the numbers. Sustainability tends to be limited to cost-reduction, compliance or brand and marketing initiatives.

Green is a step-up from this, and the culture is not limited to managing and controlling human resources, but more about empowering people while encouraging wellbeing in the workplace. The operational and sustainability mindset is more aware of the entire stakeholder ecosystem.  

When we move into Tier 2 the organizational culture, operations and sustainability approaches are more self-organizing, agile and fluid dependent upon the local needs and changing context. Leadership is distributed across all levels, and everyone is responsible for enlivening the culture, the operations and the sustainability of the organization.

While Tier 2 Regenerative Leadership Consciousness is crucial to the coming sea-change, leaders cannot expect every person in the organization to be operating at Tier 2 consciousness. Hence, we need to be able to notice when people, teams, and the overall organization is drawing from more of an Orange, Green, or Tier 2 mindset. Where is the organization’s center of gravity, and how is this affecting the whole? In certain instances, it may be sensible for the team to be more in Orange mode, other times in Green mode, as long as the organization-as-living-system is supported by an overarching Regenerative Leadership Consciousness. Then, the leadership and the organization can transcend and include all three levels.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness and Complex Systems

To start to see in systems, and sense into complexity, is to be able to see more of life as it really is. To see reality beyond the constraints of our education and dominant cultural perspectives and narratives, is not at all easy. It requires an up-stretch in our adult developmental psychology, along with a threshold-crossing, a process of death-rebirth.

The dying of an old way – of how we see ourselves and the systems we participate in – is not always comfortable as it challenges us in deep and partly unconscious ways.  We resist, as old habits and perspectives have become ingrained.  Yet, the process of opening into a more systemic way of thinking-being-doing is an evolution in our human awareness, which re-enlivens a latent capacity within us. For over 95% of our human history, from hunter-gathers, through early civilisation all the way up to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, a systemic way of attending was more prevalent than it is today.  It is only over the last 400 years – and especially in the last 50 years – that we have allowed a mechanistic-reductive awareness to be so dominant, and a systemic way to be so suppressed.  This is the challenge of bringing in a systemic awareness, in that it goes against the grain of today’s positivistic addiction for hard-data, tangible-proof, reductive statistical modelling, clear-cut outcomes, pre-defined learning objectives,  neat-and-tidy cause-and-effect linearity, carrot-and-stick metrics, and silo’ed mechanistic thinking. 

Yet, systemic does not mean we turn our back on reductive methods. There is a lot of truth in the managerial maxim ‘what gets measured gets done’ and there is a lot of usefulness in defining things neatly and having focused outcomes. The reductive (mechanistic) and the systemic (living-systems) are healthy bed-fellows.  Just as we all have left and right brain hemispheres for good reason. 

As we enter this new-norm of business, it is ever-more useful for our designers, innovators, change-agents and leaders to be able to draw upon both a mechanistic and a systemic perspective freely, and to discern when to call upon one more than the other or integrate them in their interventions.

Shifting Beyond Separation into Reconnection/Regeneration

In Regenerative Leadership, we highlight 4 areas of rising dominance that contributed to today’s mechanistic worldview.  We can seek integration of these 4 areas as we shift into a more integrated systemic-and-mechanistic worldview, which is grounded in an understanding of the interconnectedness-and-differentiation of real-life in our organisations and social systems.

The 4 main areas currently influencing today’s mechanistic logic are:

  1. Left-Right Hemisphere: the rising domination of left-brain hemispheric attention over right-brain hemispheric attention, which leads to a focusing in on the parts and a de-emphasising of the whole/holistic-perspective
  2. Masculine-Feminine: the rising domination of masculine qualities of ‘doing-assertiveness-competing’ over feminine qualities of ‘being-receptivity-collaborating’ – some people may prefer the language of yin-yang, where yang conveys masculine awareness and yin the feminine, as this is not about gender stereotypes, rather it’s about qualities of awareness that play out in both males and females
  3. Outer-Inner: the prioritisation of outer attention – focusing on what is seen, tangible and measurable – over inner psychological-emotional-intuitive attention – what is unseen, implicit and immeasurable yet a real and potent influence in life
  4. Human-Nature: a widening chasm between an anthropocentric ego-human-orientated view of reality and a deeper embodied sense of connection with all of life

These 4 imbalances inform the dominant mechanistic worldview. 

In order to become more systemic in our awareness (feel-think-be-do) it helps to be conscious of these underlying imbalances. To rebalance the inner-outer, masculine-feminine, human-nature, left-right hemisphere is a journey towards wholeness, a metamorphic undertaking.

There are tools and approaches to help us shift into a more integrated way of attending to life, and yet this is more than tool-application, it’s a shift in our whole-bodied way of attending to life, a shift in our way of living, that plays out each and every day.  

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness comes with an opening up to the magnificence of existence – nothing more, nothing less.

Life is ecology. Life is an unfolding interweave of relationships. Nothing is neat-and-tidy, only our own mechanistic framings that seek to cut-up and separate life into compartments. Separateness is not real life, which is fluid, emergent and relational.  Understanding these inherent dynamics, rhythms and ways of life helps us become better leaders and better human-beings.

Life is systemic. Life is participation. Life uses tensions as crucibles for emergence.

Life is also full of breakdown-breakthrough death-rebirth cycles where a phase-change to a different way of operating, a shift in worldview and/or a new business model creates an evolutionary up-stretch into a new symphony of learning dynamics within the leadership and organisation.

The good news is, we can take inspiration from life itself in terms of helping us become more regenerative.  As Clare Graves knew, ‘Understand how nature functions and you know how to behave [in Tier 2]’.

In the book Regenerative Leadership, we explore the Logic of Life – synthesising insights from nature for leadership and organisational development. The 7 principles of the Logic of Life are:

  1. Life Affirming – life creates conditions conducive for life, and is innately regenerative when allowed to be. Yet toxicity and degenerative behaviour can easily occur in human systems, when we lose coherence and get out-of-flow, hence learning to sense stuckness and allow space for flow to emerge is vital for future-fitness.
  2. Ever-changing and responsive – systems have inherent learning in them, and we can become aware of the learning patterns, and start to notice their developmental and evolutionary nature
  3. Relational and collaborative – while there is competition and separation in life, the overriding driver is collaboration and relationality
  4. Synergistic and diverse – life banks on diversity, and this diversity creates tensions of difference that create dinergy/synergy that yields emergence, new ways, the flow of life
  5. Cyclic and seasonal-rhythmical – life flows through emergence and yet there are rhythms and cycles that inform each other, to create punctuated evolution (moments of system transformation/metamorphosis)
  6. Flows of energy and matter – systems are made up of flows of energy and matter exchanging throughout the system, recycling, reusing, renewing
  7. Living systems field – quantum science shows us what we knew before the mechanistic perspective of the Enlightenment suppressed it, that life is interconnected. There is an intangible field that connects everything and explains non-local phenomena and entanglement. This field has many names, for instance, ‘the quantum vacuum’, ‘universe’, ‘source’, ‘ground of all being’, ‘collective unconscious’. As we tap into the field we open up to more of life.

Going through the 7 principles, contemplating them while sitting in nature, and then reflecting on how they might apply to our own leadership style and organisational development, can help us open into Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

In Regenerative Leadership we apply the Logic of Life, and systemic-awareness to identify six strands of DNA in living systems culture for organisations to become future-fit in these volatile times. The 6 cultural DNA strands of the living-organisation are:

  1. Survival and thrival – attending to the legitimate needs of organisations to fulfil their needs for growth whilst acting in regenerative ways, and operating according to the principles of living systems seasons and cycles.
  2. Mission and movement – ensuring that the organization is contributing to something bigger than itself, as part of a much larger ecosystem in which it plays its role.
  3. Developmental and respectful – creating space for all to learn and grow in respectful ways, honouring the needs of self-renewal and regeneration.
  4. Diversity and inclusion – valuing diverse backgrounds and perspectives as part of an inclusive and values-rich culture that gives rise to new possibilities.
  5. Self-organising and locally attuning – to unlock resiliency and agility through self-organising principles, as opposed to constantly reverting to top-down leadership.
  6. Ecosystemic facilitation and transformation – providing attentive care and understanding of the entire system in which the organization operates.

Executive Summary:

Self Awareness: leadership thrives through individuals’ gaining perspective on their thoughts, habits, behaviors and blind-spots; we are able to reach beyond self-imposed limitations and open up more readily to life through self-mastery.  Becoming conscious of our own presence (attention) and purposefulness (intention), and opening-up our worldview to embrace the Logic of Life enables our future-fitness.

Systemic Awareness: leadership thrives through an understanding of networks, flows and relationships within systems; this capacity enables us to enliven the organizational system toward life-affirming futures.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness: leadership thrives through cultivating both Self Awareness and Systemic Awareness; we are able to serve life attuned to nature’s wisdom.

‘Learn how to see. Realize everything connects with everything else.’  Leonardo Da Vinci

‘[S]he who is in harmony with nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.’ Confucius

‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.’  Lao Tzu

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

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You can download the first chapter of Regenerative Leadership for free here: www.regenerativeleadership.co

Regenerative Leadership One-day Immersion, 27th May

April 16, 2021

Spring is in the air. What a time of immense potential – so much is shifting, so much is breaking down and breaking through.

At Springwood we had snow on the ground the other day, but now the bluebells are preparing for their big entrance into 2021, the daffodils are already fading, and the ducks are raising a brood on a nest by the lake.

Springwood is a special place. With 60acres of secluded and wild ancient woodland which is completely private, dedicated for deep transformative work.  See some photos here.  It is in West Sussex, with easy access to the M23 and Three Bridges main-line station with direct trains to London. 

The time has come for me to host a one-day immersion for a small intimate cohort of participants interested in:

  • Exploring the core principles and practices underpinning Regenerative Leadership
  • Gaining a visceral embodied sense of the wisdom needed for Regenerative Leadership
  • Engaging in peer-reflection, collective support and in-confidence sharing within a safe-deep-space
  • Unlocking Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and Frederic Laloux’s Teal-Evolutionary
  • Tapping into advanced adult developmental psychology applied to next-stage leadership
  • Embracing Nature’s Wisdom in ways that are quite beyond words, yet palpable, potent and practical
  • Tooling up either as a Leader, LD/OD specialist, Head of People/Culture or Coach
The artist for this wonderful rich-picture is Jodie Harburt, see www.jodieharburt.com

This one-day workshop is specifically for a small cohort and places are therefore limited.  All refreshments and vegetarian organic food is included.  Cost £280 for 9.15am-4.45pm Thursday 27th May at Springwood Farm, RH17 6HQ

‘The nature immersion workshop with Giles exceeded all expectations. This is real space to develop strategies fit for the 21st Century.’ – Stephen Passmore, CEO

‘Powerful and provocative…the most useful leadership event I have evert attended.’ – Ian Ayling, Strategy Director

‘Giles is like a lantern: he meets you where you’re at and illuminates the path ahead alongside you. He brings an excellent blend of business acumen, emotional intelligence and spiritual attunement. He works with your whole person, partnering with you to help your natural abilities emerge and develop.’  – Lisa Dittmar, Strategy Consultant

‘Giles Hutchins is at the forefront of synthesizing new logics for business with the natural rhythms of life and the human mind that will revolutionize business.’ – Lynne Sedgemore CBE, CEO and Chair

The time has come.

Are you ready to cross the threshold?

If you are interested in applying to attend this immersion day at Springwood (postcode RH17 6HQ) then, please email giles@ffla.co as soon as possible, as places are limited. For general information on Leadership Immersions, see here.  More information about this specific one-day immersion will be provided upon application.

join the LinkedIn group if you have not already:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

For a TEDx A Revolution in Human Consciousness By Giles Hutchins see

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

The Alchemic Journey Towards Wholeness – the Heart of Regenerative Leadership

April 13, 2021

The ancient Greeks had the slogan ‘Know Thy Self’ above the doorways of some of their most sacred temples. Why?

In my previous article on The Essence of Regenerative Leadership, I explore how cultivating a more intimate relationship with one’s own sense of self is vital for the shift in human consciousness we now need for enabling regenerative futures.

In this article, we delve into aspects of the inner journey towards wholeness, and explore its importance for these epochal times.

First, let’s explore how this journey towards wholeness relates to leadership. In doing so I shall draw upon the work of leadership specialists like Parker J Palmer and Otto Scharmer as well as insights from further afield.  Second, we shall explore the hidden depths of this inner journey, drawing upon the psychological work of Carl Jung and also Alchemy, an ancient science of the soul.

So, first, ‘Leadership’ – a word that conjures up grandeur and ego, and yet is really about humility and soul. 

Just as it can be argued that every human being is made for communal life, so leadership can be anyone’s vocation in varying degrees, as in community everyone leads and follows in myriad ways.

The origin of the word ‘leadership’ finds its root in the old European word ‘leith’ which means to cross the threshold, to die and be reborn, to let go of old ways of being-and-doing in order to embrace the new.

This speaks to the inner journey involved in true leadership – to go inward and gain perspective on our own individual (and collective) constrictions, habits, foibles, limitations, strengths, weaknesses, gifts and fears.

Just as the yin-yang symbol conveys the light and dark aspects of life, so must our journey towards wholeness embrace light and dark or else it is not whole.

There are some useful tips and tools amid contemporary thinking on positive psychology and the power of positive thinking. Such tips and tools can help equip the leader to deal with the challenges of the day, and even get-things-done more effectively and efficiently. And yet the journey inward is an intense journey of inner shadow and light, beyond the realms of positive thinking. Positive thinking, if overly focused upon, may encourage a habit of polarising thoughts and situations as good and bad. Yet as we journey inward, we can sense into all aspects of the yin-yang wisdom of life.

