Can leadership be inspired by nature?
Shouldn’t it be natural to share the burden of leading a business? While watching geese drafting in V formation, we will observe the flock rotate leaders. Like drafting geese, businesses which rotate leaders will create less resistance for the team. Semco, a multi-billion dollar Brazilian company with over 3000 employees practices leadership rotation flawlessly. They do not have a CEO, rather a group of executives who assume leadership for six months at a time. Semco’s evangelist visionary, Ricardo Semler “believes that by letting go of control, people learn to control themselves and work in a more creative and productive manner” (Zakomurnaya, 2013). Like drafting geese, biomimetic organizations will see leadership as a team responsibility because doing so creates room for reflection, quality control and rejuvenation.
Rotating leaders fosters authentic teamwork by incentivizing us to adopt a participatory and empathic leadership style. In turn, participation and empathy foster cohesive, trustworthy teams which create resourceful and original work. When there is no permanent leader, individuals are more likely to prioritize the team’s well-being over their own. The golden rule phenomenon creates room for reflection and objectivity with regards to decision making and relationship building. Like a regenerating forest, communicating and sharing resources is a hallmark of effective leadership. Because every team member is a small part of the whole, everyone’s opinion and mental state determines the collective energy of the team. Leaders must go out of their way to get to know team members on a personal and professional level. Relationship building and catalyzing objective thought amongst the team depends on the leader’s commitment to personal reflection.
Business leadership inspired by nature begins with knowledge of self. Henry David Thoreau insightfully said “if a plant does not live according to its nature, it dies. And so a man…” Put in a business leadership context this means that unless the leader accepts his own problems and cherishes his own path, he cannot begin to address business challenges and effectively guide his team. The leader’s ability to find balance in his life will determine how even-keeled his team is. Balance fosters an open-minded environment where team members are energized and excited to participate.
Leadership inspired by nature emphasizes perception and cooperation. “Great teamwork happens when individuals strive to be the best person for the team, rather than the best person on the team” (Bo Hanson). Making a conscious effort to pay attention to team dynamics and the morale of the team encourages synergistic behavior. In order to understand team dynamics we must create space for cooperation. For inspiration, let us look to the way soil forms small clumps; it does so to aerate itself and spread nutrients and water deep into the ground. Business teams must also create channels for innovation to permeate. Perhaps employing an anonymous feedback system will encourage your team to enrich the project or improve processes in general.
Lastly leaders can utilize cycles in nature to maximize creativity and productivity in the workplace. It is easy to observe the ill-effects of living opposed to nature. Think of how uncomfortable it is to go a night without sleep or to only eat frozen processed foods for a week. Conversely ‘syncing’ our bodily cycles with the cycles in nature will help us feel energetic and content. This goes beyond getting a good night’s sleep and eating whole, natural foods. Living in accordance with our suprachiasmatic nucleus, commonly referred to as our body clock is a major catalyst for positivity. Let’s look to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), rooted in 4000 years of observing how the human body fits into the natural world. TCM shows us that between 7-9am our stomach is most active. Leaders might establish team breakfasts during this time of day to set the tone for a cohesive and lively day ahead. Our kidneys, responsible for maintaining our energy are most active from 5-7pm, so this is a great time to exercise. Biomimetic leadership not only creates harmonized teams it creates harmonized individuals.
In the wise and timeless words of Confucius:
He who is in harmony with nature, hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking
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This is a guest blog written by Daniel Katz of Hult Business School.