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The Meaning of Regenerative Leading – emancipation beyond exploitation

June 22, 2021

There is a rising zeitgeist around ‘regenerative’.   Yet what ‘regenerative’ truly means is as ancient as it is fresh. It’s a timeless journey of becoming more human, more alive, more in-harmony with life.

These days, I am regularly contacted by folk wishing to dive deeper into what ‘regenerative’ means for them and their work.  How times have changed over the last decade.  A decade ago, I got many-a-blank face when I used to explain how business could learn from living-systems. These days people seem to ‘get it’ more readily – and I have become a much better practitioner, communicator and coach along the way.

It seems much more than a decade ago when I co-founded BCI: Biomimicry for Creative Innovation (along with biomimicry specialist, Dr Denise Deluca, and Chief Exploration Office of TYF and Founding Partner of the Do Lectures, Andy Middleton). We had great fun together running workshops for diverse leaders at places like Kew Gardens, Amsterdam and Schumacher College on Business Inspired By Nature. It felt like we were at the fore-front of a necessary revolution.  Over the years that followed, I’ve had the real pleasure of engaging with or speaking alongside other ‘regenerative/systemic’ specialists from different parts of the world, such as Pamela Mang (co-founder of Regenesis and co-author of Regenerative Development and Design), Carol Sanford (founder of The Sanford Institute, and author of Regenerative Business), Michelle Holliday (founder of Thriveability), Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister (co-founders of the Biomimicry Institute), Peter Senge (author of Fifth Disciple, Presencing and other books), Darcy Winslow (Chair of the Academy for Systems Change), Daniel Wahl (author of Designing Regenerative Cultures), Peter Hawkins (Systemic and Ecosystemic Coaching), Frederic Laloux (author of Reinventing Organisations), Norman Wolfe (author of The Living Organisation), Chris Laszlo (Aim2Flourish co-founder, and co-author of Quantum Leadership), Jay Bragdon (author of Economies that Mimic Life), John Fullerton (founder of Regenerative Communities Network), my wonderful co-author Laura Storm, and many other thoughtful practitioners and experts related to this emerging ‘regenerative leadership’ field which is growing wider and deeper all the while.

I can recall how back in 2011, when I used to write articles for the Guardian Sustainable Business network about the Firm of the Future – Inspired By Nature, that applying living-systems-thinking to organisational development was super-niche. Now, thank goodness, it is more widespread and finding take-up in leading business schools across the globe. 

Back then, I avidly studied biomimicry, systems thinking, complexity theory, regenerative design, biophilia, ecological psychology, adult developmental psychology, and worked on aligning these schools of thought with my direct experience in business transformation, leadership development and organizational change.  At that time I was Global Head of Sustainability for Atos, after recently handing over from 5 years as Head of Business Transformation/CRM for KPMG working across all sectors and sizes on strategy, transformation, sustainable business and change management. 

The excitement of this fusion of business/living-systems/sustainability led to me deciding to leave the jet-set corporate life (and endless global travel) and instead focus 100% of my time on Future Fit and Regenerative Leadership.   Over the years that followed I have been working with a great variety of leaders and leadership teams to facilitate this regenerative leadership journey for them and their organizations, across many different countries and sectors. Such journeys include many different aspects as a coherent flow – from helping cultures become more self-managing, agile and entrepreneurial to adult-adult, transparent, authentic and purposeful cultures, as well as aligning this ‘inner’ work with the ‘outer’ work of regenerative value propositions, partnerships and stakeholder ecosystems. My work has also taken me in to work that spans many organisations, communities, cities and bio-regions as part of the shift towards regenerative futures. Exciting times!

It is only natural, that as ‘regenerative’ becomes more popular, there can be some confusion or misunderstanding around what ‘regenerative’ actually means in practice, when applied to leadership and organizational development.  Hence the reason for the book Regenerative Leadership which spells out in detail the complete regenerative DNA model required for regenerative leadership and regenerative business.