As regenerative leaders, we are creating conditions for life to flourish within-side ourselves, so we are authentic in our walking-the-talk (with the failures, mistakes and falls this humbly invites). We are also helping enable the conditions for life to flourish in others, as we hold-space for others to feel safe enough to embark on their own journey towards wholeness. And we are enabling these life conditions across teams, organisations and social systems, so these collective systems nudge towards allowing more authenticity, diversity and inclusiveness – spiritually, materially, socially, ecologically.

As leaders, we also need to be acutely aware of our own presence and the effect it has on others. It is natural for humans to project light and shadow. Noticing our own projections is a powerful way of gaining perspective on our own presence and blind-spots.

Leaders can tend towards extroversion, by bolstering a light-filled projection outward, and then suppressing an ever-expanding shadow within, that then seeps out in other ways. We might, for instance, offer wise-counsel or give advice regularly throughout the day, or hold-space for others to work through their problems. Then, after a while, perhaps on a day when we are tired and triggered, we begin to resent why people can’t just think for themselves and stop whinging. As a result we might become more direct in our feedback – which depending on how it’s delivered may be just what the situation calls for, or it may be out of sych with the situation.  We may learn to notice the trigger within us, and inwardly explore what this trigger is revealing: our own inner light and shadow tensions, our own inner soul and ego evolutions. We might begin to notice ebbs and flows, tensions and energies within our own sense of self.  This is the journey inward, the journey beyond compartmentalisation of outward-extroversion, positive-thinking,  inner frustration, anxiety or insecurity. The journey towards wholeness is one of integrating our own fragmentation, of becoming more attentive to everything that is going on within us, regardless of whether we judge it good or bad, light or dark. 

As a leader, understanding the shadow within us, and how we project on to others, is of great importance. This shadow affects not just our perception of others and then our judgements and opinions of them, which may cloud our listening, feedback and acceptance. It also directly affects others efficiency and effectiveness due to our power as a leader to influence others, either constructively – opening them up to explore, question, learn, grow into their own selfhood while unlocking their innate brilliance – or destructively – closing them down, limiting them, creating defensiveness and fear in them that deflates their creativity and locks-up their brilliance.   This is where our own journey towards wholeness gets magnified through our leadership, as it is all too easy in positions of influence to transfer our own stuff, rather than transform it. Transferring spreads pollution, transformation brings regeneration.

Our inner soul-gifts and virtues (for instance: patience and equanimity) are conveyed through our relations with others. I may know that I have a general tendency, for instance, to be impatient. This does not mean I simply practice to bite my tongue and force an artificial pent-up type of patience into my relations with self and other. Yes, certain coping-mechanisms may be useful in certain situations, and yet these coping mechanisms merely maintain the status quo, rather than invoke transformation. Instead, my ability to notice when the impatience starts off within-side of me, and sense it, give it my conscious awareness, rather than suppress it. Then I can allow its power over me to ease through my awareness, and therefore reduce down my urge to overly project outward on to the other. This is more than positive thinking. This is inner shadow-work, depth psychology and self-transformation.

As Annie Dillard knew,

‘In the depths are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here.’

The gift of this realisation of reality is within us. We are each born with this gift. Often it can be buried deep under trauma, hurt, fear, stress and busyness. 

It is a learning journey to become more intimate with ourselves, it takes time, practice, careful attention and discipline.  For instance, a daily practice of noticing our thoughts as we wake-up, and practicing some mindfulness or bodymind energy-work to provide access to the substrate Anne Dillard refers to, followed by moments of reflection and journaling throughout the day to notice triggers, tensions and learning, and then the space before sleep to notice our thoughts, reflect on the day, and once again practice some mindfulness or bodymind energy-work to go deeper within, over the world’s rim. This requires practice and discipline to find out what works best so each day informs the journey towards wholeness.

‘Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.’ – Parker J Palmer

In exploring this ‘hidden wholeness’ within us as leaders, Parker J Palmer speaks to 5 shadow-casting monsters we encounter on this inner journey.

  1. Insecurity – the first shadow-casting monster is insecurity about identity and worth. Leaders who have an extroversive tendency may find this insecurity hard to see, yet it is there. Sometimes extroversion has been constructed as a result of self-doubt and the insecure feeling sensitive types feel when ‘performing’ in any social setting. This creates shadow and inauthenticity if left unchecked. Soon we become overly-hooked on, or even dependent upon, this external persona or role we have projected, as it gives us a sense of self-worth. Yet it is projection, not wholeness. So let us look inward, and become intimate with our own inner insecurities and nagging self-doubt, and see beneath veneers and masks we have constructed with skill and effort.  The reality is, if we are projecting our own insecurity through our role as ‘leader’ we might create settings that deprive people of their identities as a way of defending our own insecurity. We might close-down another or overly-defend a point, or not open-heartedly listen to the other, or too eagerly assert our view, because of our own inner instability and grasping.  It remains up to us to find our centre, to ground and feel rooted in our own inner-soil, the ground-of-our-being. Often the dynamics we find in organisations today are riddled with ripples and repercussions from insecurity.  To help overcome this shadow within, we first need to become conscious of it, and notice how it shows itself in us – this requires self-authenticity, humility and courage. Second, as we become more intimate with ourselves as we journey towards wholeness, we start to appreciate that identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. This speaks directly to power dynamics, and the inner realisation that the ego needs power and control yet the soul (our deeper truer nature) does not, as it is able to sense the abundance, reciprocity, cyclic seasonality and synchronicity of how life really works.  Hence, the threshold crossing of letting go of old constructs, old ways of engaging, and opening into a deeper self-agency where ego serves soul.
  • Competition – the second shadow-casting monster is the conditioned belief we have had stuffed in us through mainstream education that nature is inherently selfish and competitive, and you have to dominate or be dominated in life to get anywhere. This belief that life is a competitive battleground is rooted in a worldview of separateness, that we are nothing but separate ego-selves struggling for survival in a dog-eat-dog world.  We either win or lose. With this perspective life becomes a vast combat zone. War-mentality is everywhere – it has infiltrated the climate change movement with ‘the war on carbon’, its prevalent through the COVID pandemic with the ‘war on the virus’, its rampant in politics, in business, in our approach to health, and our approach to education.  Competition has become so pervasive because we have made it so. In nature competition is actually far outweighed by collaboration in its influence on evolution.  As we journey inward, one of the gifts we receive is the deepening realisation that life is flowing with inter-relationality at all levels seeking harmony more than competition.  This inner knowing helps us ease off from a narrow-minded war-mentality that sees only winners and losers. We can relax a little and grow into sensing and responding within this participatory experience of life where everything informs everything else.
  • Functional atheism – the third shadow-casting monster comes out of the hard-won experience that to get things done I need to put my head-down and take responsibility otherwise nothing gets done. If it’s going to get done well, then I will have to do it through stress and toil.  Again this belief has been encoded in us from early on in our lives.  Yet, once again, as we journey inward, another gift is revealed to us – sometimes we need to get out of the way and allow things to happen with more flow and less stress. We learn we do not need to carry the heavy load and can share more, trust more, empower others, and see different richer outcomes unfold far beyond our original perceptions.  In the leadership research of action logics this relates to the shift from conventional expert-achiever level of leadership into post-conventional individualist-strategist leadership where we learn to open up and trust not just those around us but also the complex systemic dynamics and hidden ordering forces at play within teams and organisations.  We begin to be able to flow as nature flows, realising there is a hidden wholeness seeking to reveal itself if only we trust in life, let go a little and ease into it.
  • Fear – the fourth shadow-casting monster is a biggy, fear.  Fear is rife in society today. It has a corrosive effect on us. Underpinning many of our fears is the larger fear of chaos, that if things are left to their own devices, we will be subsumed into chaos. This fear drives us to form certainties and controls over our lives so that we save ourselves from chaos and make something of ourselves. We feel a need to orchestrate, control and order the messiness of things through analysis and prediction.  We need systematic methods, procedures, models, methodologies, rules, laws, otherwise it will be chaos. All of this creates an ethos of imprisonment rather than empowerment, and so we undermine our brilliance and serve up a shallow version of life, all because we fear what lies deep within us. Once again, the gift of insight we receive during the inner journey is that chaos is not to be feared. Chaos is here all the time in life, it is what underpins all creativity. It’s like trying to surf while fearing the ocean. It is the ocean that creates the waves that allow us to flow. Life itself emerges out of the dark-chaos-void. There is no need to fear the void, in fact, as we open into it we become more creative, more in-tune, more alive.  This is part of the threshold crossing of letting go, connecting into source, so as to invite in the new.  This opening into the nothingness-beyond-everything is essential to regenerative leadership, and is what allows us to ease off the incessant fear, and create the conditions conducive for life. To actually live into this, rather than espouse it, is to be regenerative, which means letting-go of fear and control and trusting in life.  These threshold crossings of letting-go happen all the while, as we can’t wash ourselves of fear and control we can only notice the fear within us and then let-go into the tension the fear creates, and see what happens.  Our fear of failure or chaos does not actually materialise, instead we evolve as we go over the rim into the depths.
  • Death – the fifth and final shadow-casting monster is the denial of death. Our society has shunned death, and many of us deeply fear it. And yet it is a vital part of life. Imagine life without death – there’d be gridlock. All things must die in due course.  In some societies, death is celebrated much like birth is celebrated. Opening in to the cyclical seasonality of life is to open into an aspect of nature’s wisdom, that the death of autumn-winter brings the fertile conditions for new birth and growth in spring-summer.  Much of today’s busy corporate cultures seek to celebrate endless spring-summer inventions, launches, growth-markets, new gadgets, yet negate the decline and renewal of autumn-winter. Hence the cultures and strategies become unsustainable, fragile and unfit for the future.  The fear of death also manifests as the fear of failure, or doing something wrong.  Yet, it is through failure that we learn and evolve. Death brings rebirth. Out of the failure comes new insight.  This is the wisdom of life. Once again, the inner journey gifts us with this insight, and by experiencing our own inner ego-death and seeing how letting-go brings deeper insights and soul-knowing, we start to recognise the wisdom inherent in the cyclic seasonal flows of death-birth within life. These seasonal flows can form a healthy rhythm within our regenerative business, starting with us as leaders.

So now we’ve explored some of the leadership aspects of engaging on this inner journey, we shall enter into the second part of this article, which probes the depths of this inner journey itself. 

A caveat here, much of this inner journey is beyond words, and is more the province of poet, psychologist and mystic.   What follows here is inspired by the ‘godfather of psychotherapy’ Carl Jung, and also ancient wisdom traditions, in particular the European/Middle-Eastern tradition of Alchemy, as a way of deciphering this inner journey.

Let’s dive into the inner depths of our soul transformation.

As we enter into a more intimate relationship with our own selves, we start to become conscious of 3 lenses or filters through which we engage with reality.  The first and most readily available lens is that of ego-consciousness or the rationalising mind, and the voice within our own head that is pretty much incessantly talking all the time.  Gaining perspective on this voice in the head is an important part of this inner journey. Meditation, body-work like yoga or Tai Chi, contemplative or reflective practices like journaling or free-writing, are all useful tools to help us start to gain perspective on this voice-in-the-head, and gain some distance from it, or help ease its hold over us.

Then beneath this first lens of ego-consciousness is a second lens deeper within us. As we learn to notice the voice in our head and gain distance from it, rather like being on the balcony looking down onto the dance-floor of our own mental gyrations, we may also start to gain perspective on more of ourselves beyond the dance floor. Other parts of ourselves beyond the voice-in-the-head are there in us and often lie beneath and inform the thoughts and emotions on the dance floor.  We may begin to sense into shadow projections, trauma, inner wounds, our inner child seeking to play and unlock its creativity, and also a spaciousness underpinning all this, which we might call the Self, true nature, soul, it does not matter what we call it, whatever label feels most right for us. Here we shall call it soul.

As we gain intimacy with our shadow aspects and inner recesses of our soul, we may also – through advanced meditation practice – start to sense a deeper underlying field of non-judgemental numinous depth, which is quite beyond words. This might be referred to as the realm of Spirit, Source, the Tao, that which cannot be named, the ineffable, the universe, field or void. Again, it does not matter what we wish to call it, whatever best resonates.  This is the third lens, which is a deep and potent presence pervading all life in inner and outer ways, and if we so choose we can, with our attention and intention, learn to access it through our soul (the second lens). As we ripen our soul’s capacity to receive this spirit-wisdom, we may then start to comprehend and apply it to our path of life through our daily ego-awareness (the first lens).  This is the gift we have as human beings, procreating with the creative life-force of the universe, becoming masterful within our own life-path while contributing to the magnificence of existence.  Yet to do so requires a level of harmony and coherence within-side ourselves so that the three lenses resonate as best they can amid our everyday stresses and strains.

Noticing and gaining perspective on the ego-machinations of the voice in the head (the first lens) is a useful first step. The second step, on this journey towards wholeness, is sensing into our soul-scape, noticing its mysterious ways and understanding how the tensions within the soul unfold into our destinal path of becoming more of who we truly are.  This is where Alchemy as a science of the soul can aid us (just as other ancient wisdom traditions can too).

What follows here will not be for everyone, as it has mystical connotations, and yet is grounded in empirically-based studies of the human psyche. 

The soul can be described as having 2 aspects. 

As we are now entering the realm of the soul, these 2 aspects can be given archetypal imagery.

These 2 aspects of the soul are symbolised as the serpent and the bird. Or to be more specific, the snake and the white dove, or the dragon and the eagle.

