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Making Music in Our Organisations through Regenerative Leadership

April 22, 2018

Creating and holding space is vital for today’s leadership and organisational development.

All-too-often holding space is overlooked in today’s busyness. Stillness and space are seen as either a luxury or something to be filled-in as we get swept along with our hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it culture.  This encourages the superficial and undermines the deep.

This trilemma of social, economic and environmental crises now upon us demands the deep. The challenges our leaders face in transforming their organisations while keeping the wheels on the road amid unceasing change demands the deep.

Our leadership ability to adequately hold space is what allows for creative tensions to be worked through, to be fully sung if you like, rather than force-fitted into hurried solutions while frustration remains.  It is space that allows for the depth within ourselves to be more readily seen from the surface.

When we reduce down our spaces, we cut ourselves off from the very well-spring we so urgently need to be tapping into amid these tumultuous times.

Holding space enables a deeper, wiser consciousness to shine through from the depths within us, within our teams, within Nature all-about-us; it enhances, enriches and rejuvenates the quality of our ‘being’, this then percolates into our ‘doing’, through our relations, team dynamics, meeting conventions and decision-making protocols.

Opening up these spaces allows the chi, prana, life-force, sacred-breath or ‘elan vital’ to flow more readily through our flourishing future-fit organisations.  Without the spaces, the music of regenerative business loses its rhythm and flow.

Shift in Consciousness

‘Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness the catastrophe toward which the world is headed will be unavoidable.’ Vaclav Havel, Prime Minister, addressing US Congress

What is now clear to those of us at the leading-edge of leadership and organisational development is that a shift in consciousness in terms of how we lead, organise and operate is a must if we are to enable our organisations to flourish amid increasing complexity, shifting stakeholder demands and wicked systemic challenges.

This consciousness shift is not just a shift in perspective from seeing the organisation-as-a-machine (locked-up in separateness, control and linearity) to seeing the organisation-as-a-living-system (flourishing through the living-systems dynamics of emergence, interconnectedness and synchronicity).   It is also a shift in how we attend to life; a shift in our own inner-outer dynamic within ourselves and within our relations and wider social systems.

This is a change in the ‘centre-of-gravity’ within ourselves and in our relations with others; a readjustment of our ego-soul dynamic – finding our true nature by tuning-in and letting it flow.

It’s a shift from a prevalent focus on the outer, on the doing, on the presentation ‘out there’, and the goal orientated achievement to grasp at something out there driven by a mechanistic, linear cause-and-effect perspective.

Polished brands, quarterly numbers, cascaded KPIs, data upon data upon data, goal-orientated agenda-driven meeting protocols, explicit measurable learning objectives, performance-driven metrics, are all part-and-parcel of this mind-set.  And there is nothing wrong with it per se.  It has its useful place, and serves a purpose.  The problem comes when this mechanistic mind-set dominates our modus operandi; then we wind up overly emphasising the ‘outer’ at the expense of the ‘inner’, the implicit, the unconscious, the liminal and intangible thresholds beyond the known; then our systems of learning and development prioritise the very logic that created our problems in the first place.  Trying to fix our sea of challenges with the same consciousness that created our problems is not what future-fit regenerative leadership is about. In fact, regenerative leadership is a radical departure from this, and it’s not for the faint-hearted who would rather the security and superficiality of the status quo any day.

As leaders we face the dual challenge of:

  • A prevalent mechanistic mind-set in business and beyond,
  • A system-field of increasing volatility and wicked inter-related problems

Hence, we need to shift this inner-outer dynamic first within ourselves and then through our relationships, conversations, meeting conventions and such like, and also beyond our organisations into the interconnected eco-systems, so that ‘space’ is brought in and not left out, so that we bring in a more balanced, more holistic, more human attentiveness.  This is the intention and attention now called for.

It requires courage to depart from the prevalent thinking of the day and the restless pressure for the concrete cause-and-effect, neatly definable, packaged up metrics, models and methods.

