Skip to content

Leadership of The Future starts with silence

May 28, 2013

“At times of great winds, some build bunkers, while others build windmills” goes the ancient Chinese proverb.

We are in the midst of the “great winds” of economic instability, social upheaval and environmental un-sustainability. Will it be bunkers or windmills that we build?

Transformational times of destruction and re-construction inevitably invoke fear. It takes great courage to break rank from business as usual. The challenge with any paradigm shift is that it requires us to both let go of the old, tried-and-tested ways that are ingrained in our collective psyche and embrace novel, as yet unproven ways of being. There is a threshold across which individuals, organizations and communities need to cross. It takes real leadership to transform a business in such volatile times. Incidentally, the root of the word leadership is “leith” which means to go forth and cross the threshold, to die and be reborn.


The ‘new norm’ of dynamic non-equilibrium in business requires a shift in conventional management and leadership styles from over-reliance on top-down, hierarchical, risk-based approaches to managing within complexity. This new style of management juggles and combines varying styles and techniques. It encourages bottom-up ideas and thinking to flourish; establishing an all-pervasive values-led work ethic whilst guiding and coaching.

Complex, adaptive, resilient businesses of the future recognize that change emerges unpredictably, and that over-arching bureaucratic mechanisms no longer assist emergent organizational evolution. The role of leadership is to actively participate in enabling and facilitating local change, by encouraging effective communications with clarity of understanding of how to act and interact. Each and every one of us plays our part in leadership of the future by helping others to co-create towards positive outcomes.


Leaders of the future unleash human potential by instilling trust through authenticity, clarity of purpose and openness to continual learning. Leaders are the learners, the ones who seek ‘personal mastery’ (as Peter Senge puts it) whilst remaining interconnected to the collective whole. Leaders are people who understand who they really are, aspire towards greatness and inspire greatness in others (not egoic greatness but soulful greatness). Leaders become teachers, taking time to assist and empower others to lead themselves. The quest for optimal leadership is about encouraging a creative tension — balancing personal mastery with openness and a deep sense of belonging amongst a diverse community of stakeholders.


Leaders first transform themselves and then guide and coach others, creating a safe passage for the followers to cross the threshold. Here are some tips for leading in transformational times which can be applied by each of us today at no financial cost, but with much benefit:

Tips for Transformation: The Seven S’s

Silence – A quiet mind helps ensure a successful outcome. Be still and allow the mind to quieten as often as possible throughout the day. From silence the mind is more able to identify the right choices for the road ahead. As is profoundly said, ‘the success of the intervention depends upon the state of the intervener’.

Sense – Be in the moment. Learn to really ‘listen’ to yourself and others. The local environment provides vital feedback, ‘feel’ this feedback, tune-in and act/adapt accordingly.

Strategy – Ensure clarity of direction for the meandering path ahead. What are your instincts saying? What really turns you on? What makes your heart sing? Why are you doing what you are doing? Follow your heart with a clear mind. Allow it to navigate your transformation with passion and conviction; this way successful change is made.

Small steps – Each step provides chances to make positive change happen. We need to endeavour to take each step, each interaction and intervention with authentic¬ity.

Stakeholders – Recognise, engage and empower the interested parties. Ten¬sions may be uncomfortable and energy/time-consuming, yet they are inevita¬ble and can help hone right navigation for the path ahead. Through stakeholder engagement, tension can become a constructive force stimulating learning and development.

Systems – Transcend perceived boundaries to see the ‘inbetweenness’; the intercon¬nected systems of relationships and resources within and across our business ecosystems.

Solutions – Problems and challenges abound and the glass can often seem half-empty in challenging times. Explore solutions, the art of the possible; what can be done (rather than what cannot) through solution-creating, collaborating, prototyping and experimenting. Channel energy from fear and worry to the exploration of solutions. This requires courage.

Giles Hutchins is co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and author of The Nature of Business. In The Nature of Business, Giles Hutchins makes a compelling case for applying the same principles of biomimicry to the development of a new business paradigm. He demonstrates clearly how behaviours and organizations found in nature can be applied to help our organizations flourish in chaotic and uncertain times. Watch this short video for more information.


One Comment leave one →
  1. June 27, 2013 9:29 pm

    I like that you begin with silence and sense. Every living thing has an innate feel for what is wholesome and good for it, and what is potentially harmful. Living things instinctively gravitate towards the former (warmth, nutrition, light, etc.) and away from the latter (pain, toxins and the like).

    Unfortunately, most of us humans have a warped sense of what is good for us. I don’t think we are innately misguided. I think that we are both subtly and blatantly encouraged to go against our natural instincts from the day we are born (most of us in the hospital where we are hooked to monitors and fed from bottles on schedule instead of being allowed to bond naturally with our mothers.) We are continually bombarded with loud sounds (TV, traffic) and taught that the joy we feel when we play, create, or simply “exist” in nature is nice, but less important than learning to crunch numbers and acquire material goods. Even literacy itself, the hallmark of a “civilized” society (and admittedly an indispensable and often enjoyable tool), prompts one to spend more time in one’s head and less time being aware of one’s self in relation to the environment around us.

    Silence and sense, while simple, are fundamental. Any strategies, systems or solutions arrived at without having allowed ourselves the time and space to tune in to both our unique mental, physical, and spiritual needs, and to our relationship to our surroundings, are unlikely bring about positive or wholesome results.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: