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Leading By Nature

October 25, 2021

Earlier in October, before we launched our new communications agency Wilful, the leadership team went for a walk in the woods with author and regenerative leadership business coach, Giles Hutchins. Just before the pandemic took hold, Giles moved his family and his practice to Springwood, 60 acres of ancient woodland in Sussex. Despite the challenges of launching a venture in the midst of COVID, hundreds of people have already experienced the inspiring and restorative power of time spent reflecting on leading regeneratively whilst walking in Springwood’s glorious setting.

Giles uses the serenity of the woods, focusing parts of the walk on specific trees to help people let go of their day-to-day work stresses to reflect on the way nature organises and manages things. We talked about how trees can sense when we are there through vibrations in the ground; how they share resources with other species through mycelium in the soil and how nature has evolved symbiotic relationships that create conditions for different organisms to thrive simultaneously by working with, rather than against each other.

Reaching a clearing, and sitting around an open air fire, we were asked to think about how the old mind-set of leadership and organisational development is no longer serving us well.  It’s mechanistic, top down, silo’ed approach compartmentalises activities and relationships in an effort to make things easier to control. Organisations are treated like machines, Giles contends, with people classified as ‘human resources’ alongside other inputs like capital and energy.

In this way of thinking, value and success have been measured narrowly on growth and profit which can lead to poor decision making when it comes to externalities like the environment and fairness.  This mind-set has contributed to the stress we face today in the workplace where there are still too many inflexible, unsustainable and ultimately fragile organisations.

Giles proposes instead that we adopt the logic of life, a timeless ethos which takes its inspiration from nature.  By recognising that our organisations are complex, relational systems (rather than machines) we can start to create conditions for the ecosystem to flourish, adapt and evolve. Organisations need to balance the needs of stakeholders rather than species, but the goal remains resilient, sustainable living systems.

Nature is regenerative, we need our organisations and systems to learn from the natural world because we only have the resources of one planet. What do we mean by ‘regenerative’?  To work the way life works, creating conditions that allow life (and all stakeholders) to thrive.  Giles has called this approach to regenerative leadership, Leading by Nature and explains that it has two dimensions:

For the leader – the ‘inner’ is connecting to our true nature within; tapping into our essence so we lead with authenticity, coherence and purposefulness.  The ‘outer’ is about harmony with nature, creating generative spaces where trust, responsiveness and developmental learning thrive.  This inner-outer coherence allows us to create regenerative potential in others.

For the organisation – the ‘inner’ is the culture, values, meeting conventions and decision-making protocols that pervade the organisation’s way of being.  Creating a more agile, adult-adult, diverse and inclusive way of working unlocks potential.  The ‘outer’ is the strategy, customer value propositions, supply-chain and wider stakeholder relationships that drive how the organisation shows-up in the world. Reaching beyond ‘sustainability’ into ‘regenerative business’ we help stakeholders (including society and the environment) flourish through the products, services, experiences and communities the organisation facilitates.

To summarise:  Leading by Nature taps into nature’s wisdom by shifting from a mechanistic mind-set into a regenerative mind-set that enables individuals, teams, organisations and our stakeholders to flow, adapt and evolve in these volatile times.  Interested? You can read more about Giles’ thinking Here.

This article was written by Narda Shirley Co-CEO of Wilful.

About Wilful

Wilful is a new kind of communications agency that works at the intersection of innovation and sustainability to amplify the ideas solving the world’s biggest problems. The Wilful team is on a mission to help clients in the transition to a low carbon, regenerative economy.

Wilful’s task force approach blends disciplines to deliver an agile and adaptable client service drawing on the expertise of two well established agencies with a complementary focus: Cherish with its track record of working with mass market digital disruptors and Gong with its focus on corporate and B2B, often in sustainable development.

Headquartered in London, Wilful has a global network of partners: in Africa it is anchored by Gong’s business in Kenya and in Europe and the US it is represented by Over There, the group of independent agencies that Cherish co-founded.

To find out more, visit www.thewilful.com

For more on Giles’s Leadership Immersions in Nature, visit https://www.leadershipimmersions.com/

You can listen to a recent podcast by the World of Wisdom with Giles Hutchins

If you wish, you can also join the LinkedIn Community Leadership Immersions

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