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Future Fit leadership: Sensing into our Emerging Future Today – Synchronicity and Beyond

May 12, 2017

Today’s leaders and leadership teams are facing an unprecedented level and pace of change, with many of the business challenges we face being quite different in their systemic nature from those before.

There is now a dawning realisation amongst forward-thinking leaders, organisational specialists and leadership experts that our traditional methods and modes of organisational learning and leadership development are inadequate for the business environment we now face.

A new way of learning, adapting and evolving as leaders and organisations is now demanded by our business context.

‘In order to do well in the emerging new business environments, organisations and their leaders have to develop a new cognitive capability, a new learning capacity for sensing, embodying and enacting emerging futures: ‘presencing’. Presencing means to use your ‘higher Self’ as a vehicle for sensing, embodying and enacting the future as it emerges.’ – Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, et al, leadership specialists at MIT and the Society for Organisational Learning

Leaders able to master this new cognitive ability are the leaders that will be fit for the emerging future. Leaders also need to host learning spaces for others within their organisations to master this new learning capability. It is these leaders and organisations that will be the ones that not just survive but thrive in the increasingly challenging times ahead.


What does this mean in practice?

To cultivate this new cognitive ability in the midst of today’s challenging business environment, requires first-and-foremost a transformation in ourselves, and then within the relational systems we influence.

It requires us to open up spaces within our mental maps and habitual cognition to allow a deeper knowing – a more intuitive and soulful knowing – to be cultivated within us.


Deepening our Knowing

Pioneering researchers and leadership specialists at the vanguard of future business are exploring the need for an ‘extended epistemology’ to be brought into our leadership development and organisational learning approaches.  ‘Epistemology’ means our way of knowing.  ‘Extended epistemology’ means widening and deepening our natural ways of knowing beyond the habitual modes our business conventions are steeped in.

The ground-breaking psychologist and therapist Carl Jung identified our four natural ways of knowing as: rational, intuitive, emotional, somatic (body sensations e.g. gut).

Today our business climes overly priorities our rational mind to such an extent that it crowds out our other natural ways of knowing. Traditional approaches to business management focus primarily on the rational and analytical (e.g. Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory) and yet we know from the autobiographies of successful leaders that we would do well to draw on much more than the rational mind, especially in times of fast-paced change and volatility.

‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’  Albert Einstein, genius

Sometimes we need a genius to point out what’s before our very eyes. Today, we honour the rational mind to such an extent that we insufficiently draw upon our sacred gift. As a result, we leave much of our natural humanity at the door when coming to work, while contributing to soul-less meeting protocols and decision-making approaches that undermine the very vitality and aliveness our organisational cultures are crying out for in these turbulent times.

How do we transform ourselves and our systems?

The Self and the System

It is this sacred gift (this ‘higher Self’ as Senge and Scharmer call it, or ‘soul’ as Richard Barrett and others call it) that needs to be brought back into our leadership development and learning capacities.

In short, we need do nothing more nor nothing less than invite in and cultivate more of our natural humanity.

Simple! But not necessarily easy; especially when we have become inured in tried-and-tested modes and methods that actually starve our soul.

Pioneering research garnered from case studies and interviews, explores two dimensions to this leadership transformation: Self & System

The ‘self’ aspect is what is sometimes referred to as ‘vertical’ development (i.e. not technical competency and skills development but personal, emotional and spiritual development enabling us to deal with fast-moving complexity, while creating the conditions for teams/organisations to flourish).

The ‘systemic’ aspect is what is sometimes referred to as ‘eco-system’ or ‘ecological’ as it is the development of ‘eco-system relationality’ for the leader, the organisation and the organisation’s stakeholder ecosystem (including society and the environment).

And the really good news is, as we work on the Self aspect, this naturally helps enhance our systemic aspect. The deeper we sense into our selves and draw upon a more balanced rational, intuitive, emotional and somatic knowingness, the more attuned we become to the system relationalities, inter-connections and synchronicities all about us.

This is backed-up by neurological research showing that as we open up and ‘presence’, we allow our left and right brain hemispheres to cohere, and our sense of self and our sense of the inter-relationality of our environment deepens. With it, we cultivate intuitive wisdom – we activate our sacred gift – and our ability to make insightful choices and follow subtly lit synchronistic pathways is greatly enhanced. As we open up to the higher Self, we start to sense into the synchronicity, the  effortless flow-of-life and intuited rightness that many of us have experienced when fully presencing what is unfolding before us, freed from habituations, fully open to the moment in our midst.

So, how do we open up to our higher Self and allow ourselves to presence amid the cacophony of the everyday?

Timeless Wisdom for Today

Opening up to our deeper or higher Self (or what Buddhists refer to as our ‘true nature’) is what all the great wisdom traditions the world over have explored for millennia.

What we see emerging at the vanguard of 21st Century leadership development are tools and techniques that draw on this timeless wisdom and apply it for today’s business context.

Otto Sharmer’s Theory U, Frederic Laloux’s Teal, Peter Senge’s Presencing, Richard Barrett’s Seven Stages Model and Bill Torbert’s Action Logics are just some examples of approaches that draw on this timeless wisdom of ‘Know Thy Self’.

Essentially, this is about cultivating self-awareness through self-inquiry; deepening the coherence and connectedness within ourselves so that our natural ways of knowing within us can be drawn upon during fast-paced change.