In summary, there are 3 levels of learning from living-systems:  1) Living Systems Design; 2) Living Systems Culture; 3) Living Systems Being

In brief:

  1. Living Systems Design:  upon sensing in to how living systems work, we find certain life dynamics, patterns and principles.  We can apply these principles and patterns to how we design our products, services, processes, places and economic models.  This is the exciting, and revolutionary, space of biomimicry, industrial ecology, circular economics, regenerative design, cradle-to-cradle, biophilic design, bio-innovation, regenerative economics, and more.
  • Living Systems Culture: as well as applying living-systems insights and systemic-leadership to the design of our processes, products and places, we can explore a shift in our organizational cultures from organization-as-machine to organization-as-living-system.  This is the space of complex adaptive systems applied to organizational development, adult developmental psychology, systemic leadership and systemic/ecosystemic coaching, self-managing team dynamics, purpose-driven business, adult-adult coaching culture, shifting power-dynamics, and more.
  • Living Systems Being: this shift from reductive to systemic ways of leading and operating, involves a shift in our consciousness, a shift in our ‘being’.  The very practice of being-in-nature is scientifically proven to help us become more systemic, empathic, integrated and balanced. Through various practices we can learn to more deeply attune with life, by opening up into our deeper truer nature, while opening into more of how life really is. This is a life-long journey towards wholeness, and is the nutritious soil from which regenerative leadership grows.

Apply all three levels of living-systems and you have embarked on the Regenerative Leadership Journey.

Those already on this journey will know that this is first-and-foremost about a shift in consciousness, which can be neatly articulated as a shift from separateness to interconnectedness, and yet there is nothing neat-and-tidy about the journey. This article seeks to convey some of the inner-depths of this journey. 

First, some simple definitions:

What is ‘regenerative’ – regenerative is to attune with the way nature works; to cultivate conditions that are life-affirming.

What is ‘regenerative business’ – business that enriches all stakeholders including wider society and the environment.  A business that is committed to becoming life-affirming in all its facets, both inner-and-outer: culture, operations, strategy and ecosystem.

What is ‘regenerative leadership’ – a way of leading that cultivates life-affirming conditions. It is a shift in consciousness from a reductive/mechanistic way of leading into a systemic/living-systems way of leading. We engage in this shift by working with the Logic of Life (which I will define in a moment).

This might sound like fanciful utopia to some.  Surely business is about the bottom-line?   For sure, regenerative businesses need to survive in today’s world, and there is good evidence that shows clear financial benefits in becoming regenerative (see The Global Lamp Index for instance, showing companies that mimic life consistently outperform their mechanistic counter-parts).  I have spent many years coaching leaders on the ‘business case for regenerative’ to help meet the skepticism it invokes in many of us. Yet, this is not just about survival, it’s also about thrival – to attract and retain high-quality talent, to innovate, adapt and evolve in increasingly volatile times. This is simply good business sense, especially amid a societal shift that seeks a deeper sense of meaning, purpose, engagement and creativity in the workplace.

Here is a talk I gave back in 2015 on this threshold happening in business towards regenerative:

‘Regenerative’ is the very-human act of re-connecting with our own deeper nature, while understanding how life works, and applying the insights from life to enable our organisations to be life-affirming. 

It is simply the act of becoming true to ourselves and true to reality, nothing more, nothing less. 

It’s well within our grasp. It’s inherent in our evolutionary dynamic. It’s our birth-right.

If we fail to become regenerative, we fail in our humanity, and we fail life itself.

So, let’s dive in to the detail of what this means in terms of our own leadership development.

First, we need to meet ourselves where we are at, to know where we are coming from, in order to know how best to shift our consciousness.

The context we find ourselves in today is a predominantly mechanistic leadership paradigm. It’s a quality of consciousness that creates a sense of separateness in our own sense of self, in our relation with others, and in our view of reality. We view the organisation-as-a-machine, and we seek to manage and control change. This perspective is rooted in a worldview of separateness.

