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The Journey Towards Wholeness – The Vitality of Regenerative Leadership

June 26, 2018

Recently I have been blessed with some great conversations about the cool-reality of making Teal/Evolutionary Business work in practice, and how Teal needs to integrate/sit alongside a deep personal and organisational practice of connecting to source, for instance, Theory U.

The world-leading practitioners I have been engaging with, along with business leaders in-the-field doing the hard-graft of transforming their cultures into regenerative businesses, all agree that one aspect of this transformational journey is vital: the journey towards wholeness. 

And yet it is all-too-often this very aspect that many of us attempt to gloss-over, side-track or ignore as we consume new tools, techniques, models, methodologies, structures and systems.

The ‘outer’ dynamic of the transformation usurps the ‘inner’ dynamic.

Soon the transformation becomes lifeless – yet another cook-book consultancy model or managerial method that does little to move us towards the vibrant, flourishing, regenerative futures our hearts know is possible.

In this short article I am going to sense into the messy human-ness of the journey towards wholeness – as uncomfortable as it may be to read.  By all means side-line this ‘stuff’ as ‘fluff’.

But it ain’t going away.

The sooner we embrace this journey, the sooner the next-generation of truly life-affirming business becomes reality.

Because the social design systems – whether they be Swarm or White Space technologies, Art of Hosting or Holding Space, Agile Leadership or Authentic Leadership, Holacracy or Sociocracy – only come alive when they are lived amid the journey towards wholeness.

As any wise human knows, the outer is always informed by the inner – separate the ‘yang’ from the ‘yin’ at your peril.

Here I share some insights, so that we may sense what this ‘journey towards wholeness’ is all about:

Forgiveness :

By Richard Rohr

‘’Check each day how you’re doing with forgiveness. That’s a good test… It’s often the petty things, the accumulating resentments. The little things you know about another person; how they sort of did you wrong yesterday. No big deal, but the ego loves to grab onto those; they build up on the psyche like a repetitive stress injury. I think that in many ways, it’s much harder to let go of these micro-offenses, precisely because they’re so tiny. And so we unconsciously hoard them, and they clog us up.”

Fear :

By Monique Hennequin recalling her experiences during an NDE (Near Death Experience)

‘To tell you the truth, it wasn’t really so much what I had done to others, but more what I had done to myself. [The people I hurt or was hurt by] these people mirrored my own pain, suspicion, anger and helplessness as well. In those moments I had missed out on opportunities to take full responsibility for my thoughts, words and deeds and in doing so had taken away the possibility to grow and become more conscious.

I also saw that I could spontaneously react to someone in the ‘wrong’ way, because the other person needed that at that moment. And I had felt guilty because I had ostensibly reacted in the ‘wrong’ way, not knowing that the thoughts and emotions of the other person had my unintentional reaction as a consequence.

In events where I had difficulty seeing my responsibility, I ‘lingered’ for as long as it took to take it in…to see how naïve my actions were driven out of ambition, egotism, fear and yes even out of joy or euphoria.

Why had I said so little during my life? Fear, but that fear had now completely gone.  I was never going to be afraid again of my thoughts and feelings. Not afraid to fail in the eyes of others or to be challenged. I was and will be, my own judge. From now on I would be the one I would answer to. Everything went hazy and suddenly, with an enormously painful force, I was back in my body.’

From fear to trust :

By Jean Vanier

‘As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgement and prejudice to foregiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.’

Trust :

By Shelly Francis

‘Developing courage as a leader boils down to trust: trusting yourself, trusting other people, and developing an ability to trust in the balance of life overall… Trust requires listening to one’s inner life, which can translate into great empathy and willingness to invite reflection among colleagues, which can in turn inform a sense of shared purpose and optimism.

Relational trust is a specific form of trust that arises from interpersonal relationships…Relational trust at first glance is simply about trust between people – we depend on each other to fulfil the obligations and expectations defined for our roles. That leaves us vulnerable to power asymmetries, to misunderstandings, to breakdowns in communication, to all sorts of tensions that can wreak havoc not only on relationships but also on our individual capacity to handle stress. In fact, relational trust comes from our inner perceptions and interpretations of others’ behaviors and motives.  This inner territory is full of potholes and shadows that demand we tend to our own self-awareness.’

Transforming tension :

By Parker J Palmer

‘Why do we hate to hold tension, in matters both large and small? On the surface, the answer seems clear; doing so makes us look uncertain and indecisive. Whether in a business meeting or on the global stage, we want to appear powerful, not wimpy. And we want to win…The arrogant insecure ego does not like it when we hold tension, fearful of losing its status if we lose the battle at hand.

That, at least, is what our fear of tension looks like on the surface. But fear always comes in layers, and can be understood only when we reach its substrate. Ultimately, what drives us to resolve tension as quickly as we possibly can is the fear that if we hold it too long, it will break our hearts.

This bedrock layer of fear is the one that interests me, for at least two reasons. It evokes more sympathy in me, for myself and others, that the ego’s fear of looking bad or losing out, which seem whiny and pathetic. And the heart’s fear of being broken is not fanciful: holding powerful tensions over time can be, and often is, a heartbreaking experience.

But there are at least two ways to understand what it means to have our hearts broken. One is to imagine the heart broken into shards and scattered about – a feeling most of us know, and a fate we would like to avoid. The other is to imagine the heart broken open into new capacity – a process that is not without pain but one that many of us would welcome. As I stand in the tragic gap between reality and possibility, this small tight fist of a thing called my heart can break open into greater joy, despair and hope.’

By Ann Belford Ulanov

‘What is it that makes for aliveness?

…we must let our wounds remain open, not close them up by premature interpretations, but sit in the ashes, suffer … go naked…to reach into the unknown beyond fixed delusions and rigid routines…into a creative aliveness, a regenerative process, that undoes deadness…through the rhythm of connection, breakdown, repair, reconnection.’

By John Welwood

‘Compassion – literally ‘suffering with’ – is born out of feeling the rawness of the heart, which also makes us more sensitive to others.’

It is this holding of tensions that breaks open the heart. The narcissistic ego in us fears this most of all, as it is through this breaking open that our little-self dies just a little, loosening its grip of control, so that real life can flood us.   This is the crucifixion mytho-drama laid bare for all to see.  The rebirth is nothing more than our true nature being revealed to us as we let-go of control, of fear, of collapsing the tension into right-versus-wrong, of the search for certainty in an ever-changing world.

The regenerative dynamics innate within the Book of Life show us this if we so choose to read it with soul-eyes.

‘The greatest voyage of our lifetimes is not in the seeking of new landscapes, but in the seeing with new eyes.’ – Marcel Proust

We create our own purgatory, and our own illumination.

Everything we need to learn and grow into Teal is within us, is within each evolving moment.

The source of our soul is right before us, in this moment.

The unfolding wisdom of Nature, shows us how we need to live in harmony with ourselves, each other and all of life.

One of the reasons I love doing deep-dive learning journey’s with small groups of leaders is simply because we can create and hold space for ourselves to sense into this wisdom of Nature, and in-so-doing the journey towards wholeness comes alive in us, embodied in ways that maps, models and metrics can’t reach.

There is a tendency to look outward and flee the inner-work required for next-generation regenerative business.  This tendency is within us all.  By noticing it, we can start to recognise the need within ourselves to create adequate space-and-time to reflect, to pause, to check-in, to re-find right-relation with self-other-life, and integrate parts of ourselves waking-up and also honour parts of ourselves dying.

In these trying times, we can be gentle on ourselves, we can embrace the dance on the journey towards wholeness.  Sometimes a little more yang, sometimes a little more yin.  Sometimes more structure, sometimes more space-holding. Sometimes proactivity, sometimes patience.

As one leading Teal specialist recently shared with me, how we integrated the journey towards wholeness in the day-to-day thick-of-it, in the here-and-now is the real challenge.  The workplace is not a therapy room, and we need to get on with doing while also contributing to a nurturing wholesome environment.  This is an artful dance.

This is where we need to build organisational and cultural structure as well as nurture leadership; both ground-rules and the emergent sensitivity to what works best in each given context.

The feedback loops, the check-ins, the circle sharing from the heart, deep listening, space to reflect – all of this supports distributed authority whether it be holacratic or home-grown.

There is no short-cut.  Be open to having your heart broken-open, for forgiving, for trusting, for transforming tensions time and again, for learning to listen to the voice of fear while also seeing beyond it.  Then a deeper pain, a gaping wound appears, deep in the gut. The wound of our profound separation from nature.  Being in touch with this primal wound is just the beginning, but it is a sure sign we are on our journey homeward bound Teal, Turquoise and beyond.

Giles Hutchins is co-founder of Regenerators and Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy, and author of the books The Nature of Business  and The Illusion of Separation and Future Fit

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