This is about creating openings amid our daily lives so that we are able to connect more deeply with our selves. It’s about learning to listen to the inner-self, to cultivate the inner-senses of the soul, to notice our ego-habituations and constrictions that cloud this inner-sense, and then learn to see beyond these ego-machinations.

This embracement of soulfulness within ourselves as leaders is the first vital step towards cultivating soulful organisations. As the leadership specialist Parker J Palmer notes, the soul is like a wild creature in the woods. So often we go crashing into the woods with spot-lights strapped to our fore-heads searching for this wild creature which just flees.  What we ought be doing is creating spacious moments, liberating structures and social environments that nurture this wild creature so that it feels safe to come out and contribute effectively amid the day-to-day.


‘The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ John Naisbitt, futurist


In learning to create openings amid the busyness of the day, whether it be by actively listening to the other, or consciously conversing in a small group, or cultivating an attitude of gratitude while thoughtfully writing emails on our laptop, and sensing into what feels authentic to us and what does not as we communicate, we begin to allow more space for intuitive insights to come through us. We can learn to sense the flow, to sense when we are being coherent in our ways of knowing, and sense when we are becoming overly lop-sided (perhaps too narrowly focused and analytical, or too relational and contextual, perhaps too emotionally involved or too detached). This self-awareness and self-inquiry is the rich soil from which a more soulful culture grows, and as leaders we can take humble steps to facilitate simple liberating structures within our team dynamics and meeting protocols that make it a reality within the everyday busyness of it all.

‘We cannot do great things; only small things with great love.’ Mother Teresa

A great moto for future-fit leadership is, ‘small steps with great love’. As Morpheus from the film The Matrix notes, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.  While self-awareness and self-inquiry provide the insight, the ‘way’ we walk the path is through small steps taken with attentiveness and soulfulness. It is this that allows us to open up to our emerging future and make wise decisions amid the cacophony of the everyday.


Liberating Structures, Tools and Techniques for Self & System Attunement

Mindfulness – there are simple steps we can take to help us be mindful: noticing our breath, noticing how we are breathing in our body, noticing our bodily sensations, noticing our posture at any given moment, noticing when we are being triggered by something either positively or negatively.  Through practice, we can sense how mindful we are being while working alone, walking along the corridor, or conversing with others.

Deep Listening – we can easily practice active or deep listening through simple practices. Once these practices are undertaken a few times, a deeper way of listening becomes ingrained in us, so that we become more aware of the quality of our listening.  The quality of our listening greatly affects the quality of the relational sharing, allowing for a more soulful culture to spawn through each social interaction.


Way of Council – an ancient indigenous practice that has been used for millennia to help people converse soulfully in groups while discussing emotive subjects. People sit in a circle and share open-heartedly in a non-judgemental way while applying non-violent communication methods.

Generative Dialogue – a way of sharing with others that brings in an ‘appreciative inquiry’ approach, where everything is seen as a learning and where we focus on where the energy is flowing while seeking to move beyond tensions rather that getting hung-up on the differences, and sensing into our authentic voice (our soulful sense) of what is seeking to emerge out of the dialogue. In this way, the generative dialogue calls forth the emerging future and allows a deepening of authentic relationships beyond us-versus-them or right-versus-wrong thinking.

Synchronicity – leadership specialist Joseph Jaworski refers to synchronicity as a powerful inner path of leadership. It is the experience of the generative order of life operating through us. This sense of ‘flow’ and knowingness comes when we allow our different ways of knowing to cohere within us while opening up to our emerging future, by ‘letting go’ of our mental judgements, and opening up to what is in the moment. This synchronicity or ‘emergent flow’ can be felt within social groups and team dynamics when the right soulful space is created for people to feel safe enough to open up to more of their ‘true nature’. This synchronicity is also heightened when our personal purpose finds resonance with the organisational purpose. A powerful field of shared intentionality along with heightened quality of attention allows synchronicity to flow. It is here that we may begin to sense what the ancient wisdom traditions seek to convey – that all of life is innately interconnected and we participate in this living field of emergence through the quality of our intention and attention.

Living Systems Being – ‘Systems Thinking’ is being increasingly recognised as important for our leaders today. Systems Thinking is about learning to see the interconnections in our business and social environments, and apply this holistic interconnected perspective while making decisions. What is emerging at the vanguard of future business is ‘living systems being’ which takes systems thinking one step further, by recognising that all our relations, team dynamics and organisations are living systems that are immersed within the living systems of society and our more-than-human world. And that through the quality of our soulful ‘being-in-the-world’ we can better sense into these living systems and allow the emerging future to flow in ways that tend towards harmony with life.

Nature Immersions – there is increasing scientific evidence these days about the positive effect being in nature has on our psychology and physiology. For instance, being in nature for extending periods improves our immune system, our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, our concentration, memory and quality of awareness, and also has specific health outcomes such as helping with cancer, migraines, anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. Deep nature immersions, that include solo-time, as well as contemplative exercises and somatic bodywork, are increasingly being viewed as an important part of advanced leadership programmes and executive development. Facilitated time in nature can provide a special space for leaders to dig deep into their personal purpose, their approach to leadership, their future career path, and the organisational cultural, strategic and operational challenges facing them.  In this way, nature immersions provide deep space for soulful rejuvenation, renewal and visioning for leaders to sense into the emerging future in ways that traditional leadership development cannot.


Giles Hutchins is author of Future Fit and Chairman of the Future Fit Leadership Academy.  See a three minute video about Future Fit Leadership here

To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here and for more on the Future Fit Leadership Academy visit and for Giles Hutchins’ personal website

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