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The Essence of Regenerative Leadership

March 31, 2021

This time of year has long been celebrated as a time of renewal; a death-rebirth process that happens at certain times in our lives to enable our individual and collective consciousness to evolve.

This time of year can be celebrated as a threshold crossing for us to deepen our life-journey of self-discovery, in-so-doing learning how best to serve others and the wider whole; to become more regenerative as we renew ourselves.  As the famous poet Rumi noted, it is only by being faithful to our deeper truer nature that we can find right-relation with the world, and then attend to solving the ills of the world, which are deep, and need our depth.

‘If you are here unfaithfully with us, you’re causing terrible damage.’ Rumi

Amid the global-crises and local-stresses we each face, there is hope. 

Rays of a new dawn are lighting up a new way for how we behave individually and collectively.  Underpinning any evolution in thinking and doing, is a worldview shift, a shift in our orientation with self-other-world.

The Regenerative Journey is a journey towards futures that enhance the fabric of life on Earth while also enabling our organisations to come alive and our people to thrive. It’s a journey of learning. This journey starts with a more intimate relationship with our own sense of Self.

Who Am I?

One might ask that question to oneself repeatedly, over and over, during the days and nights ahead, especially over this time of spring unfolding and winter retreating. See what responses come from inside ourselves as we ask this simply question of ourselves. It is not a frivolous inquiry, but an important one that we often overlook in our schooling or further education, so caught up we have become in the outer-pursuit of happiness, of ungrounded-doing, of exploring new landscapes, new things, yet divorced from who we truly are. Enter today’s malaise.

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

Who Am I?

Am I this incessant voice inside the head, providing a running commentary on pretty much everything that happens in my life?   Perhaps there is more to me? There is ofcourse, as I can witness this voice, and even quieten or gain perspective on the voice-in-the-head, even transform it and redirect it, if I so choose.

Am I these emotions that rise up when something happens and I feel triggered, whether standing in-line in the shop, or taking part on a zoom call, or receiving an email, or playing with the kids?  Perhaps there is more to me? There is, as I can witness these emotions rising and falling away, and even sense into underlying traumas and wounds, and go into these and find release, even transmute my emotions, if I so choose.

Am I this body, with its strengths and weaknesses, aliments and aches, and all the somatic sensations and instincts it offers?  Perhaps there is more to me, as I can witness this body and sense into its underlying intelligence and aliveness, even enliven and cultivate the flow of energy in my body, if I so choose.

Am I a rich concoction of the past experiences I have experienced and the anticipations and dreams of the future? Perhaps there is more to me, as I have always been there in the mirror, regardless of experience or dream, and I can transform my dreams and even re-enliven my memories, if I so choose.

And I know that I am not the car I drive or the house I live in or the collection of material goods or intellectual property I supposedly ‘own’. I can transcend all the worldly toys, tools and temptations, if I so choose.

There is something underneath the outer forms of everyday experience, and also something underneath the inner expressions of mind and body: a deeper sense of Self, something that can witness and draw insight from the inner-outer worlds we experience.

There is a field of consciousness that my Self is a part of and draws from as it journeys through life in this bodymind vessel of ‘I’.  Consciousness is not limited to my brain or my body, science now shows us that consciousness pervades not just the entire bodymind but beyond me, in life itself. We can learn to attune our bodymind to better flow with life’s consciousness, to become more conscious, more whole, less fragmented, less separate, more interconnected.  This is a death-rebirth process: a dying of the small ‘ego-self’ that has a scarcity mindset of separation and competition that pervades the self-other-world dynamic we show-up with; and a birthing/revealing of a deeper Self aka Soul. Through this threshold crossing, we can allow the rightful centre of ourselves to lead, and the ego to become a useful tool that serves the Soul.  This is a metamorphosis within us, a death-rebirth process from scarcity into abundance, from imprisonment into emancipation, from control-and-separation into emergence-and-interconnection.  As spring time emerges from winter, as buds unfold all around us, we can invite in an unfolding within us. If we dare to cross the threshold.

The adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves extensively studied adult psychology, and presciently spoke of the times we are in as ‘not merely a transition to a new level of existence, but the start of a new movement in the symphony of human identity.’  What beautiful words conveying the music of life, as we move into new way of being-and-doing.  Its not just the outer-doing from industrialised pollution to circular economics and regenerative design, its also our inner consciousness, our inner-being. This is at the heart of being regenerative – aligning the inner-outer, yin-yang of life.