It is through ‘space’ that we may allow for an embodied shift in consciousness to occur if only for brief moments to begin with.  It is through space that we open up to deeper ways of being-and-doing.

 ‘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

The simplicity of the complexity is this: if we are to thrive as regenerative leaders and organisations we need our inner intuitive awareness – our ‘sacred gift’ – to inform our outer doing.  As then our outer doing is in service of this deeper wisdom.

It is by creating empty spaces in our day-to-day that we allow ourselves to connect deeper within, and realign our inner-outer dynamic amid the busyness of our business.

‘He who is harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.’ Confucius, Chinese sage

These spaces help us cultivate our self-awareness while also allowing natural creativity, discernment and authenticity to emanate from deep within us into our thoughts, words and deeds.

The art of regenerative leading is in learning to allow our daily ego-consciousness to permeate more readily with our sub-conscious and super-conscious minds, and with the Mind of Nature.

‘Artistic skill is the combining of many levels of mind – unconscious, conscious, and external – to make a statement of their combination.’  Gregory Bateson, systems theorist and anthropologist

We allow the formlessness within the Mind of Nature to inform our form.  We allow the ‘pattern that connects’ (to use Gregory Bateson’s term) to open our perceptual horizon into the interconnectedness of our own humanity and deeper more-than-human world we are always immersed within.

‘Learn how to see and realise everything connects with everything else.’ Leonardo Da Vinci, genius

The trick here is to begin to realise that mind and matter are not separate.  The separation of mind and matter is the root-flaw at the heart of our corrupting and carcinogenic worldview that creates plastic islands in our oceans, fear-filled newspapers, stress-creating workplaces and run-away climate change.

 ‘The true ground of all being is the infinite, intangible, spirit that infuses all living beings’  David Bohm, physicist

‘This Mind is the matrix of all matter’  Max Planck, Nobel Laureate physicist

As leaders, we have to create space for ourselves to tune-in, AND also hold space for our teams within our organisations and wider inter-related network of stakeholders.

Then we allow our organisational living system to sense-and-respond more effectively in times of unceasing transformation – it’s simply good business sense. And yet its more than that, a lot more than that, it’s about helping us wake up to who we truly are as wise beings in a deeply wise world – to rekindle our true humanity.

It is this creating and holding space that provides the nutritious soil from which our flourishing future-fit organisations are rooted.  Without this vital spaciousness, a shift in consciousness remains elusive, and we miss out on the music of what could have been.

‘It’s not intellect that makes a great leader – although it helps. Rather it’s the quality of their consciousness – their personal and systemic awareness… This level of self-awareness, or presence, refers to an ability to be still… What is needed now is for us to develop social and organisational containers that are robust enough to hold us through periods of creative tension, as opposed to reacting to every presenting issue, and collapsing tension at every turn,’ Dr Nick Udall, Chair of World Economic Forum Council on New Models of Leadership

Nick Udall makes an important point here in that there is a third step required: after the first step of self-emptying or presencing, and the second step of holding space for others to tap into a deeper way of being-and-doing, the third step is to provide the right environment for creative tensions to turn into music, to reveal deeper insights, rather than being closed down with quick knee-jerk solutions that fill the uncomfortable gap of not-knowing.   This going into the not-knowing while tension-is-in-the-air requires vulnerability, humility and courage.

We are all co-creative musicians participating in this inter-relational Dance of Life.  We may learn to tune-in to this deeper music within and all around us, if we so choose to hear/see/sense deeply enough.

The space between the notes is what gives the music its rhythm and depth.

Today, we need leaders who can open up these tensions so that deeper emergence, deeper learning, deeper insight can spawn.  Holding space during these tensions allows a deeper rhythm and wiser music to emerge through the space between the notes.

In a world full of noisy notes it requires courage to hold this kind of gentle yet provocative space.