One of the powerful insights Alchemy affords us is that it understands how each aspect of the soul has both masculine-feminine qualities. (One might prefer to say yang-yin qualities, as these masculine-feminine qualities do not relate to gender or sexual orientation.)

The serpent is outwardly masculine (yang) yet inwardly feminine (yin); whereas the bird is outwardly feminine and inwardly masculine, as we shall explore.  The tension of these opposites are both within the serpent and also within the bird, and also between how the serpent and bird interact. This interplay of tensions provides for the rich concocting forces we need for soul-transformation to alchemise. 

The serpent is that aspect of the soul which attunes with a power or force or divinity concealed within physical nature and in the instinctual forces of the psyche within us. It is engaged with when we engage in practices that encourage an embodied, experiential, phenomenological, sensory engagement.  For instance, when we are swimming in the sea, or when we dance in a nightclub, or engage in sexual intercourse, we are engaging these instinctual physical forces in a vivid way that we can feel. These instinctual forces are also influencing us in less all-consuming yet still potent and powerful ways throughout everyday life.  They are activated through all sorts of interactions, whether it be an email-thread, a social media post, a lively meeting, or a zoom call, for instance.

If we take movement and dance to exemplify this inner instinctual dynamic, we can see how we can be conscious of or unconscious of these forces at play within us.

We may not be consciously attuning with these instinctual forces when we are dancing in a night-club after a few drinks, for instance, and yet we can become conscious of these forces either when engaging in dance-therapy, through movement applied to leadership such as https://www.moveleadership.com/  or a structured practice such as social presencing https://www.presencing.org/aboutus/spt/about , or through a movement-based bodywork practice like Tai Chi or Yoga, for instance. Then we consciously feel the flow of energy within the body, rather than be subsumed by it.   

In this way, we can allow for our inner-sensing to notice, purify and release blockages of energy-trauma (what Yogic philosophy calls Samskara) from within us.  This inner release and purification process is an important part of the journey towards wholeness. The releasing of blocked energy within us (and also within our collective systems, such as our organisations, as they too hold trauma) allows for greater flow, and better alignment with the energy of life. This is a process of learning to go inward, notice tensions and deepen into the centre of our selves. When attending to an organisational system, it requires the systemic-awareness to sense hidden ordering forces at play within an organisational culture.

This requires patience, non-judgement and the courage to attend to inner pain and stuckness so as to become more open to life – more vulnerable yet more whole.

It is easy (and enjoyable) to enfold conscious movement and breathing practices into our everyday rhythm. For instance, we may wish to undertake some body movements between zoom calls, to enliven our inner energy and help rebalance any inner tensions, or go for a walk or jog inbetween meetings.  There is nothing wrong with doing such, in fact there is a lot right with taking this time-out between meetings as scientific studies show that it greatly enhances our performance.  Yet the thrust of this article is not simply about increasing our output, it’s about enriching the quality of flow we bring into each and every meeting. It’s our quality of consciousness that allows for deeper authenticity and trust to spawn generative discussions with others, and enable richer more regenerative cultures to flourish from the inside-out.  This is good for us, it’s good for our relationships, it’s good for team performance, it’s good for business, it’s good for the brand. It’s a no-brainer.

Let’s go back to the serpent and the inner-tensions it symbolises, as there is much in this for today’s stresses and strains.

Within this serpent instinctual aspect, is a pull of opposing forces that creates tension. This tension can either pull us into blind reactivity at the instinctual level, or create the crucible for us to move through the tension. To use the neurobiologist Candice Pert’s expression, the ‘bodymind’ (our entire body is pervaded by mind at brain, heart, gut and somatic levels) becomes our vessel, our cauldron for the tension to create a mixing that causes alchemy to occur within us. This alchemy is in the form of self-transformation, as we open up our bodymind to the flow of energy, and open up our perceptual horizon to a deeper realisation of reality. We sense more of ourselves, and we sense more of life as it really is.  We become more alive.  Rather than the instinctual forces subsuming us, they enliven and emancipate us.  Hence this psychic-tension within us can reveal a deeper sense of purpose, and with it a soul-transformation unfolds.

The serpent is wisdom immanent within nature, it is of this world, not transcendent beyond the world.  The transcendent or universal aspect of the soul is symbolised by the bird.

Earthly-immanence and heavenly-transcendence is referred to as ‘di-polar’ –a horizontal (earthly)  pole and vertical (heavenly) pole creating a cross-of-life.  Often when we are walking through a graveyard, we may see a cross set in a circle, above gravestone. This is symbolic of the circle of the soul and its di-polar aspect. It is also representing how our soul lives on after our body dies.

The horizontal dimension of the cross-of-life, is the realm of nature and its hidden ordering forces innate within this life-force field where the serpent tensions lure us into being overcome by instinct and create blind reactivity in us, or trigger awakening in us to go through the tension and evolve into a deeper revealing of reality.   

The vertical dimension of the cross-of-life, is the realm of spirit and its hidden ordering forces innate within this universal-force field that the soul integrates with to gain insight upward into light.

Let’s further explore the serpent aspect as its powerful lure is something we shall encounter on our inner journey, and is sometimes overlooked in some spiritual disciplines that seek to negate or control the urges and instincts of life by focusing more solely on the upward journey to light (the bird).

The serpent is the way into the spirit innate within nature; it’s the way into the third lens (spirit) from the second lens (soul).  As Jesus noted, ‘Raise a stone and thou shalt find me, cleave the wood and I am there.’

Nature provides spiritual illumination, what the alchemists called lumen naturae a ‘light of nature’ that is indwelling in us and in nature, which is embodied through our instincts and somatic bodily intelligence, which can then inform our emotional and intuitive faculties.

Learning to quieten the voice in our head, and then learning to come out of our heads and into our bodies more – through practices like yoga, Tai Chi, heart-breathing or body scanning – helps activate this latent soul-potential we have within us. The serpent is aroused.  There are certain yogic postures and movements that have been devised to specifically arouse the serpent within.

In the book Regenerative Leadership, we speak of Activating our Super-Nature, which explains this process of integrating different ways of knowing within-side our own bodymind, the somatic, emotional, intuitive and rational aspects of our psyche, within the alchemic vessel of our own selves. This allows us to open up into the light of nature within and all around us.  This is the immanence found in life itself. 

This serpent relates to the libidinal forces of psychotherapy and the kundalini forces of mystical tantric transformation practices, where energy is aroused in the base of the spine and awakens the major chakra centres up the spine reaching the crown at the top of the head. The serpent contains both masculine-feminine qualities. It has a masculine outer-form (cold-blooded reptile) and feminine inner-form (embodied, sensuous, moist and flowing).  In alchemy this relates to the elements of earth-water.  We learn to ride the serpent-dragon by noticing the tensions within us and rather than blindly allowing our instinctual urges to get the better of us, we allow our consciousness to shine through the darkness of our inner depths. The grit of the tension transmutes to reveal a pearl of wisdom whereupon we see more of ourselves; we become more whole. This is one aspect of the soul – the earthly aspect, which contains an every-playing tension or dance of masculine-feminine within us. 

The other aspect of the soul – the heavenly aspect – relates to the vertical pole of the cross-of-life, or the transcendent aspect of reality, symbolised by the bird, which is feminine in outer form (the warm-blooded bird) but masculine in its inner form (clarity of reason, direct illumination). In alchemy this relates to the elements of air-fire.  This is the universal field of energy beyond this space-time world yet entering into this world all the time.

Through meditative and contemplative practices we can allow our bodymind vessel to cohere and attune with this universal energy and allow an awakening of our soul-faculties of insight, intuition, synchronicity and flow.  We gain super-sensory faculties that are a natural part of being human.

The soul can ripen in its powers, so as to consciously receive spirit-wisdom from both earth (via the serpent aspect) and universe (via the bird aspect).  This ripening happens through a play of inner tensions created through opposing forces within the psyche.  Alchemy offers intricate processes, inspired by nature, such as separation-purification-reconstitution and divergence-convergence-emergence (which we apply to organisational development in the book Regenerative Leadership).

There is also a seasonal cyclic nature to our soul-transformation. Just as the growth of summer gives way to decline and death in winter, and winter provides reflection and renewal for spring into summer again, there are cyclic cycles of death-rebirth going on within our own psyche all the time. Noticing these seasonal phases is an important aspect of the inner journey whereupon we are experiencing biorhythmic waves of dying and birthing in order to become more of who we truly are.

The crucible of soul transformation is life itself, and the tensions that it unfolds all about and within us are life’s learning ground. The ego-consciousness of the first lens tries to avoid or collapse tensions to keep us safe, yet in-so-doing, undermines our soul-evolution. Hence, we need to cultivate a healthy relationship between the three lenses within us – first (ego) second (soul) and third (spirit).

This inner journey is not about seeking serenity or bliss-states that are attained during quiet solitude and meditation, or vivid highs, extreme sports and epiphanies. It is about living into the inner turbulence of continual tensions triggered by ordinary daily reactivity, desire, passion and fear, into extraordinary super-nature insights that reach into hidden recesses within our psyche.  This is exploring the hidden wholeness within and all around us.  It may help to study nature, yet not merely in a reductive-scientific biologically-classified kind of way, but also in an open-hearted, intuitive, phenomenological kind of way. It’s what Goethe referred to as active-seeing where we sense into the essence of things beyond the labelling and human-imposed judgements, moral ethics and ego-projections. Let go of the voice in the head, open the heart, and see with the whole bodymind, and allow the serpent and bird to entwine through our full-bodied experience. This is what Otto Scharmer refers to as Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will, and its well within our human capacity. The more we practice  this, the more we can welcome it into our meeting conventions and daily business rhythms.  This is what the future of business is truly about.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century will not occur because of technology, they will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ – John Naisbett

This is an opening up into life, by opening in to our inner nature and outer nature in a more embodied integrated way. This allows tensions within us to unfold in an unhurried pregnant way where emergence is appreciated (as uncomfortable as this undefined uncontrollable birthing-process is for the ego with its need for clear-cut answers, directions-of-travel and controlled outcomes). We enter an inner space of not-knowing, of surrendering, and as tensions churn up inside us, it can become quite unsettling, even maddening at times, and the temptation to react with the ego or get subsumed by the instinct is always there.

There is danger as we dive inwardly on this journey. The earthly serpent injects venom that may either paralyse or awaken.  Every trigger is a crucible for paralysis or awakening.  It all depends on how we alchemise, cook and purify. Life, all the time is offering the ingredients to awaken.  Sometimes the more we dive inward the more we feel the vortex of the ego holding-on for dear life. The voice in the head gets louder and more frenetic as we drop over the world’s rim. The urges of the instinct can blind us, lull us into the lure of our own inner fantasies, power-plays, fears and feelings.   We need to be of the ‘flesh’ yet not consumed by ‘flesh’.  This is walking the razor’s-edge.

It is a developmental process where we move towards reconciling the bird’s super-sensory insight with the serpents somatic-energy, as our consciousness expands and the deeper meaning of life emerges with us, reaching beyond flesh-fantasy and ego-projection/narcissism/victim-mentality, cutting through old patterns as dawn-breaks, we see with new eyes.

Image Source: https://www.holdenqigong.com/how-to-blend-fire-and-water-inner-alchemy-2/

This is a threshold crossing, and is a letting go and reaching beyond much of what today’s consumeristic digitally-distracted society subsumes us with.

Learning to discern when we are alchemising an inner struggle into transformation, or when we are being subsumed into deeper darkness of terrestrial sleep is the art of the hero’s journey or pilgrim’s path.

The serpent of the dark moist recesses of earth-water is destined to rise from the reptilian state into the dreams of its celestial origins, an ascent to the supernal regions of the psyche where it alchemises with universal energy.

This can be symbolised by the tree with its roots and branches. The everyday embodiment of our values and cultural-beliefs is the root-system drawing nutrients from the earthly realm of the soul.  The learning nutrients are the systemic ordering forces and constellations of power-plays, gossip, behaviours and such like that can be made more conscious, more authentic, more alive and embodied.  Then there are the branches and leaves where the nutrients from the culture of the roots engage in alchemy through photosynthesis – value-exchanges, synergies and evolutionary purpose of the organisation are enlivened. Then the nutrients are taken back down into the cultural roots of the tree. It is a continuous exchange of roots and branches, of inner culture, outer strategy – emergent and evolutionary in nature.  The self-management of Teal-Evolutionary business is served by both the roots of inner wholeness and the branches of outer strategy and purpose.  As Frederic Laloux knew, it is both Evolutionary Purpose and the Journey towards Wholeness that allows the self-management practices of today’s future-fit agile organisations to come alive and truly thrive.

We might see how each day is a way into the inner journey towards wholeness.  Each season, rhythm, tension, day and conversation can – and perhaps ought be – undertaken in a sacred manner. These tensions sure make for turbulence but do not need to be seen as struggle, but rather a continuous dance of opposing tensions – the tantric dance of loving life in all its fullness.

As spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle notes, ‘Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.  How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.’  This gives us tremendous hope; hope that comes with Trust in Life.  As we learn to let-go and trust in life, we see more clearly, we discern more readily, the crucibles and thresholds of our own learning journey towards wholeness.  This is for free, no MBA or PhD required.  We are all students of life.

This individual journey towards wholeness – what Jung called individuation – is actually relational and communal in its nature. The alchemic vessel is our own bodymind, our own inner excitations, insights and evolution. Yet, this inner self is a soul-seed planted in a rich milieu of relations, an ecology of life. As we become more intimate with the immanence within us, and more transparent with the transcendent all around us, we find ourselves realising our destinal path, and living more responsively to the communal life of the social systems we participate in.  As our self-awareness deepens, so too does our systemic-awareness, and our ability to regeneratively serve our community. Our own inner evolution contributes to communal evolution. We sense into and live the Golden Rule of loving thy neighbour as thyself, through knowing thyself intimately.