‘A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty’ – Albert Einstein

This can feel rather overwhelming, or perhaps a nice-to-have luxury amidst the busyness, stresses and strains and crises of today’s volatile hurry-up-and-get-on-with-it world.  Alas, it is essential. Much more essential than Big Data or AI for that matter, as they are tools, which without adequate consciousness applying them will run amok.

The essence, our inner essence, speaks to what it means to be human: This ability to emancipate ourselves from our own delusion of consciousness which Einstein so eloquently points to.

Without this essence we are cut adrift, ungrounded, and all-but lost, tossed this way and that in a volatile world of ephemeral needs and desires.

Myself, Giles Hutchins, and my co-author, Laura Storm, write about this leadership transformation in our book Regenerative Leadership, and explore the tools and steps required for this Journey towards Wholeness to happen in our organisations while surviving amidst today’s tumultuous business climes.

Here is a podcast where Vice President of Edison Electric Institute interviews Giles Hutchins & Laura Storm in discussing the challenges we now face in creating regenerative futures amid this post-COVID world:  https://electricperspectives.podbean.com/e/002-global-circuit-thriving-under-crisis-with-regenerative-leadership/

As well as the seismic shifts in transforming our own selves, and our social systems, there are also lots of small steps we can each take every single day. Architect, inventor and philosopher Buckminster Fuller, referred to these small changes that create regenerative ripples throughout the system as ‘Trim Tabs’: where the minute informs the momentous.

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim Tab.”

The truth is that you get the low pressure to do things, rather than getting on the other side and trying to push the bow of the ship around. And you build that low pressure by getting rid of a little nonsense, getting rid of things that don’t work and aren’t true until you start to get that trim-tab motion. It works every time. That’s the grand strategy you’re going for. So I’m positive that what you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count. To be a real trim tab, you’ve got to start with yourself, and soon you’ll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way. Of course, they happen only when you’re dealing with really great integrity.’  – Buckminster Fuller

As Bucky knew, every act with intention and integrity shifts the system. The minute contributes to the momentous. And as adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves knew, we are experiencing a momentous leap in human-kind right now, not just a transition but a new symphony of human identity is emerging-evolving right now. And our minute acts with great integrity tip the scales as our social and organisational systems metamorphose from old to new. Exciting yet challenging times to be alive, to become more human by becoming more in-tune with Life = Regenerative Leadership.

In a recent podcast interview the US filmmaker, Susanne Taylor, asks me to explore the inquiry – what would you do if you ran the world?  I suggest that what is of the utmost importance is not simply the policies and governance, but the will, the deep desire, the knowing – which can be reignited in us (as it is always within us) through awareness and education.  If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we might see that much of what we think of as education today is brainwashing, conditioning, conforming, controlling and limiting our sense of self, twisting us down pathways where we feel impelled to wear masks, and so corrupting our self-other-world dynamic. We need education in its truest sense, as the Greeks meant it when they came up with the word, which for them meant to draw-out the essence of who we truly are into the world – an education that is enlivening, emancipating and empowering for the Soul.   Listen here for more on ‘if I ran the world’: https://suespeakspodcast.com/14-Giles-Hutchins/

And so there are now three questions to ponder on this Easter, if we so choose:

  1. Who Am I?
  2. If I ran the world what would I do?
  3. What are the small minute acts, the trim tabs, I can start doing today and tomorrow?

I am often asked by leaders – ‘What is the essence of Regenerative Leadership?’ – the essence is within us. It’s the essence that is within everything. Being regenerative is being natural. It is a process of opening to our inner nature and outer nature. It’s an educational journey of learning to flow as nature flows. Nothing more, nothing less.

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

Are you ready to step into the new symphony of human consciousness?  The Journey towards Wholeness starts right here, right now.

‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.’ Bob Marley.

Giles Hutchins is a pioneering practitioner and senior adviser at the fore-front of the [r]evolution in organizational and leadership consciousness and developmental approaches that enhance personal, organizational and systemic agility and vitality. He is author and co-author of several leadership and organizational development papers, and the books The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and Regenerative Leadership (2019). Chair of The Future Fit Leadership Academy and Founder of Leadership Immersions, co-founder of Biomimicry for Creative Innovation and Regenerators, he runs a 60 acre leadership centre at Springwood Farm, an area of outstanding natural beauty near London, UK.  Previously held corporate roles – Head of Practice for KPMG, and Global Head of Sustainability for Atos (150,000 employees, over 40 countries). He provides coaching at individual and organisational levels for those seeking to transform their personal and/or work lives. He is also a keynote speaker on the future of business.

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