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Leading Across The Threshold of a New Paradigm

April 25, 2014

It is now clear that sustainable business requires a new mind-set which transcends yesterday’s logic. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, is one of many business leaders now pointing to the need for a new way of thinking. The logic we now need for the plethora of challenges facing us is found nowhere else than within our own hearts. It is in leading from the heart that we pave the way for a truly sustainable future in business and beyond.

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The root word of ‘leadership’ is ‘leith’ which means to cross the threshold, to let go of the old in order to embrace the new – so fundamental for any transformation. The art of courageous leadership rooted in the heart has been applied to organisational transformation and business leadership through the great work of Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Parker J Palmer, Tim Macartney and many others. It is less about the theory of an idealised leadership model and more about the practical ability to navigate a journey of inspiration and authenticity; energising and equipping oneself and others to make the right choices for the situation at hand.  As leaders we serve as midwives to a birth of a new way of attending – a new consciousness; the fresh yet ancient and ever-present logic of the heart. Our collective and individual shift in consciousness requires space, time and courage, through our trust in others to find their authentic voice in allowing their own logic of the heart to sing.  In this way, leading can be seen not as orchestrating or conducting but rather as facilitating the ability of others to attune themselves.  The result is more effective teams who are able to face increasing uncertainty with renewed inspiration, sharing, creativity, and above all, love.

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Sadly, love is not a word we hear much of in business circles these days. It has become a much misunderstood and misappropriated word in our commoditising consumerist culture. Love is what enables us to give to ourselves and others. To fully open up, tune-in and listen to each other is to allow the currents of love to flow within us. It is what nourishes our ways of attending to ourselves and each other, breeding positive virtuous cycles in all we do – this is the wisdom of leading from the heart.  As Tim ‘Mac’ Macartney, Founder of Embercombe notes: ‘Love inspires leadership…It is the finding of love that will bring forth the leaders we need.  It is with each one of us and we only need to let go of our fear and she will be known to us.’ Embercombe’s Heart of Leadership programme pioneers this leading with love in order to make it a reality in our organisation, in-so-doing unleashing immense benefits for one and all. It includes the ancient indigenous wisdom of the way of Council which creates sacred co-creative space for groups of people to open up to the wisdom of the heart within a communal atmosphere of empathic sharing, non-judgement and acceptance. In Council, people sit in a circle and commit to being fully present by really listening to each other from the heart, free from distractions, judgements, opinion forming or preparation of a response. Pippa Bond, a well-respected Council facilitator, notes that, ‘Council invites empathy, stillness and honesty’ vital ingredients for a successful culture of transformation. This powerful practice is applicable to all human interrelations whether it is a board meeting, a team discussion or diverse stakeholder dialogue. Applying the practice of Council in our work as leaders crossing the threshold encourages authentic environments of listening and speaking from the heart to occur.

kali 7The more we create such environments the more people embrace the way of the heart in their relations whether engaging with difficult clients or tackling the strategic challenges of shifting to a business model that goes one step beyond doing ‘less bad’. It is from within that we find the power to transform. As the playwright, prisoner and former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel noted, ‘the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart.’

Just as it seems inconceivable for the leaf-chomping caterpillar to contemplate dancing with the wind while cross-pollinating sun-drenched flowers, so it seems inconceivable in today’s short-termist, quantity-obsessed, fear-driven organisations to lead from the heart. The metamorphosis to a new paradigm first-and-foremost asks us to let go of our pre-conceived notions, our cultural conditions, our rigid mental maps and tidy definitions in order to cross the threshold, to see reality as it truly is from within our hearts. This can be immensely uncomfortable as it requests we breakdown our current ways of attending in order to breakthrough into new ways beyond our self-defending egos. Nothing less is called for in these epochal months ahead. In our hour of reckoning, are you up for courageously leading from the heart?

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