We find true vocation upon understanding our own intricacies and then offering our inner gifts to serve life.  This is the art of becoming a Regenerative Leader, the leader who learns to attune with the wisdom of nature while serving the evolution of consciousness itself.  This is what it means to be truly human, to live up to our name as Homo sapiens (wise beings) in service of life on Earth.

As the playwright, social activist and former Prime Minister Vaclav Havel knew, Consciousness precedes Being. There is consciousness flowing through everything, through every act, and we can aid this consciousness through our own authenticity, in terms of how we show-up.

‘The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human modesty, and in human responsibility. Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better, and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed, whether it be ecological, social, demographic or a general breakdown of civilization, will be unavoidable.’ – Vaclav Havel

All too often we apply yesterday’s fragmented digitised ego-consciousness to our future scenarios of sustainable living and leading. This is not what regenerative leadership is about.  Regenerative Leadership invites in a revolution, a root-and-branch transformation in our own selves as leaders, in our teams, organisations and wider social systems.  This is an inner transformation that informs the outer change we need for all life on Earth to thrive.

These are pivotal times, an old way is dying and a new way is being born.

The old mythos (worldview-story) of separation, scarcity, competition, control and fear is still gasping for air, holding on for dear life.  We must first notice this in our own selves, in our own triggers, tensions and projections, and allow these insights to inform our own transformation. 

The old Logos (worldview-logic) of mechanistic-thinking, linear cause-and-effect, reductive logic is no longer serving us. It is no longer able to deal with the complex systemic challenges of the day.  The Logic of Life that we find innate within nature, within the universe, is the new way. A living-systems way of leading – this is the logic of Regenerative Leadership. The time has come.

join the LinkedIn group if you have not already:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

and Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/businessinspiredbynature/

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

Regenerative Leadership – why now?

April 7, 2021

‘It’s hard to imagine a more relevant and timely book at this point in our existence and one that has become even more so in the face of the global pandemic. While many of us recognise the faults and the unintentional, but horribly destructive and deeply demoralising consequences of the ways our societies now operate, few can imagine what it is we can realistically do instead.

With increasing division and polarisation, rising inequality, burgeoning levels of poor mental health and catastrophic damage to the natural environment we are dependent upon for our survival, our experiential quality of life is heading in the wrong direction.  When we spend the majority of our time doing something we wouldn’t choose to do if we could afford not to, so that we can spend the minority of our time doing what we want to do and even then, often wishing for something else instead, we want to know: how do we get off the hamster wheel?

In Regenerative Leadership, Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm guide us to the answers. They remind us that we are living organisms, rather than standardised machines as the corporate world has come to think of us. They show us how we are an intrinsic part of the natural ecosystem and the possibilities available to us when we reconnect with all its rhythms, cycles and incredibly vibrant diversity.

In a world that has come to value money above life and where inanimate organisations are prioritised above the humans who created them and for whom they were created, this book is a highly practical, evidence-based and beautifully narrated explanation of the leadership we so desperately need right now.  As we work harder and longer than we ever have, in some of the most challenging circumstances we have ever faced, it’s time for us to see how our largely unconscious expectation to operate as if in an eternal Summer (infinite and continuous year on year growth), is neither possible or desirable.

Thank you to Giles and Laura for guiding us back to (our true) nature.’

‘Hutchins’ and Storm’s Regenerative Leadership shines a bright light on one of the most critical, and least understood capacities required of anyone and any institution seeking to work regeneratively—understanding and living into the three-fold dynamics of what the book calls the DNA of regenerative leadership. By growing the consciousness required to simultaneously work on developing ourselves, the wholes we are a part of, and the unique contributions we and they are called to make to the larger life world we depend on, we just might be able to achieve the regenerative capacity the Earth is asking for.’  

–  Pamela Mang, co-founder of Regenesis and co-author of Regenerative Development and Design.     

‘The clarity, inspiration, synergy and wisdom of Regenerative Leadership is breath-taking. It offers a rich delicious mixture of theory, case studies, invaluable tools and leading edge practices and insights. For leaders genuinely seeking to be effective, sustainable and successful while contributing to making the world, and their organizations far better places this is the must read book of the year. I couldn’t put it down.’ 

–  Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, former Chief Executive  of 157 Group, Centre for Excellence in Leadership

‘Hutchins and Storm demonstrate that they are clearly at the forefront of a new leadership paradigm that maps an emerging model for sustainable organization in any institution that wishes to thrive. Regenerative Leadership is built upon developing awareness of self and system that embraces the wisdom of Nature alongside creative human consciousness. It is an ideal model that recognizes the potential of living systems to revive organizations and leadership to be effective drivers for the next step in our human story. Hutchins and Storm know what they are talking about – and we should start listening.’ 

– Kingsley L. Dennis, The Sacred Revival – Magic, Mind & Meaning in a Technological Age

Thank you for the support of these specialists in their field and many many more people who have written reviews of the book, and those of you who are kindly sharing the book, mini-reviews, photos and comments on LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media – you know who you are, and we deeply thank you for this sharing-the-vibe.  Laura and I are blown away by the interest in the book, and from hearing how it has inspired leaders from all walks of life to start being the change they wish to see in their lives and in their organisations.

Just last week Laura has been interviewed for CNN on Regenerative Leadership, so perhaps the scales are tipping in the right direction, and finally what the world needs is actually starting to become mainstream, or atleast more widely accepted.  There is always hope amid these tumultuous times!

In case of interest, here is a podcast interview Laura and I recently gave for The Edison Electric Institute:

https://electricperspectives.podbean.com/e/002-global-circuit-thriving-under-crisis-with-regenerative-leadership/

Feel free to join the Leadership Immersions LinkedIn group here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13767578/

And watch this short book video here:

And you can find more about the book here at www.regenerativeleadership.co

Thank you for your support and sharing : ) Happy spring-time 2021. Times they are a changin’ Each of us creates trim-tabs to shift this transformation in the right direction. With Love, Giles & Laura

The Essence of Regenerative Leadership

March 31, 2021

This time of year has long been celebrated as a time of renewal; a death-rebirth process that happens at certain times in our lives to enable our individual and collective consciousness to evolve.

This time of year can be celebrated as a threshold crossing for us to deepen our life-journey of self-discovery, in-so-doing learning how best to serve others and the wider whole; to become more regenerative as we renew ourselves.  As the famous poet Rumi noted, it is only by being faithful to our deeper truer nature that we can find right-relation with the world, and then attend to solving the ills of the world, which are deep, and need our depth.

‘If you are here unfaithfully with us, you’re causing terrible damage.’ Rumi

Amid the global-crises and local-stresses we each face, there is hope. 

Rays of a new dawn are lighting up a new way for how we behave individually and collectively.  Underpinning any evolution in thinking and doing, is a worldview shift, a shift in our orientation with self-other-world.

The Regenerative Journey is a journey towards futures that enhance the fabric of life on Earth while also enabling our organisations to come alive and our people to thrive. It’s a journey of learning. This journey starts with a more intimate relationship with our own sense of Self.

Who Am I?

One might ask that question to oneself repeatedly, over and over, during the days and nights ahead, especially over this time of spring unfolding and winter retreating. See what responses come from inside ourselves as we ask this simply question of ourselves. It is not a frivolous inquiry, but an important one that we often overlook in our schooling or further education, so caught up we have become in the outer-pursuit of happiness, of ungrounded-doing, of exploring new landscapes, new things, yet divorced from who we truly are. Enter today’s malaise.

‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes is not in the seeking of new landscapes but in the seeing with new eyes.’ Marcel Proust

Who Am I?

Am I this incessant voice inside the head, providing a running commentary on pretty much everything that happens in my life?   Perhaps there is more to me? There is ofcourse, as I can witness this voice, and even quieten or gain perspective on the voice-in-the-head, even transform it and redirect it, if I so choose.

Am I these emotions that rise up when something happens and I feel triggered, whether standing in-line in the shop, or taking part on a zoom call, or receiving an email, or playing with the kids?  Perhaps there is more to me? There is, as I can witness these emotions rising and falling away, and even sense into underlying traumas and wounds, and go into these and find release, even transmute my emotions, if I so choose.

Am I this body, with its strengths and weaknesses, aliments and aches, and all the somatic sensations and instincts it offers?  Perhaps there is more to me, as I can witness this body and sense into its underlying intelligence and aliveness, even enliven and cultivate the flow of energy in my body, if I so choose.

Am I a rich concoction of the past experiences I have experienced and the anticipations and dreams of the future? Perhaps there is more to me, as I have always been there in the mirror, regardless of experience or dream, and I can transform my dreams and even re-enliven my memories, if I so choose.

And I know that I am not the car I drive or the house I live in or the collection of material goods or intellectual property I supposedly ‘own’. I can transcend all the worldly toys, tools and temptations, if I so choose.

There is something underneath the outer forms of everyday experience, and also something underneath the inner expressions of mind and body: a deeper sense of Self, something that can witness and draw insight from the inner-outer worlds we experience.

There is a field of consciousness that my Self is a part of and draws from as it journeys through life in this bodymind vessel of ‘I’.  Consciousness is not limited to my brain or my body, science now shows us that consciousness pervades not just the entire bodymind but beyond me, in life itself. We can learn to attune our bodymind to better flow with life’s consciousness, to become more conscious, more whole, less fragmented, less separate, more interconnected.  This is a death-rebirth process: a dying of the small ‘ego-self’ that has a scarcity mindset of separation and competition that pervades the self-other-world dynamic we show-up with; and a birthing/revealing of a deeper Self aka Soul. Through this threshold crossing, we can allow the rightful centre of ourselves to lead, and the ego to become a useful tool that serves the Soul.  This is a metamorphosis within us, a death-rebirth process from scarcity into abundance, from imprisonment into emancipation, from control-and-separation into emergence-and-interconnection.  As spring time emerges from winter, as buds unfold all around us, we can invite in an unfolding within us. If we dare to cross the threshold.

The adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves extensively studied adult psychology, and presciently spoke of the times we are in as ‘not merely a transition to a new level of existence, but the start of a new movement in the symphony of human identity.’  What beautiful words conveying the music of life, as we move into new way of being-and-doing.  Its not just the outer-doing from industrialised pollution to circular economics and regenerative design, its also our inner consciousness, our inner-being. This is at the heart of being regenerative – aligning the inner-outer, yin-yang of life.

‘A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty’ – Albert Einstein

This can feel rather overwhelming, or perhaps a nice-to-have luxury amidst the busyness, stresses and strains and crises of today’s volatile hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it world.  Alas, it is essential. Much more essential than Big Data or AI for that matter, as they are tools, which without adequate consciousness applying them will run amok.

The essence, our inner essence, speaks to what it means to be human: This ability to emancipate ourselves from our own delusion of consciousness which Einstein so eloquently points to.

Without this essence we are cut adrift, ungrounded, and all-but lost, tossed this way and that in a volatile world of ephemeral needs and desires.

Myself, Giles Hutchins, and my co-author, Laura Storm, write about this leadership transformation in our book Regenerative Leadership, and explore the tools and steps required for this Journey towards Wholeness to happen in our organisations while surviving amidst today’s tumultuous business climes.

Here is a podcast where Vice President of Edison Electric Institute interviews Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm in discussing the challenges we now face in creating regenerative futures amid this post-COVID world:  https://electricperspectives.podbean.com/e/002-global-circuit-thriving-under-crisis-with-regenerative-leadership/

As well as the seismic shifts in transforming our own selves, and our social systems, there are also lots of small steps we can each take every single day. Architect, inventor and philosopher Buckminster Fuller, referred to these small changes that create regenerative ripples throughout the system as ‘Trim Tabs’: where the minute informs the momentous.

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim Tab.”

The truth is that you get the low pressure to do things, rather than getting on the other side and trying to push the bow of the ship around. And you build that low pressure by getting rid of a little nonsense, getting rid of things that don’t work and aren’t true until you start to get that trim-tab motion. It works every time. That’s the grand strategy you’re going for. So I’m positive that what you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count. To be a real trim tab, you’ve got to start with yourself, and soon you’ll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way. Of course, they happen only when you’re dealing with really great integrity.’  – Buckminster Fuller

As Bucky knew, every act with intention and integrity shifts the system. The minute contributes to the momentous. And as adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves knew, we are experiencing a momentous leap in human-kind right now, not just a transition but a new symphony of human identity is emerging-evolving right now. And our minute acts with great integrity tip the scales as our social and organisational systems metamorphose from old to new. Exciting yet challenging times to be alive, to become more human by becoming more in-tune with Life = Regenerative Leadership.

In a recent podcast interview the US filmmaker, Susanne Taylor, asks me to explore the inquiry – what would you do if you ran the world?  I suggest that what is of the utmost importance is not simply the policies and governance, but the will, the deep desire, the knowing – which can be reignited in us (as it is always within us) through awareness and education.  If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we might see that much of what we think of as education today is brainwashing, conditioning, conforming, controlling and limiting our sense of self, twisting us down pathways where we feel impelled to wear masks, and so corrupting our self-other-world dynamic. We need education in its truest sense, as the Greeks meant it when they came up with the word, which for them meant to draw-out the essence of who we truly are into the world – an education that is enlivening, emancipating and empowering for the Soul.   Listen here for more on ‘if I ran the world’: https://suespeakspodcast.com/14-Giles-Hutchins/

And so there are now three questions to ponder on this Easter, if we so choose:

  1. Who Am I?
  2. If I ran the world what would I do?
  3. What are the small minute acts, the trim tabs, I can start doing today and tomorrow?

I am often asked by leaders – ‘What is the essence of Regenerative Leadership?’ – the essence is within us. It’s the essence that is within everything. Being regenerative is being natural. It is a process of opening to our inner nature and outer nature. It’s an educational journey of learning to flow as nature flows. Nothing more, nothing less.

What is within us is within everything. Once we understand this truth, we step outside of the parameters of our individual self and come to realise the power that is within us. This shift in awareness is a very simple step that has profound consequences’ – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, mystic

Are you ready to step into the new symphony of human consciousness?  The Journey towards Wholeness starts right here, right now.

‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.’ Bob Marley.

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

The Emerging Economic Renaissance

March 13, 2021

A new political-economic paradigm is emerging in northern Europe and parts of the Asia-Pacific region that could signal a major turning point in human history. Like the time when humanity awakened to the fact that the world was round, rather than flat, this new paradigm radically challenges our perceptions of reality and the systems we’ve created to guide our lives.

This is a guest blog by author of the new book Economies That Mimic Life by Joseph H Bragdon.

The impetus for this emerging shift is the increasingly catastrophic failure of humanity’s conventional GDP-focused political-economic system. What started in the industrial age as regional and global competitions for hegemony and resources eventually developed into two world wars, expensive military arms races, ecological overstep, climate change, species extinctions and a surge of borrowing as those in power sought to solidify their hold on authority. Over the past year the fragile structure of this debt-driven competition has been exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, causing widespread disruption in global markets.

So what is it about the emerging new paradigm that could reverse this self-destructive trend and alter the course of history? The answer is deceptively simple.

Instead of perceiving economies as bottom-line, capital-driven devices for growing GDP and profit (increasingly at the expense of people and Nature), the new paradigm sees economies as they really are: as sub-systems of life, whose primary assets are people and Nature and whose goals are to preserve the continuous wellbeing of all life on earth. By such means, it resolves into a reinforcing loop, where means and ends serve one another rather than conflict. Simple. Logical. And remarkably effective

Economies That Mimic Life

The wonderful thing about this living system approach is how it generates economic success as it reduces humanity’s ecological footprint. In doing so, it overcomes the increasing frictions between means and ends that have plagued the mainstream “neoclassical” model and driven it to the edge of ruin. This is not to say that transitioning to the life-mimicking model will be easy. But in the final analysis it comes down to whether the citizens and leaders of a country want to go down with a sinking ship or whether they want to find a more secure way forward.

Because the two models are so fundamentally opposite (incommensurable), attempts to find a compromise solution will almost certainly fail. That’s because their foundational assumptions conflict as can be seen in the following table. Consequently, the most promising (and profitable) way forward is to abandon the neoclassical model and adopt the life mimicking one.

That said, it’s important to understand that the life-mimicking model is not a set destination, but an adaptable pathway forward – one that can (and must) be amended by continuous observation and learning as political-economic conditions change.

Comparison of Working Assumptions and Practices

Living System ModelNeoclassical Model
Economies are:Sub-systems of biosphere, societyThe dominant system
Governance:Egalitarian, networked, decentralizedHierarchical, centralized
Mission:Maintain healthy living systemsMaintain authority, control
Values:Primacy of living assets (people, Nature)Primacy of non-living capital
Vision:Optimize living assets (circular economy)Optimize GDP, profit
Leverage:Living asset stewardship (inspiration)Financial gearing (debt)
Mind-set:Holistic, qualitative (non-linear)Reductionist, quantitative (linear)
Metrics:Focus on learning, adaptation (means)Focus on results (ends)
Learning:Multiple loop (open-ended)Single loop (follow the rules)
Risk:Being only generally right
(Lack of precision)
Being precisely wrong (Climate change)

 As one can easily see, the foregoing assumptions and practices reflect radically different worldviews/paradigms. Historically, each evolved to remediate the failures of a prior system. Therefore, just as the living systems model emerged to redress the failures of the neoclassical (industrial era) model, the neoclassical model emerged in Europe from the 17th Century Enlightenment as Europe sought to break free from the constrictive norms of the feudal system.

The power of the living system paradigm is in seeing the living world as it really is rather than a notional construct for continuous GDP growth and capital accumulation. When we approach economies as sub-systems of life rather than super-systems that transcend life, we attain what Donella (Dana) Meadows called a dynamic leverage point where “a small change in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”[1]

Such was the case in the evolution of the life-mimicking Nordic Model. Although its holistic approach has ancient roots in teachings of the Buddha and Confucius and in the practices of traditional cultures, the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland are the first to apply it to modern industrial cultures.

The Nordic Model

Nordic countries today are regularly placed at the top of global surveys on prosperity, quality of life, health, democracy, freedom, innovation, productivity and sustainability. As bastions of open, free markets, they have also become global innovation hothouses in renewable energy, bio-tech and circular economy practices.


In the course of becoming more prosperous, Nordic countries have developed a system of robust universal safety nets. Although supported by high individual tax rates, these strengthen their economies by providing an abundance of healthy, educated, secure and motivated citizens. As a result, Nordic countries today have some of the industrial world’s highest labor participation rates and per capita GDPs – advantages that support the funding of their safety nets. Compared to the lose-lose outcomes of the neoclassical model, this interaction creates a dynamic win-win reinforcing loop.

Which brings us back to the earlier mentioned vulnerabilities of the neoclassical model. As the US and other large industrial economies try to protect their regional and global hegemonies, they exploit the very sources of their strength (people and Nature) and borrow far more than their weakening economies can afford. Consequently, while Nordic economies go from strength to strength by partnering with Nature and nourishing their people, the US and others operating on the neoclassical model fall further and further behind.

Economics That Mimic Life by Joseph Bragdon

This breakdown/breakthrough saga is powerfully transformative, as described in my book “Economies That Mimic Life” (https://www.routledge.com/Economies-that-Mimic-Life-From-Biomimicry-to-Sustainable-Prosperity/Bragdon/p/book/9780367625993). Dedicated to my late friend, Dana Meadows, it offers compelling evidence of her belief in Leverage Points as a way to meaningfully transform systems.

Activating Regenerative Organisational Cultures

February 6, 2021

It’s a fascinating time to be involved in transforming organisational cultures.

At present I am fortunate to be involved in some really interesting organisation transformations ranging from purpose-drive B-Corps to large financial service providers.

Every organisation is a unique conglomeration of individuals, team-power-plays, psychological agency, value propositions, strategies and tactics, wider ecosystem relations and market forces.  No two organisations are ever the same, just as no two leaders are ever the same. That is what makes leadership and organisational development coaching so rich and fascinating.  And yet, there are some underlying dynamics, some core truths that underpin the diversity of every organisation and team.

This article explores these underlying dynamics so that an essential simplicity amid the swirling organisational complexity of the day can be revealed.  These powerful yet simple truths are what provide anchor, rope and compass through stormy seas as these.

First off, what do we mean by ‘regenerative’?  It’s a word that has a buzz about it, perhaps even the epicentre of the new zeitgeist rising in our consciousness.  And with any buzz, its portrayal can lose its essence.

To be Regenerative is simply to be Natural. To become more whole, less fragmented, more alive, less disconnected, more in-flow.

‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.’ Lao Tzu

Being Regenerative is a journey. It’s a journey of attuning with Life.  It’s a way of living, leading, designing and implementing products, processes, cultures and ecosystems that enhance Life.

All the time, through our quality of attention and intention, we can slip between being regenerative and degenerative. We can slip between flowing in harmony with life or falling out-of-kilter with the flow of things.

An important step on the Regenerative Journey, is to become more sensitised and aware of opening into the inherent grammar of Life. This is embodied and experiential more than it is rational and analytical. 

Falling out of the flow of things is a natural part of our humanity as long as we catch our fall and learn to flow, by noticing and then realigning. This is the art of living wisely. Without this practice of noticing and learning to be in harmony with Life our evolution is undermined.

Opening into Life is a shift in consciousness.  A simple shift in awareness; though not necessarily easy. Amid today’s busy hurry-up-get-on-with-it overly-rational-analytic business world the flow of things is easily obscured.

Lest we forget, it is an essential part of our human nature, to be Natural, to flow with Nature’s Rhythms.  All ‘regenerative’ is about is opening up to more of our human potential while being in accord with Life.

Much of today’s managerial business logic is at odds with how life works, and so we face the difficult challenge of letting-go of thought forms, mental habits, emotional baggage, internal constrictions, and ingrained assumptions that get in the way of our own regenerative potential.

In the book Regenerative Leadership we unpack the Logic of Life for leadership and organisational development.  By comprehending the Logic of Life we can learn to attune with the rhythms and dynamics of the Regenerative Journey. The 7 principles of the Logic of Life are:

  1. Life Affirming – life creates the conditions conducive for life to flourish. We become life-affirming when we are being natural and authentic.
  2. Ever-changing and Responsive – life learns, adapts and evolves through an ever-changing context. In other words, life is developmental and evolutionary, ditto for our cultures; constant learning and growing through being responsible and responsive.
  3. Relational and Collaborative – life consists of systems inter-relating with other systems, nothing is completely isolated, everything is relating. Yes there is competition in life, yet collaboration is the over-riding evolutionary dynamic, and separateness is an illusion we create in our minds, it’s not how life really is. Learn to collaborate through cultivating cultures of trust and transparency not politics and power-plays.
  4. Synergistic and Diverse – life thrives through diversity. Tensions of difference act as crucibles for novelty and creativity to emerge. Celebrate difference and hold-space for allowing creative conflict to be transmuted into generative emergence through dialogue and deep listening.
  5. Cyclic and Seasonal-Rhythmical – life ebbs and flows through pulsations of in-breath, out-breath, day-night, waxing-waning, summer-winter, death-rebirth. Nature’s rhythms invite in reflection, rest and renewal as well as creativity and productivity. Cultivate rhythms of winter-summer being-doing amid daily/weekly/monthly business practices.
  6. Flows of Energy-Matter – life is made up of flows of energy and matter. Ditto for our organisations, which are full of flows of psychological and relational energy.  Let’s not get overly caught up in org charts and team definitions when what really makes us come alive is free-flowing energy. Notice flow, stuckness, energy-drains and catalysers. Practice organizational acupuncture.
  7. Living Field or Source – life is permeated by immense potential energy that scientists now realise is a potent presence in everyday life. This field contains an informing consciousness. Through simple practices we aid our capacity to open to this wisdom.

Remember – Life is Regenerative.  This is about realigning back into Life, and in the process we become more alive, and our organisations thrive.

Transformation unfolds, it is not forced. By creating the conditions conducive for life our people and cultures flourish.

Life is mind-blowing.  Our rational minds might like to define it into neat-and-tidy biologically-based facts and figures, but life defies much of what the mind’s logic can grasp.  For instance, a small leaf quivering the the breeze high up in the tree, has more sophisticated innovation packed into it than nano-computing or Big Data. A humble blade of grass trampled underfoot is far more complex than anything we humans have ever designed, and to boot, it’s organic, non-toxic, totally regenerative – beneficial to life. Our complex innovations are all too often highly toxic and exploitative of the natural and social systems we inhabit. This is what happens when we forget the underlying Way of Nature – we fall out of harmony with Life.  To fall back in line with Nature does not mean a back-to-nature regression or anti-technology movement, far from it, it is what will propel human-kind into the next Revolution of Innovation and Development, a Regenerative Revolution. Technology is a powerful tool that can help humanity evolve, as long as we remember and embody the wisdom of real life. Otherwise it can be a distraction, obscuring our evolution, perhaps unintentionally catalysing our extinction.

Look deep, deep, deep into Nature and you will understand everything better.’  Albert Einstein

All about us abounds immensity of complexity.

Yet amid this complexity is a beautiful simplicity. A hidden thread of wisdom is here right before us, if we so choose to see.  This wisdom is what will fuel our [r]evolution and heal humanity.

This hidden thread of wisdom – Nature’s Wisdom – enables our human organisations, cultures, values, team dynamics and individual behaviours to become more whole, more real, more vital, more human, more natural.

This wisdom is simple yet profound. Let’s explore…

There are two currents in life, and the confluence of these two currents creates the Dance of Life. Nothing more, nothing less.

These two currents, can be called Yin and Ying.

Here is the ancient symbol that conveys Nature’s Wisdom, pure and simple:

Yang – Yin

Doing – Being

Movement – Stillness

Outer – Inner

Masculine – Feminine

Me – We

Reductive – Relational

Responsive – Receptive

Light – Dark

Summer – Winter

Action – Reflection

Hard – Soft

As I explored in a recent blog article about Alchemising Tensions:

Neither side of these tensions is more right or more preferable than the other, and each situation invites us to bring in more of one side than the other.  It’s an alchemic dance, a communion of opposing tensions. The Dance of Life.

And yet there is another secret found all around and within us if we so choose to see. Nature’s Wisdom shows us the way the Yin-Yang dance unfolds. The Way of Nature.

From the proportions found in our feet, to the proportions found in trees; from the patterns found in flowers to the patterns found in estuaries and coastlines; from the spiralling of water in our kitchen sink to spiralling galaxies, there is a quintessential thread of timeless truth:

Yin informs Yang

From the feminine spawns the masculine. From the inner comes the outer.  The Being infuses the Doing.  Stillness informs Movement. In order for the Dance to be in harmony with Nature we need be mindful of honouring the soft-power of Yin first-and-foremost. As the Yin informs the Yang.

‘To live in accord with Nature is to live virtuously.’  Seneca

If we wish to be regenerative in our own selves, in our teams and in our company culture, then we need to begin with this inherent Wisdom of Nature, otherwise what flows from us will be degenerative, and we shall then spend unnecessary time and energy mopping up our degenerative activities.

The time has come to target the source of our degenerative behaviour. To attend to our own attention.

Inner presence informs outer purpose.

Countless corporations currently spend vast sums on all-staff training and development programmes that attend to shaping outer activity while overlooking inner presence. Little wonder not much changes other that the outer wrapper. 

Well-intended programmes honing value propositions, mission statements and cultural values that overlook the inner essence of the living organisation and its leadership consciousness are not going to catalyse the Regenerative Journey.

Many of these well-intentioned corporations have spent millions on purpose and culture programmes with little return-on-investment other than jargon that people soon forget. An SVP Head of Culture, of an award-winning market-leading corporation once said to me ‘Purpose is everywhere, we need a new word, as its lost its way.’  As if changing the word will make things better.  It’s simply that we have been focusing on outer-purpose while overlooking inner-purpose. The Doing of ‘purpose’ has become bland because it’s no longer flows with Being.  Like with so many things, we have objectified ‘purpose’ into a neat and tidy object that then lacks vitality and essence beyond some mission-statement North Star. There is so much more to purpose than a North Star when we embrace the essence of Life and emancipate Purpose to flow in accord with Nature’s Wisdom.

The ‘yin’ has been known as the ‘soft’ and the yang known as the ‘hard’. Today we still find many leaders trying to ignore the ‘soft stuff’ of essence, inner-purpose and presence, while busying themselves with the ‘hard stuff’.  It’s this out-of-kilter overly yang Doing disconnected from Being that is the root cause of our downstream degenerative behaviours, decisions, designs and cultures.

What does this all mean in practice?

Let’s look at three dimensions of the organisation:

  1. the individual leader;
  2. the team and its intra and inter-operable dynamics;
  3. the organisational culture and structure
  1. Leadership – We have two tools to help us on the personal developmental journey:
  • Self-awareness
  • Systemic-awareness

Self-awareness is first-and-foremost about us getting to know ourselves, so that we can build our trust in life. As we become more conscious of our projections, insecurities and shadows, we enrich our engagement with life, and reach beyond yesterday’s bubble.

Thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and worries about what has been (the past) or what might be (the future) can stir up emotions inside us which trigger anxiety, stress, and distraction. Before we know it, this mental noise has created a version of life that is not reality – not what is happening right before us. If we were able to release ourselves from this mental chatter, we could experience life in a less distracted, more present, and more conscious way.

‘Above all, to thine own self be True’  William Shakespeare

There are some simple yet powerful tools we can practice to enliven our self-awareness.  See the book Regenerative Leadership for more on these tools.

Systemic awareness is a natural capacity we all have as human beings. Systems nested within systems are the very stuff of life. Systemic awareness is our ability to sense into the network of systems within the living organization and throughout the wider stakeholder ecosystem, including our family and friends, local community, supply chain, customer network, and wider ecology of life. 

“Learn how to see. Realize everything connects with everything else” Leonardo Da Vinci

It is through this deeply felt sense of life’s complex inter-relating system dynamics, that we attune ourselves with a new way of seeing the world.  It helps us shift our perception from viewing the organization-as-machine to realizing the organization-as-living-system. 

Systemic awareness goes hand-in-hand with enhanced self-awareness, coupled with what we call in the book – Activating our Super-Nature – where we allow an integration of different intelligences within us to open ourselves into a systemic way of attending, where we can more subtly sense life beyond separateness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness: The Alchemy of Self-and-Systemic Awareness

 

When we alchemize the dynamics of self and systemic awareness we step in to Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness invites in the ‘yin’- calm inner grounded-ness and awareness of one’s own triggers, habits and shadows combined with an intuitive sense of the inter-relationality of living systems. This consciousness seeks authenticity, thinks systemically, designs for complexity, works with tensions, spawns life-affirming futures, and understands the Logic of Life.

When we allow the ‘yin’ beingness to infuse our doing, Life conspires to aid us, and we begin to notice synchronicities, coincidences, chance encounters and intuitive insights. This is Nature’s Wisdom flowing through us.

2. Team Dynamics

Inviting in the ‘yin’ and then the ‘yang’ into our team dynamics ensures we create the cultural ground for flow. Holding-space for each other, enabling trust to form so people feel they can bring more of themselves into the working environment. This allows the ‘yang’ creativity to flow more readily.  Social technologies like Theory U, Feedback, Deep Listening, Art of Hosting, Systemic Coaching, non-violent communication methods, etc. all greatly help the ‘yin’ of team dynamics. Then we can start to embrace agile ways of working, workflow management, effective communication, daily stand-ups, check-ins, etc. so the Doing is infused with Being.  In my previous book Future Fit there are a load of team practices and liberating structures to enable this yin-yang being-doing at the team level.

A short video here about Future Fit

  • 3. Organisational Culture

In Regenerative Leadership we spend a lot of time on Living Systems Culture – the way to enable the organisational culture to become regenerative, through applying the Regenerative  Leadership DNA.

We also provide organisational tools, checklists and coaching questions to aid the Regenerative Journey, including a Regenerative Leadership DNA Assessment Wheel and Systems Mapping exercise. These tools activate dialogue across the organisation.

Through leadership coaching and living-systems interventions, one can help the organisation to start to see more of itself. This helps blind-spots, stuckness, acupuncture points and nodes to be acknowledged.  People start to gain agency as an active participant in the system.  Through their own presence and awareness they can start to contribute to regenerative ripples that enliven the system.

One technique I have used over the years to great effect through my organisational development work is the concept of Background; Middleground; Foreground.   Much like a masterpiece painting or well composed orchestral music, there is the Background – the underlying essence, the underpinning vision and purpose that infuses the Middleground (lived cultural values) and Foreground (embodied behaviours, decision-making protocols, daily practices and rhythms).

Getting into the essence of things is a far deeper exercise that revisiting vision statements or rewording mission definitions.  It is a case of tapping into the essence of the living organisation, and is often best done through deep-dive leadership immersions. When these immersions are conducted round the fire in nature we get to the essence of things. Far from the madding crowd and distanced from the distracting mobile device.

(The ancient woodlands of Springwood are only 45mins from London and 15mins from international flights and main rail hubs, yet provide secluded spaciousness for tapping into Nature’s Wisdom)

As we access stillness we tap into the ‘yin’ that informs the ‘yang’.  To attend to outer statements, value propositions, values, behaviours and metrics without first sensing into the Background essence is, alas, applying the very same level of consciousness that created our problems in the first place: Doing without a depth of Being. 

The time has come to evolve our human awareness, and evolve our human cultures so they become regenerative.

In summary:

There is an inherent Logic of Life that we can learn to listen to.  It is this intelligence and wisdom we now need to help our organisations thrive in the volatile times ahead.  Paste on agile ways of working to a disconnected culture and time and money will be wasted.  We need culture + structure aligned, and we need the ‘yin’ to infuse the ‘yang’, then we can start to attune to Nature’s Rhythms and find the flow of the living organisation while people become more human, more alive, more whole, more in harmony with Life.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st century won’t occur because of technology, they will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ John Naisbett

When Being infuses our Doing, we have Awakened Doing. Out actions align with inner-purpose. Purpose then, is not espoused or forced, but lived from the inside-out, it comes alive through us, and we become regenerative.

Our outer actions become a conduit for a different quality of consciousness than that which created today’s manifold problems. This is the beginning of a new dawn, a new stage in our human evolution. It begins when our outer actions align with the Logic of Life, whereupon we open up to the magnificence of existence. 

The adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves, through his painstaking research, saw this latent potential in human consciousness being born in our social systems today, and his prescient work is coming true through the exponential interest in organisational applications such as Teal-Evolutionary, Theory U, sociocracy, agile and regenerative leadership.

This is our destiny, and its beckoning call is becoming clearer and more noticeable by the day, as old ways breakdown to reveal an inherent grammar innate within Life.

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. –Hopi Elders’ Prophecy

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

A short video on the book Regenerative Leadership:

Crossing the Threshold with Nature-based Coaching and Leadership Immersions

January 21, 2021

Times they are a’changin. Even the nature of change itself seems to be changing – ceaseless churning change of the catalytic variety concocts this pregnant moment of seismic breakdown and breakthrough.  I foresee the next couple of years as simultaneously challenging, transformative and full of potential.

Those of us engaged with transformational leadership work will know that periods of dysfunction and crisis often precede a step-change in evolutionary advancement. Therefore, these are fertile times for an evolutionary shift in leadership consciousness. Let this epochal hour of breakdown-breakthrough not go to waste, but rather spawn a necessary [r]evolution in consciousness. The future of life on Earth depends on it. The future-fitness of our clients’ organisations depends on it. So too does the mental health and wellbeing of our client’s families and personal lives. 

This article seeks to explain: firstly, why a ‘threshold-crossing’ is an essential part of the evolutionary advancement of our coaching clients; secondly, what the nature of this ‘threshold crossing’ is; and thirdly, how coaching-based immersions in nature provide a powerful way of holding-space for this threshold crossing.

  1. Crossing the Threshold: To die before you die

The phrase ‘to cross the threshold’ means to undergo a metamorphic process of ‘dying and being reborn’- to endure a shift in ‘inner’ self-orientation and ‘outer’ worldview. It’s a deep psychological renewal that transforms how we relate to our inner-selves and our outer-world, enabling us to become more in harmony with inner and outer nature. The ancient Greeks used the term ‘metanoia’ to describe such a shift, ‘meta’ like in metamorphosis is to ‘shape-shift’  or  ‘move beyond’ and ‘noia’ relates to ‘true understanding’: to transform the understanding of our sense of self and how we relate with the world.  

Over many years of coaching senior leaders, experience has shown me that for a leader – or for that matter any adult – to undergo a step-change in psychological evolution, one needs to hold-space for both the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ dimensions of this threshold-crossing: the worldview shift and the inner access to one’s deeper truer nature. All advanced adult developmental models, ancient wisdom traditions, and depth psychology approaches such as Carl Jung’s Individuation Journey and Parker J Palmer’s Journey Towards Wholeness, speak to this inner reorientation to ‘Know Thy Self’. And systemic change specialists, such as Donella Meadows and Peter Senge, know that shifting the worldview of the outer system is a primary leverage point for systemic transformation.

2. Shifting from What to What?

In my latest book Regenerative Leadership, co-authored with Laura Storm, we explore the worldview shift unfolding during this time of breakdown-breakthrough, and how it applies to leadership and organisational development. We explore the dominant yet dying Age of Separation and an emerging Age of Regeneration – where humanity remembers its deep connection with self-other-world.  You may have started to sense the word ‘regenerative’ entering the emerging zeitgeist. It’s a word that can be applied to all aspects of life, from regenerative agriculture through to regenerative leadership consciousness, and involves an opening up to life’s evolutionary dynamics of relationality, receptivity, responsiveness, rhythm and renewal.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness, as defined in our book, correlates with developmental psychologist Clare Graves’ work on Tier 2 Consciousness (i.e. Yellow, Turquoise and Coral in Spiral Dynamics) where an embodied cognition of living-systems is activated in our psyche. It also relates to what organisation specialist Frederic Laloux and integral theorist Ken Wilber refer to as Teal-Evolutionary. It is an ecosystemic awareness that draws upon the Logic of Life, an embodied living-systems way of leading and living that seeks harmony with the way life works.   This is not new, it’s timeless. For instance, over 2,500 years ago Lao Tzu noted, ‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force’ and Confucius noted, ‘Those in harmony with nature hit the mark without effort and apprehend the truth without thinking.’ Yet this is also cutting-edge contemporary thinking confirmed by scientific findings that show how being in nature, and opening up to nature’s wisdom, helps us become more compassionate, creative and connected. The explosion of interest in everything from forest bathing to wild swimming speaks to this rising interest in reconnecting to the rapture of real life.

Today our dominant leadership awareness is largely mechanistic and reductive, tuning-out the rhythmic and relational dynamics of how life works.  The result being: linear chains of production that create ‘outer’ toxicity and silo’ed hierarchies of management that create ‘inner’ toxicity.  The vast majority of people today work in organisational cultures that sap people’s creativity, purposefulness, ingenuity, resilience and empathy. Whilst many organisations pride themselves on being efficient and effective the cold reality is that many of our human interactions, decision-making protocols and meeting conventions are woefully inefficient and ineffective. The root problem here is mechanistic leadership logic. Change the underlying consciousness, and the logic shifts. Shift the logic and the culture can transform in inner and outer ways.

To shift from a worldview of separateness and its mechanistic logic into a worldview of interconnectedness and its Logic of Life, requires a threshold crossing. This allows leaders to sense the organisation as a complex adaptive emergent system rather than seeing it as a top-down hierarchic machine. Our understanding of change, systemic interventions and transformation deepens in recognition of how life works. It also helps us perceive the ecosystemic nature of our own presence as a leader, and the presence of the organisation immersed in a sea of stakeholder relations including the wider social and ecological systems which are all interdependent and interwoven in measurable and immeasurable ways. The other side of all this complexity is a beautiful simplicity, found by crossing the threshold.

In terms of the ‘inner’ dimension, regeneration is a return to our true nature through a journey towards wholeness. This journey is as fresh as it is ancient, and it opens us up to living with more presence and purposefulness; exactly what these times invite of us.  Through my coaching working in nature, I blend the shamanic and spiritual with the scientific and sensorial so all of our natural intelligences (rational, emotional, intuitive, and somatic) are enlivened. Then we unlock human potential, touch our true nature, and connect more deeply with the world around us. As Ghandi noted, ‘as one changes their own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards them.’

3. Why Nature Immersions?

There is now a wealth of scientific evidence showing how being in nature significantly improves our empathy, our ability to reason, to deal with change, cope with stress and listen more effectively to others. These are all basic qualities for 21st century leadership. Yet there is much that science is still only scratching the surface of when it comes to the transformative effects of being in nature.

I have taken hundreds of leaders through nature immersions. Immersions can range from half a day in the woods through to multi-day sessions that include overnight solos or even structured vision quests (you can find out more about the practicalities and science of these leadership immersions here). 

Many of the senior executives I coach can have strong aversions to anything that might seem hippy-dippy or woo-woo at first glance.  Some fear it might involve tree-hugging or Kum Ba Yah moments.  Hence, I have learnt to interweave time in nature with science-based insights about how nature works so the intuitive, emotional, somatic and rational aspects of our knowing are engaged adequately, usually starting with the rational as that is the most dominant in many leaders today. For instance, I might explore the interconnected systemic nature of life through microscopes whilst out in the woods, and by describing how trees communicate through the soil and the air, or how bacteria display highly sophisticated communication and adaptation methods. Or I might draw upon how organisational cultures can learn from nature’s 3.8bn years’ worth of tried and tested R&D by explaining about biomimicry, bio-design thinking, chaordic cultures and regenerative leadership. Or I unpack how ecosystems work by visually explain the shift from mechanistic thinking to ecosystemic awareness in a way that satisfies the rational intellect while providing an embodied experience that the coachee can fondly recall many moons after. 

Within an hour or two any hesitation or resistance a client might have to an immersion in nature usually evaporates to reveal receptivity for inner and outer developmental work.  Then, around the camp-fire a deep dialogic space for generative listening is held, as ego-masks and psychological armour melt for true nature to be touched. The client does not easily forget these moments of deep presence and purposefulness, and can call upon them when back in the busy work environment. Thus, both horizontal and vertical development takes place in these immersions, as clients gain a wider capacity for everyday resilience (horizontal) and an invitation into up-stretching their inner and outer orientation (vertical).

What happens in just a handful of hours in nature is – in my experience – of an order of magnitude deeper than a coaching session held either in a comfortable armchair or over zoom.  And socially distancing in fresh forest-bathing air proven to strengthen the immune system is a COVID-mitigated way to do deep work. Now more than ever people crave time in nature, time that is held in a way that gives them permission to be vulnerable, open-up and let-go of masks, while sensing into blind spots, projections and developmental learnings.

Giles Hutchins runs nature-based leadership immersions for leaders, facilitates deep-space for coaches and their clients, provides training for coaches, and personal adult development amid 60 acres of ancient woodland in an area of outstanding natural beauty with easy connections to London and airports, visit Leadership Immersions. He is also Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy. His latest co-authored book is Regenerative Leadership, other books are Future Fit, The Illusion of Separation and The Nature of Business. He blogs at www.thenatureofbusiness.org

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In Service to Life: Regenerative Leadership for 21st Century Organisations

January 13, 2021

David Lorimer is Director of The Scientific and Medical Network, and also Editor of the magazine Paradigm Explorer. He has kindly reviewed the book Regenerative Leadership, by Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm, a book that he sees as a highly informative and inspiring must-read for leaders in every sector

Book at be found here: Regenerative Leadership

REGENERATIVE LEADERSHIP, by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm, Wordzworth, 2019, 351 pp., £29.99, p/b – ISBN 978-1-78324-119-4

Book Review By David Lorimer

I don’t personally need convincing of the requirement not only for regenerative leadership, but for a regenerative approach as an overall policy goal, and in such a regard, this widely endorsed and beautifully produced book is a brilliant and succinct synthesis of leading-edge scientific, philosophical and ecological ideas with practical examples of how readers can apply regenerative leadership to their own working lives. It is written with admirable clarity and articulates exactly the regenerative vision we now require to work with the principles and dynamics of nature. Both authors bring decades of experience of the sustainability agenda as it relates to business leadership (www.regenerativeleadership.co).

The first part is devoted to breakdowns and breakthroughs, analysing the deeper roots of our current crisis resulting in a ‘growing imbalance [and separation] between humanity and nature, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, and left brained and right brained awareness’, aspects that we now need to integrate in order to ‘read the patterns, relationships, energies, insights, and intelligences innate within life’ as ways of reconnecting with the logic of life (p. 24). The authors identify a growing ‘complexity gap’ in the business landscape, arising from viewing the organisation as a machine and from a flawed consumerist business model associated with ecological degradation – exploiting rather than serving life. This leads to all manner of stress to manifest in us as individuals, as well is in economic, political and natural systems. So the question is how we design flourishing ways of living conducive to life, which entails moving from reductive machine logic to living systems logic on a leadership journey of reconnection: regenerative business calls for regenerative leaders (defined on p. 70).

Part 2 describes the DNA of regenerative leadership based on the logic of life and incorporating Living Systems Design, Culture and Being. This is all very clearly set out with diagrams describing life and leadership dynamics, the former in terms of a dance of convergence and divergence leading to emergence, and the latter an interplay of self-awareness with systemic awareness resulting in ‘regenerative leadership consciousness’. Throughout the book there are further reference points of quotations, insights from nature, business insights and opportunities to dive deeper, one of which is Michael Harner’s essential elements of core shamanism (p. 96) that spell out the relational principles of the kind of worldview that we all need to adopt. The authors explain their own version in terms of seven principles of the logic of life – life affirming, ever-changing and responsive, relational and collaborative, synergistic and diverse, cyclical and rhythmical, flows of energy and matter, and living systems field. Throughout the book, they show a remarkable grasp of such ideas and their potential applications as well as appropriate methods of training. There are corresponding ‘DNA strands’ in the chapters on Living Systems Design and Living Systems Culture with many relevant practical examples.

A further key element is Living Systems Being – ‘how we show up and nourish our relationship with our inner nature and encourage others to do the same.’ Here again there are six DNA strands: presence, coherence, patience, silence, abundance and dance, with corresponding definitions, objectives and guidance. Practical people might initially regard this as peripheral while it is in fact central. The third part provides some useful diagnostic tools to measure the alignment of your organisation with the logic of life and a living systems approach based on a number of questions and a related points system. Then people can create personal and organisational ecosystemic maps with corresponding features and relationships, with the outer orientation on the left and the inner on the right.

Finally, there are answers to frequently asked questions and further suggestions for personal practice, including journaling, quiet time, deep listening and opening up to nature; practices of silence, dialogue, story cafes and the way of council can also be applied organisationally. For the reader, such processes have to begin with the quality of our inner state as it ripples out through our lives and relationships. I was amused but not surprised to find on the final page that the logic of life is nothing more or less than Love, which creates the conditions conducive for life. As the authors note, they could not have put such a message up front, but it was good to see it plainly stated at the end. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a highly informative and inspiring must-read for leaders in every sector.

You can find the book Regenerative Leadership through all major outlets and also here at this website: Regenerative Leadership

You can follow Giles Hutchins’ blogs at The Nature of Business

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Time to Reinvent our Humanity, and Learn to Turn Tensions into Crucibles for Evolution

November 25, 2020

It is indeed a fascinating and also challenging time to be alive. 

 As COVID-shocks erode edifices of normality, underlying systemic fragility becomes easier to see.  It’s not just COVID, or the American Presidential election, mushrooming global debt, imploding commercial property values, monstrous market volatility, rising mental illness, soaring suicide rates, or the immediacy of the climate emergency.  It’s all of these combined, and so much more.

Such levels of stress in all systems create a pivotal moment where we either adapt and evolve out of this breakdown, or hold-on to the crumbling status quo, facing into the inevitable car-crash.

It’s a supreme moment in our human history!

Break-down naturally invokes fear, and an ever tightening-grip of holding-on to the safety of the status quo. Saving the status quo is too late – even if we’d wish to. Afterall, evolution is all about evolving through such transformative periods of break-down with break-through.

Are we up for evolution?

Scientists have long realised that evolution experiences fits and starts – relatively long periods of steady-state incremental change, and then significant shifts of breakdown leading to breakthrough- its known as ‘punctuated evolution’, and it’s how life on Earth adapts and evolves. 

Breakthrough involves a shift from status quo thinking – a reaching beyond our current bubble into a deeper and wider worldview, whereupon we evolve as humans. This breakthrough moment can be a time of immense innovation, not just at the product/service or business model level, or structural ways of working, but in terms of our worldview, of how we perceive ourselves, and our sense of place and purpose in the world.

All change please!

It’s what this supreme moment asks – demands – of us.  Can we rise to the challenge of the day?

Profound shifts are affecting the way we work, how and why we do things and the purpose and meaning we bring to our organisations and social systems.  What’s shifting goes way deeper than digitisation, agility and product innovation.  As the futurist John Naisbett notes,

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century, won’t occur because of technology. They’ll occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’

Whether it’s the swift shift to digital ways of working, the rising demand for authentic leadership, the increasing interest in agile purposeful organisational cultures, or the need for people to gain coherence and focus amid distraction, the blurring of home/work-life, or rising stress-levels – the desire for a root-and-branch transformation of how and why we do things is afoot.

The danger of being distracted by the noise of break-down is the inability to hear the songs-lines of breakthrough beckoning us beyond system-collapses into new ways of thinking, and new ways of perceiving – new ways of being human.

Necessity is the Mother of all inventions! 

It’s time to reinvent our humanity.

We are being prodded, cajoled, woken-up from our status quo slumber, so that we can awaken a deeper perception beyond our current bubble.

We are in need of reinventing not just our products, organisations, political institutions, economics, urban-planning, education and health systems – but all of it and more. This tumultuous time invites us to reinvent our purpose, to re-find, renew and reconnect with what it truly means to be human.

What an epic time to be a leader?!  So much of what we thought we knew is open for question.

Let’s not rush, or be hurried into panic, projection, blame, or fear-based thinking, as such hurried fearfulness merely entraps us in status-quo thinking.  To think outside the box, and beyond the bubble, we need to relax, let-go, open-up and become more present, more coherent, more connected.  Hence why the leadership immersion work I do here at Springwood, where we immerse leaders into a deeper sense of presence, with digital distractions and every-day noise left behind for a few hours, has such a catalytic effect on shifting leadership consciousness amid these transformational times.    (For more on such Immersions, see here)

The answers lie before our very noses if we so choose to see – the Logic of Life is here to help us shift into a new way of working, leading and operating.  Laura Storm and I explore this is in the book Regenerative Leadership, packed full of business examples, tools and techniques to help us become more life-affirming in business and beyond.   It really is the only viable way for us to evolve and breakthrough as leaders, while helping our organizations thrive and our people come alive amid increasing volatility.

Let’s invite a pause into our lives, a stepping back, so that we can gain perspective of what is unfolding, ahead of 2021 – which will be a pivotal year of breakdown-breakthrough.

In this supreme moment, we might wish to ensure we are not all-too-frantically shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic with the music of yesterday still reverberating in our ears, deafening our capacity to hear the future beckoning us forth.  For the future has already been shown to us, if we so choose to see with fresh eyes. It’s the Logic of Life, nothing more, nothing less. It’s all around us, and its deep within us. It’s in our hearts and minds, if only we’d dare to listen with clear ears, and see with fresh eyes.

The reality is, the human psyche is involved in a world of tensions. Our developmental learning happens in this world of tensions.   We might wish to seek ego-control of these tensions, by collapsing the tensions into right/wrong, black/white surety and certainty, yet this breeds one-sidedness through projection and polarisation. It creates separation and exclusion, the very logic which created our problems in the first place. 

If we seek to up-stretch beyond breakdown into breakthrough, then this struggle for evolution starts right here, right now, in our own hearts and minds, by seeking learning within the tensions not collapsing the tensions into surety yet one-sided imbalance and dis-harmony.

Holding the tension open allows evolution to unfold, for something new to emerge out of the tension.  This is the essence of the Logic of Life.

Collapsing the tension before it’s fully-pregnant, creates prematurity, half-cut learnings, and an undermining of life’s learning potential. The risk here is, we get stuck in breakdown, unable to reach beyond the tensions of the day, caught up in status quo thinking, not quite crossing the threshold, no quite entering the new dawn of deeper realisation.

Alchemising Tensions

Tensions of difference are an inherent part of this duality-of-experience we live within, here are some of these tensions we experience day in, day out:

Yang – Yin

Outer – Inner

Masculine – Feminine

Me – We

Reductive – Relational

Doing – Being

Responsive – Receptive

Light – Dark

Summer – Winter

Action – Reflection

Neither side of these tensions is more right or more preferable than the other, and each situation invites us to bring in more of one side than the other.  We can become conscious of the tensions and therefore notice when we may wish to bring in a bit more of the other side of the tension to ensure harmony, rather than one-sidedness. It’s an alchemic dance, a communion of opposing tensions. The dance of Life – where the space between the notes informs the music just as much as the notes themselves do. 

By example:  it’s become fashionable in some circles to talk about a shift from Me to We – and yet this need not be a swing from one-sidedness (‘me’ – individuality accentuating into individualism) to one-sideness (‘we’ – collectivity accentuating into collectivism).

We perhaps all in our hearts know (when we deeply ponder on things) that we need a mix of both the social/collective ability to live together in harmony, and the personal and entrepreneurial freedom of expression for our unique individuality to thrive.  It’s the diversity-and-inclusion, the diversity-and-unity, not one at the expense of the other.   

When we become too entrenched in one side being right and the other side being wrong, we undermine the richness that the tension affords us.   What lies before us now is so much more than old polarities like capitalism v socialism. For sure we can learn from our socio-economic experiments with capitalism and socialism, this can inform what lies beyond the tension.