It requires vulnerability to look beyond tried-and-tested neatly packaged tools into a wilder wisdom born from within.

It requires humility to move away from hubris and ego-knowing into not-knowing, into surrendering, into crucifixion, so that our personal will can become subservient to a deeper wiser will of Nature within ourselves, within our teams, within our business ecosystems and social systems, and within our more-than-human world.

‘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

We might begin to glimpse the deeper purpose of life that informs our specific individual purpose and organisational purpose, the quest for harmony and wellbeing through love and wisdom.

‘The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.’  Joseph Campbell, mythologist

This goes against much of what we have been taught at school, and also in our further education establishments, business schools and management training courses, and yet it is this humble and gentle opening up to a deeper consciousness within and all about us which ourselves, our systems and our civilisation now needs.

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

And there is a fourth step.

After (1) creating space within ourselves to sense into the deep matrix of Nature; after (2) creating space within our conversations and meeting conventions for others to open up more readily to this matrix of Nature; after (3) creating space for creative tensions to reveal the deeper wiser music of authentic creativity, innovation and flow; we expand into (4) creating space for diverse stakeholders to come together, connect, tune-in, share and spark off each other – people from different silos across the business and from different stakeholder communities beyond the organisation come together. In celebrating this diversity and the tensions and differences it brings, we harness yet more music, more creativity, more insight, and more possibility for synchronicity.

A crucible, a mixing vessel, a womb, a cauldron, a chalice, is held by us so that alchemy can be done.

Yin and yang mix and blend to allow us to find the ‘way of nature’, the ‘way of living-and-leading’  – this is fresh yet ancient wisdom that life teaches us each evolving moment, each breath, each step, if we sense-in enough to see beyond tensions while embodying emergent evolution.

What emerges from the co-creative tensions moves us beyond transactional cause-and-effect relations into synergies of inter-relationalities.  Here we sense synchronistic pathways; we call forth the emerging future within the presence of the Now.  Our openness and vulnerability to the emptiness, the void of not-knowing, opens us to the quantum plenum, the ground-of-all-being, the Way of the Tao, so that we can sense-and-respond with wisdom.

It is here that we allow our living regenerative organisations to flourish amid uncertain futures, to find the flow of improvisational co-creative music that gives the living system its niche amid a sea of interwoven dynamics, and the creative and destructive ebbs and flows of life.

For easy-to-use business practices, case studies and tools for holding space, and practical liberating structures that can be applied to our every day meeting conventions and decision-making protocols, please see Future Fit (2016) which has been written specifically for this purpose.

 ‘In this essential and timely message to the corporate world, Giles Hutchins makes the vital points that only a fundamental overhaul of the underlying operating logic will enable our firms of the future to flourish.  Only a ‘regenerative’ approach is capable of shifting our frame of thinking from a linear, reductive and silo’ed perspective to relational systems-thinking – one that seeks collaboration across boundaries, shared value and co-innovation. The more we learn to cultivate our natural soulful awareness amidst our everyday busyness, the more we can start to call upon more of who we truly are, benefiting our outlook, our relations, our creativity, and our ability to lead in these challenging times.’  Dr. Scilla Elworthy, Founder of Oxford Research Group, Founder of Peace Direct, Co-Founder of Rising Women Rising World, Councillor of the World Future Council and author of Pioneering the Possible

 ‘Future Fit is prescient and practical. It describes the future as it can and should be, by drawing on a breadth of knowledge rarely seen in business books. It also makes big, abstract ideas more concrete, by offering examples and advice. This book will help managers navigate a complex world for a more sustainable world. Giles Hutchins is one of the most broad-reaching, forward thinking writers in business.’ Tima Bansal, Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability, Ivey Business School

To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here

For more on Regenerative Leadership visit Regenerators

One Comment leave one →
  1. Roy Reynolds permalink
    April 23, 2018 4:06 pm

    Excellent piece! Much needed discernment for reshaping leadership practices. Thanks, Roy.

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