The reality is:

Life is interconnected, relational and ever-changing.   The more we understand the dynamics innate within life, the more we can learn to flow with life.

At the heart of this shift in consciousness from separateness/mechanistic to interconnectedness/regenerative is the embodied recognition of reality as it really is. There is a deep stillness/spaciousness, or ‘field’, pervading all life including our organisations and business ecosystems.

An embodied attentiveness to this underlying ‘field’ of interconnectedness was an inherent part of all shamanic and wisdom tradition practices for millennia.    For 95% of our human history, we lived with a deep sense of this interconnectedness.  In-so-doing we viewed life as a sacred experience.

However, over the last handful of centuries, more and more focus has been applied to the reductive and rational-analytic way of attending to reality, which tries to cut-up this fluid connective reality into neat-and-tidy bits-and-bytes so we can seek management and control.   This has led to a utilitarian view of life. Life is to be exploited for human betterment.  Life is not sacred, it is perfunctory. Enter degenerative behaviour.

We have overly-prioritised form-matter-doing (yang) and deprioritised formless-energy-being (yin).

Increasingly, over the last century culminating in today, we have impoverishment our sense of the interconnectedness of life. This has come with dis-harmony, rising stress, social and ecological degradation, and an out-of-kilter civilisation that is now breaking-down. 

This dis-harmony finds its root cause in the separateness we inflict on how we attend to reality; a way of attending that has created a sense of dis-connection from nature – our natural habitat. A deep, deep wound, so to speak, that manifests as a psychic trauma within our species. This collective trauma and imbalance is the underlying cause of increasing fear, anxiety, egotism, individualism, and consumerism.  When we don’t feel complete or whole on the inside, we start searching ever more ‘out there’ to fix a deep wound which is ‘in here’.  No matter how sophisticated and well-thought-through our sustainability metrics are, unless we address the wound of dis-connection we are but lost, rudderless in a storm of increasing head-winds and rising tides.

In the book Regenerative Leadership, we refer to this rising disconnection as the Journey of Separation which is showing signs of reaching its nadir and starting to arc back into a Journey of Reconnection.

The Journey of Reconnection allows 4 imbalances within us to reconnect and find flow.  These 4 areas are:

  1. Inner-outer:  during the Journey of Separation we have increasingly focused on the ‘outer’ and impoverished the inner.  We have deprioritised the imaginal, intuitive inner-being and prioritised the tangible outer-doing. This creates an imbalance inside ourselves and also in the way we perceive reality.  Reality has become a collection of separate objects and subjects, names and categories. The spacious ‘field’ that interconnects all life has been all-but forgotten or ridiculed as a flight-of-fancy.  As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell notes, ‘separation of matter and spirit, has really castrated nature. And the Western mind, the Western life, has been, as it were, emasculated by this separation”.  The Journey of Reconnection allows us to start to integrate this inner-outer dynamic of life once again.
  • Masculine-Feminine:    We each have masculine and feminine psychic-energies, characteristics, emotions and behaviours within us. Today’s society favours the masculine, competitive, assertive, controlling, doing aspects of our psyche and impoverishes the feminine, metamorphic, empathic, listening, receptive, intuitive aspects.  Learning to integrate these masculine-feminine aspects within our psyche is a vital part of the Journey of Reconnection.
  • Left-right brain hemisphere:   Neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist has extensively explored left-brain hemisphere dominance in our Western culture. The left-hemisphere of the brain, according to McGilchrist’s and other neuroscientists’ findings, focuses on the parts of the problem by decontextualizing, narrowing down, and abstracting the problem in a closed system. This of course, helps us analyse and find neat solutions and metrics to the problem at hand. However, only a solution in the context of an isolated closed system, not in a living, emergent, complex system – like a business environment with ecosystem challenges. By the same theory, the right-hemisphere of the brain focuses on the whole of the problem by broadening perspective, forming connections, and viewing the problem within an open system; we seek context, think creatively (out of the box) and develop greater understanding. It is both the knowledge of the parts (left-hemisphere) and wisdom of the whole (right-hemisphere) that we need to solve today’s problems.   Learning to integrate both left-hemisphere (analysing) and right-hemisphere (expansive) attention and also engage in practices that encourage simultaneous integration of both hemispheres at the same time (like playing a musical instrument, active-seeing, dancing, or being in-flow during a creative yet analytical endeavour)  is an important aspect of the Journey of Reconnection.
  • Human-nature connection:  The mini Ice-Age/Climate Change around the 16th century in Europe witnessed a rising sense of separateness and increasing desire to control nature, hand-in-hand with banishing any sense of the sacredness of nature.  This sense of separateness from nature begun much earlier with the advent of civilisation, and yet it was alongside the 16th Century Scientific Revolution, the Witch Hunts and the increasing rationalistic portrayal of nature as a resource to be plundered for human betterment that drove a hard stake of separateness into the Western mind. Over the centuries that followed, the Western mind has become increasingly separate from nature, and with it deep psychic atrophy has set in. As the leading biologist Edward O. Wilson explored, our need to relate to nature is an integral part of human development. He called this ‘biophilia’ (which comes from the Greek bios ‘life’ and philia ‘love’ – ‘the love for life’) which he saw as an innate tendency we have as humans. This ‘love of life’ or nature-connection is foundational to our physiological and psychological wellbeing and development.  A sense of separateness from nature creates physiological and psychological problems (increasing fear, competitiveness, anxiety, stress, greed, etc.). These are the very root problems of the systemic challenges ourselves as leaders and our human societies face today.