A ‘middle way’ can emerge, where a healthy dose of individuality and collectivity work in tandem, in harmony.  Inevitably, it means a pendulum swinging or spiralling flowing from a bit more ‘we’ focus at times, and then a bit more ‘me’ focus other times – this is the nature of life.    No stasis, only the movement of non-equilibrium while questing for harmony.

As the founder of VISA, Dee Hock, notes:

‘When we behave as though the linear, mechanistic, separatist, cause-and-effect perspective is the only way to understand, we mentally disconnect from the beautiful, magnificent flow of life and retreat into ever smaller compartments of specialized denial.  We no longer affirm the mystery of endless connectivity and wholeness – awareness that we, the quark and the universe, are both one and many, both infinite and finite, both particulate and whole.  We begin to shrivel our life into the whining, puerile, pitiful little concepts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, ‘get’ and ‘keep’, ‘win’ and ‘lose’. Life is emptied of content. Self-interest and greed become worthy of emulation. Winning is all that matters. Wealth, fame, and power become deities to worship. It is a desperately sick society that does so; a society that turns its back on life and moves toward destruction and death. It is just such a society we are creating.

It is an equally sick society that denies separability, individuality, and difference. Such a society loses the creative force of conflict, the formative tension of opposing forces, the vitality of change, the creativity of difference, and the beauty of distinction. It sinks into uniformity, conformity, and indifference. It would be a great mistake to sink into such a grey miasma in an effort to correct present ills.’ – Dee Hock, Founder and former CEO of VISA

Life affords us rich tensions.  And the breakdown we are living through allows tensions to surface more readily, and in-so-doing we can rise to the challenge, and allow these tensions to reveal deeper wisdom that impels our evolution. Breakdown stimulates breakthrough.

The reality of today’s situation is – we have a major shift in worldview happening.  An old worldview dying and a new one being born.

The old worldview finds its roots in the scientific-worldview of Newtonian cause-and-effect, reductionism and linearity. This influenced the organisational-worldview of Taylorist organisation-as-machine and the socio-economics of Freidman’s short-term profit maximisation for some at the expense of the many.  It fuelled the pitiful trade-off mentality of ‘win’ and ‘lose’, ‘me’ versus ‘you’. When he was CEO of Unilever, this is what Paul Polman noted about such a mentality:

‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs, that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else. That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works and what business is for: Milton Friedman’s optimisation of short-term profits. We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’  – Paul Polman

The much admired award-winning former Chairman and CEO of Interface, Ray Anderson said, ‘We have been, and still are, in the grips of a flawed view of reality – a flawed paradigm, a flawed world view – and it pervades our culture putting us on biological collision course with collapse.’

The old worldview is a collective myth – a dream or vision that is no longer relevant. While great strides in material betterment have been achieved through the mechanistic separatist worldview, we now realise it has come at great expense – pollution and stress of our inner and outer worlds.  The dream becomes a nightmare, as the unconscious psyche cajoles us into a new dream.

This new dream is within us, its birthing through us. It’s a new way of living on this planet that aids evolution of life on Earth.

As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell knew:

‘One thing that comes out of myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come.  At the darkest moment comes the light.’

The darkest moment is upon us, and it invites us to hear the real message of transformation. The new myth, the new vision, that forms the basis for the new worldview breaking through, is the vision of allowing the individuality of each person’s own maturation to inform and contribute to the collective capacity of our human society to work in harmony with Nature.

 ‘The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not the people, but the planet, and everybody on it. And what it will have to deal with will be exactly what all myths have to deal with – the maturation of the individual, from dependency through adulthood, through maturity, and then to the exit; and then how to relate to this society and how to relate this society to the world of nature and the cosmos.’ – Joseph Campbell

As former CEO, Dee Hock knew – it is a desperately sick society that turns its back on life. And today’s society is that sick society, as it’s turned its back on nature, no longer able to sense into the Logic of Life.  Yet this sick society is breaking down and the new is breaking through.  Let’s be careful, to ensure the new society emerging does not lose the vibrancy of opposing forces, the creativity of difference, and the beauty of distinction.

The trials of life are what bring new possibilities. The field of what it means to be human is deepening, if we have the courage to hold the tensions rather than collapse them.

What helps us hold the tensions and see beyond them?

We have two tools to help us as we journey:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Systemic-awareness

Self-awareness is first-and-foremost about us getting to know ourselves, so that we can build our trust in life. As we become more conscious of our projections, insecurities and shadows, we enrich our engagement with life, and reach beyond yesterday’s bubble.

Thoughts, opinions, assumptions, and worries about what has been (the past) or what might be (the future) can stir up emotions inside us which trigger anxiety, stress, and distraction. Before we know it, this mental noise has created a version of life that is not reality – not what is happening right before us. If we were able to release ourselves from this mental chatter, we could experience life in a less distracted, more present, and more conscious way.

‘Above all, to thine own self be True’ – William Shakespeare

When we draw our awareness out of the reactive ego-mind and gain perspective on its ramblings, habits, annoyances and projections we become able to assess situations more calmly and wisely.  We sense tensions for what they are, learning platforms. Life becomes less about oppositional conflict and more about integration and reconciliation.

‘Authentic selfhood of the human being is neither created nor does it evolve in some Darwinian or quasi-Darwinian fashion, but it is alchemically integrated from the opposites of light and dark, good and evil, masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious. It is not by simple extension or a lineal path of growth, but by the oppositional conflict and eventual reconciliation of the oppositions that the fullness of being is restored within the individual soul…the growth of the soul has as its goal a state of integrated wholeness rather than a condition of moral perfection.’ Stephan Hoeller

The more we become aware of our mind-chatter, and the more we notice tensions within and all around us as crucibles for learning, the more we allow space for our true nature and inner vitality. We are then able to reach beyond separateness and sense interconnectedness. We can start to tune in to the Living Systems Field – what quantum scientists call the ‘quantum field’ which is all around and within us, all the time.

Just as the dawn breaks right after the darkest hour, so too does the dawn of our psychological inner-awakening occur after the darkness of tension reveals the light of illumination.

Hold the tension to allow illumination.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ – Carl Jung

As we learn to cultivate our self-awareness, our dominant mode of perception shifts from a largely left-brain hemispheric rational-analytic ego-awareness – that senses only separateness and linearity – into a more balanced left-right hemispheric rational-intuitive ego-soul awareness – that senses inter-relationality and systemic complexity. We become more authentic, more in touch with our inner nature, more in touch with the complexity of living systems all about us, and can sense our participation within life. This helps us attuned to Life.    It’s our birthright as human beings. It’s our natural capacity to sense harmony with life, as long as we help ourselves reach beyond the bubble of our outdated worldview.

As the author of Holism and Evolution, Jan Christiaan Smuts, insightfully notes in his ground-breaking and profoundly influential work, “the apparently individualist Mind is in reality deeply and vitally influenced by the universal Mind.” And as another influential explorer Gregory Bateson knew, it is through attuning our mind with the Mind of Nature (aka, the Logic of Life) that we learn to live in harmony with Life.  Bateson posits that the most important task today is to learn to think in this way of nature, to learn to be attuned with nature’s wisdom. Hence, the power of leadership immersions in nature, as they allow this inner coherence of ego-soul awareness.

‘True wisdom consists in not departing from nature, but in molding our conduct in accordance with Her laws and model.’ – Seneca

Alongside self-awareness, is systemic awareness, our 2nd tool to help us navigate breakdown into breakthrough.

Systemic awareness is a natural capacity we all have as human beings. Systems nested within systems are the very stuff of life. Systemic awareness is our ability to sense into the networks of systems within the living organization and throughout the wider stakeholder ecosystem, including our family and friends, local community and wider ecology of life. 

“Learn how to see. Realize everything connects with everything else” Leonardo Da Vinci

It is through this deeply felt sense of life’s complex inter-relating system dynamics, that we attune ourselves with a new way of seeing the world.  It helps us shift our perception from viewing the organization-as-machine to realizing the organization-as-living-system. 

In Complexity Theory, there is the notion of strange attractors. A system can reach a threshold, a limit to its capacity, after which it bursts and transforms into its next-stage of evolution. The field shifts, and the system starts to behave in a different way, influencing different parameters across the organization.  When it comes to human behavior, this calls for a need to unlearn what we had been learning about the organization’s behaviors and observe its new behaviors as the organizational field shifts.   

Systemic awareness goes hand-in-hand with enhanced self-awareness, coupled with what we call in the book Regenerative Leadership  Activating our Super-Nature, where we allow an integration of different intelligences within us to open ourselves into a systemic way of attending, where we can more subtly sense life beyond separateness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness: The Alchemy of Self-and-Systemic Awareness

When we alchemize the dynamics of self and systemic awareness we step in to Regenerative Leadership Consciousness.

Regenerative Leadership Consciousness invites in a calm inner grounded-ness and awareness of one’s own triggers, habits and shadows combined with an intuitive sense of the inter-relationality of living systems. This consciousness seeks authenticity, thinks systemically, designs for complexity, works with tensions, spawns life-affirming futures, and understands the Logic of Life.

The alchemy of self and systemic awareness creates the Regenerative Leadership abilities to:

  • tame and train the ego;
  • gain perspective on shadow-aspects, triggers and habitual behaviors;
  • sense our inner knowing;
  • embrace life as a learning journey;
  • deal gracefully with adversity; 
  • seek wisdom beyond rationality – embracing the intuitive, complex, ambiguous, non-linear nature of reality;
  • become comfortable with the uncomfortable;
  • not simply ask a question and seek a solution but live a question and sense the synchronicities that respond to this lived question;
  • strive for wholeness by cultivating the masculine and feminine aspects within us;
  • deepen our relationship with life/nature, tap into the Living Systems Field, and apply living-systems insights.     

(Source: Regenerative Leadership, Hutchins & Storm)

Education-based methods today are largely orientated and shaped by the old worldview of separation, control and materialism. Today, what is urgently needed, are education-based methods that inspire rather than suppress our attunement of self-awareness and systemic-awareness, and that enrich our self-other-Nature integration. It’s why I focus much of my work on leadership immersions in nature (see Leadership Immersions).

The Latin root for the word ‘education’ is educere meaning to ‘bring out’ or ‘lead forth’. The pioneering British economist E.F. Schumacher recognised that humankind’s greatest resource is education and the West’s state of crisis may in part have to do with its wrong approach to education. For Schumacher, it is the wisdom that education produces which is paramount; a wisdom which allows each of us to be true to our authentic nature while enhancing the quality of our interrelations, or as Schumacher put it, becoming truly in touch with our centres, where our daily conduct shows a sureness which stems from this inner clarity.

To summarise:

We are currently facing a whole array of wicked systemic challenges, ranging from climate emergency to mass biodiversity loss, from COVID to widespread mental illness, mushrooming sovereign and personal debt mountains to economic models that debase and corrupt the social and ecological fabric we all depend on. The current system is at breaking point; continuing down the status-quo road brings the inevitable car-crash. We won’t navigate our way out of this status-quo road without changing the logic and worldview by which we operate. Today’s dominant leadership logic and rationalistic-reductive worldview is rooted in a mechanistic mind-set that spawns from a worldview of separation, domination and hyper-competition.

We need to call upon a different logic – a different quality of consciousness – than that which created our current problems in the first place.  We need to look beyond status-quo thinking and invite in something deeper, something all-together more human and more natural.   Today, there are signs of such an awakening; cracks of light emerging that reveal a new way of attending to life beyond separateness and mechanistic-thinking.  The Logic of Life – the way nature has been working for billions of years – enables us to reach beyond mechanistic thinking. This living systems logic draws from a worldview of relationality – aka ‘inter-being’ – recognising that we are all participating as inter-relational living beings within the interconnected super-organism of Gaia, our home – nothing is entirely divorced from anything else. From quantum entanglement to ecosystem relationality, everything participates.

We are but weaves within this interwoven tapestry of life, and by becoming conscious of the depth and breadth of this tapestry, we learn to live in right-relation with life and its inevitable tensions. This brings us vibrancy, vitality, growth and meaning in our lives – sources of real and lasting happiness. The worldview of participation, and its Logic of Life, can be applied to how we lead and operate in business and beyond.   It’s what we call the Regenerative Leadership DNA Model in our book.

“The world is changing fast and organizations are not keeping up with the pace of transformation.  This book – Regenerative Leadership – invites leaders to catalyze the necessary regeneration to not just catch up, but to lead the world into the 21st century.”  – The former Executive of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres

Regenerative Leadership is a quality of leading and living that draws upon the Logic of Life, and enables our organisations to come alive and our people to thrive amid these times of increasing volatility and turbulence.

The alchemy of self-awareness and systemic-awareness enables us to cross the threshold in leadership consciousness from mechanistic to living-systems and shift our worldview from one of separateness to one of interconnectedness.  

When we are tapping into Regenerative Leadership Consciousness we allow tensions to reveal deeper insights. The dualities of life – like yin/yang, masculine/feminine, me/we – do not get polarised into dualisms, instead they are alchemised to allow the creative unfolding of life’s potential. The crucibles of tensions reveal insight and illumination.  It’s time to reach beyond the tensions of left versus right in politics or individual versus collective in society or competition versus collaboration in business.  It’s time to open up to the insights that the dualities of life afford us, as we expand our human-awareness, and become more human, more alive, more consciousness. This is what our future beckons forth in us, if we so dare to cross the threshold into a new story and a new logic.

‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil itself but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.’ – Peter Drucker

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Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner, coach, keynote speaker and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK where he holds-space for clients to create life-affirming futures for themselves and their organisations.