“The modern onslaught upon the natural world is driven in part by a degree of alienation from nature. Our modern environmental crisis — the widespread toxification of various food chains, the multifaceted degradation of the atmosphere, the far- ranging depletion of diverse natural resources, and, above all, the massive loss of biodiversity and the scale of global species extinctions — is viewed as symptomatic of a fundamental rupture of human emotional and spiritual relationship with the natural world.”— Stephen Kellert & Edward O Wilson

As we cultivate integration within ourselves across these 4 areas, we Journey towards Wholeness and Reconnection. In-so-doing we open up into our deeper truer nature and open up into a deeper truer reality. We become more human, more conscious, more purposeful, more in harmony with life.  This is a process of ‘becoming’, not a one-off hit or neat-and-tidy change-management plan or 10-step process; it’s a messy, full of eddies and undercurrents, trip-wires and shadowy cul-de-sacs. It’s a challenging learning journey which is well-worth enduring. It’s a labyrinth that liberates us into who we truly are.

‘Becoming is not a logical process. It is an emergent process, and a creative one. To create is to experience the pains of becoming. To be in the process of becoming is to experience creative pains. As we evolve, we change. As we change, we leave behind old shells. As we reconstruct within, we suffer a temporary dislocation of our identity. As we suffer the inner dislocation, we are in pain. All this is natural and inevitable…part of individual growth and of evolutionary growth.’ Henryk Skolimowski

In Regenerative Leadership, we unpack 7 principles inherent in life, which we call the Logic of Life.  These 7 principles are informed by science (from a range of scientific disciplines such as biomimicry, facilitation ecology, evolutionary biology, complexity theory, living systems theory, regenerative design, complex adaptive systems thinking, ecological psychology, quantum physics, and more).  In brief, these 7 principles of the Logic of Life are:

  1. Life is life-affirming. Life creates conditions conducive for life to evolve. It is innately regenerative and non-toxic.
  2. Life is ever-changing and responsive. Life learns and adapts through emergent, developmental and evolutionary dynamics. When we tune-in to life we can discern these dynamics and apply them to our living-organizations.
  3. Life is relational and collaborative. Life is full of relationships; systems nested within systems. From the cells in our body, to our neighbourhood, organization, society and economy, relationships abound. Sensing the relational nature of our organizations helps us notice stuckness, flow and nodal points for leveraging emergent change.
  4. Life is synergistic and diverse. Life thrives on diversity. Monocultures of sameness or group-think undermine creativity, innovation, adaptability and resilience. Likewise tensions of difference act as crucibles for learning and development – hence dinergy and synergy are vital to organizational healthy.
  5. Life is cyclic and seasonal. Life unfolds through ebbs and flows of cycles and seasons. We are all cyclical beings in need of the processes that all seasons bring: The emergence of spring, the intensity of summer, the letting go in autumn, and the deep restoration and reflection of winter.
  6. Flows of Energy/Matter.  Life depends on innate ecosystem flows and cycles that enable recycling, reuse and renewal.
  7. Life is pervaded by a Living Systems Field.  Both ancient-shamanic and modern-scientific evidence points to an all-pervasive field, a ground-of-all-being that informs all form.  Heightening our receptivity to the field helps us to flow with Life.

‘Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force’ – Lao Tzu

The Field

‘All of space is full of presence’ – John O’Donohue

This ‘field’ has always been here, it’s as fresh as it is ancient.  And while the quantum scientists of the West have brought it into the scientific-lens of Western reductionism with all its investment and commercialisation (we now have quantum computing that uses the ‘field’, and also mobile telecommunications like 4G and 5G that transmit and receive using the electromagnetic spectrum that pervades life) this ‘field’ has long been revered as a presence to engage with in order to help our conscious evolution, both personally and collectively.   It is a presence that gives access to deeper levels of wisdom and knowing.

‘The dance of our mind with the quantum vacuum links us with other minds around us… it opens our mind to society, to nature, and to the universe.  This openness has been known to mystics and sensitives, prophets and metaphysicians throughout the ages.’ – Dr Ervin Laszlo

By learning to attune with this real and potent presence we open up to more of our humanity, become more creative, more alive, more purposeful, more in flow, more human – one might say ‘activating our super-nature’. It does not have to be some esoteric undertaking for the elite or privileged, far from it, it is available for everyone –regardless of education or bank-balance – and is what allows us emancipation from the enslavement of today’s rising ego-need for control, dis-ease, consumerisation and exploitation.

Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung extensively researched different human intelligences we each have access to:  intuitive; rational; emotional and somatic

The intuitive way of knowing has also been referred to as SQ – intuition informs us as we bring this insight into our daily awareness, influencing our decisions.  Opening up to this intuitive intelligence requires us to reach beyond the grasping busy-mind, to quieten, and still ourselves, so we can better cultivate this receptivity.

The emotional way of knowing has also been referred to as EQ – the feelings within us which inform and enrich our daily awareness, influencing our decisions.  Opening up to this emotional intelligence requires us to not simply react to feelings but sense-inward, allowing our feelings to have space, so we can consciously respond to these feelings. It is a subtle yet important shift from reactivity to responsiveness, from blind emotional outburst to informed emotional intelligence.

In 1995, Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence highlighted the importance of emotions and emotional intelligence (EQ) for leadership development and organisational learning. Goleman found that how we cultivate awareness of our own and other’s feelings and unconscious bias, then consciously respond to these feelings and filters in appropriate ways, helps our leadership potential.   Studies show that EQ out-performs IQ as a predictor of job success and performance capability.

Then in 1997, the neuroscientist Candace Pert’s ground-breaking work Molecules of Emotion provided more insight into the integration of body-mind sensations, feelings and thoughts, in what Pert referred to as the ‘psychosomatic network’ – an integrated system of psyche and soma. The psyche comprises the nonmaterial aspects such as mind, emotion and soul, and the soma comprises the material aspects such as the cells, organs and tissues.

This brings us on to another of Carl Jung’s ways of know: somatic intelligence. Our somatic and sensorial way of knowing has also been referred to as PQ.  This is the sensations we have in our body, for instance, gut pangs, or tickle in the throat, hairs on the back of the neck, or chest perturbations. Our soma (as Pert scientifically explored) is full of psychosomatic sensations that inform our psyche. As we allow ourselves to quieten and sense into the somatic intelligence within us, we enrich our conscious awareness and invite intelligence into our daily awareness, and become better at sensing and responding to changes within and all around us.

And finally, Jung’s fourth way of knowing, is the rational intelligence – which has also been referred to as IQ.  This tends to be the dominant intelligence we call upon  in today’s busyness. Our head-logic, the analytic mechanisations it creates, is what dominates today’s meetings, conversations and decisions. It is but one intelligence within our human repertoire, yet when it dominates too much, it can suppress our other ways of knowing.

When we allow these 4 ways of knowing to cohere, we allow our nature to integrate in its rightful way within is. As we integrate we open ourselves up to the generative ‘field’ that permeates space, if we so choose to tap into it with our intention and attention.

Then, we cultivate our self-awareness and our systemic-awareness as leaders, and when our self-and-systemic awareness alchemises, we cultivate Regenerative Leadership Consciousness, as I have written about here.

‘The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century won’t occur because of technology. They will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’ – John Naisbett

Deepening our self and systemic awareness, and learning to attune with the ‘field’, is perhaps the greatest frontier for our contemporary humanity to explore. Hence the rapid rise in interest in ‘consciousness’ – much of it, alas, is a mechanistic exploration based on what we can extract, gain and manipulate for yet more power, control and exploitation.  Yet, a whole-hearted and integrated masculine-feminine exploration into our deeper truer nature while accessing the ‘field’ is a way into dealing with the root problems of today’s systemic challenges.  It’s the only way to ensure we bring a different quality of consciousness to our solutions than which created our problems in the first place, by over-coming the Journey of Separation as we move into the next-stage of our human-symphony, the Journey of Reconnection.

Here is a TEDx talk I gave a few years back about this necessary shift in consciousness

The Chair of the World Economic Forum Council on New Models of Leadership, Dr Nick Udall, notes, ‘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 organizational 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.’

This new kind of leadership, is actually a timeless human quality. It’s a quality of consciousness that enables us to become more of who we truly are while allowing our organisations and social systems to become more life-affirming, more in-tune with life, more regenerative.

Stepping into this Regenerative Leadership Consciousness is a metamorphic undertaking, hence why I take leaders on multi-month bespoke coaching-based learning journeys, as its not straight-forward and is tailored to each leader’s own life-experiences, intelligences and capacities. It takes time to notice old habits and start to cultivate new habits.  It’s beyond any 10-step guide, so I hesitate to even try and break-it-down in words here, yet I offer 5 areas-of-practice that can help with this life-long learning, where the destination is not pre-defined but actually the journey itself:

  1. Create space in our own daily rhythms to allow a deepening of our own self-awareness. Cultivate the capacity to tune-in to the field, and activate our super-nature. This is the journey of opening-the-eye-of-the-heart, trusting in the wisdom of life, and learning to flow with life. It is a daily practice of noticing our own ego-personas, while regularly practicing an opening-heart/mind/will process of connecting deeper in to our own truer nature, and the deeper truer nature of life. 
  2. Create space within our organisational rhythms, through meeting conventions and decision-making protocols. For instance, through liberating structures, deep listening, generative dialogue and regenerative feedback. This cultivates the regenerative-soil within the organisation/social-system.
  3. Create space for systemic catalysts or ecosystemic facilitators within the organisation to embark on their own journey of self-awareness/systemic-awareness. These systemic catalysts are people from different parts of the organisation, with differing levels of seniority, who display informal-leadership qualities and good levels of self-systemic awareness, listening skills and empathy, adult-adult behaviours and post-conventional (individualist/strategist/alchemist) action-logics. Give these systemic catalysts permission to regularly sense-in to the organisational living-system and to notice nodal points, tensions, stuckness and flow, and where systemic-nudges may be required during the journey towards regenerative business.
  4. Create space for diverse stakeholders to come together and engage in heart-based dialogue on a regular basis.  Regularly convene different people from different silos and functional units, and from different external stakeholder groups, and hold dialogue-based sessions for allowing the system to see itself across boundaries of separateness.
  5. Create space to hold-tensions. Through the above 4 areas-of-practice as leaders, systemic catalysts and internal-external stakeholders, we start to take self/system responsibility for sensing tensions, and allowing these tensions to bring forth their own creative potential, holding-the-tensions, rather than collapsing tensions through reactivity.  Then, the living-system (whether a team, organisation or community of organisations) can start to learn to flow as life flows, and become life-affirming = regenerative.

When the adult developmental psychologist Clare Graves spoke of the shift from Tier 1 (orange-green) into Tier 2 (teal-turquoise), he noted that this shift is ‘not merely a transition to a new level of existence but the start of a new movement in the symphony of human identity.’  This death-rebirth in human identity brings all sorts of challenges, shadow-projections, dis-eases, personal and collective trauma to the surface. This is what we are going through in today’s world, from rising stress and depression, to new ways of working. This time of breakdown-breakthrough, can (with the right intention, courage and discipline) be a time of moving into a deeper version of ourselves, and with it a new human identity, a rebirth.  This enables the evolution of humanity, which also affects the evolution of life on Earth (as human behaviour has an intimate effect on the matrix of life and the health of the Earth-biome).

The ‘winter’ or ‘yin’ is where the Wisdom enters the cycle: the out-breath pause before in-breath, the night-time, the space between things, the liminal moments at sun-rise and sun-set, the pregnant pause amid conversation, the holding of the tension before the decision to act, the space between back-to-back meetings to slow-down and reflect, the coffee-break or walk outside, the weekend to switch-off, the daily routine of connecting deep within, the mid-life crisis or life-reboot – all of these slowing-down moments allow a deeper connection into the wisdom of life, if we so choose. From this depth, evolution unfolds.

We learn to become like an echo chamber for the Field simply by creating an empty, hollow space within ourselves.  This is an act of humility, surrender, crucifixion – an act of Love.  This is a challenge in a world full of fear, busyness and mask-wearing inauthenticity.

Within the heart-organ of our being is a natural capacity (‘super-nature’) to perceive the Wisdom inherent in Life – this is the Wisdom that lies before/beyond the everyday wisdom revealed by attuning tensions of difference, whereupon we sense the natural rhythm of things, and sense right-relation when dancing to the Music of Life.  It is a sacred space, a Temenos, guarded by Love.  A safe space we create for people to come together and deeply listen.  Without an open-heart this safe-space loses its integrity.

It ‘simply arises from an attitude to all the circumstances of life, even the most trivial and ordinary – an attitude of relaxed openness, detachment and receptivity – a rootedness’ as Cyprian Smith knew. 

For some 30 years the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied ‘flow’ as the human experience of ‘relaxed openness’. He uncovered two simple tools to help us cultivate flow even amid stressful or busy situations during our working day: Intention + Attention.  Creating an Intention, each day, or before a meeting about the quality of presence we wish to bring. And noticing our Attention, our quality of presence, how are we listening to ourselves, to our body, to our different intelligences, are we ‘activating our super-nature’ or caught up in our mind-chatter ruminations and judgements.

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret, it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye, said the Fox to the Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

As a person sees so she is.

The Regenerative Leader has mastered life, not through conquering but through surrendering, not through fear but through love, not through exploitation but through emancipation.

Degenerative behaviour arises from disconnected opaqueness that clouds and clutters the unfolding process of life.

Regenerative behaviour arises from connected coherence that creates space for tensions to transmute into crucibles for creativity and learning.

This is the Way of Nature, and its as fresh as it is ancient.

Here you can watch a short 4min video about Regenerative, with myself and CEO of Volans Louise Kjellerup Roper  

And here is a longer conversation about Regenerative, with myself and Designing Regenerative Cultures author Daniel C Wahl

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 and regenerative leadership.

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