I hear this all the time, but what does it really mean? How do you actualize it? What does it look like in action? How does that change/inform your behavior? How is the world different when that is a lived experience? I think these are important questions to ask each other and ourselves.
In working to turn this ship around I keep searching for the core, the foundation, the leverage point that will generate the most impactful change. We speak about ‘going back to nature’ about reconnecting to nature. So is nature the foundation, the core? We know we are a part of nature, but that doesn’t sit so well with some of us. We came out of the jungle, we don’t want to go back. We live in cities – how can people in apartments connect to nature?
Janine Benyus’s words about how nature really works, keep coming back into my head: All actions create the conditions that support life. Is it life that is the core, the foundation? Respect and reverence for life, is that the magic ingredient? I do believe that that is the path to shift us from where we are to where we need to be. Respecting and revering life! What does that look like? Are the Jains the perfect example? They walk, devotedly sweeping before them so they don’t step on an insect. They believe that revering life is avoiding death. Is that true in nature? Nature seems to accept death, not avoid it. So what does revering life look like?
All life is conscious and even some things that don’t seem conscious – like stones – can be seen as conscious. Physics tells us that the connections protons and neutrons have for each other exists no matter the distance. They respond to each other instantaneously no matter how far away they are from each other. They exhibit oneness. Therefore anything that has a boundary that is maintained is conscious – choosing to stay connected instead of breaking apart into individual parts. Is consciousness the core, the foundation?
Again I’d say yes. Consciousness is expressed in life and expressed through nature. For me that is why nature is so significant in our search for oneness. Nature is the expression of what it means to be so connected that everything is interconnected – nothing can exist without the other. Life and consciousness really do include us. We know – personally, when we have honored our own life and our own consciousness or dishonored them. Thinking this way offers up a real-time, personal system of measurement. We know when we are in touch and respectful of life, because we feel that disrespect inside of ourselves.
Western civilization is not designed for this. Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass makes what was to me a startling revelation. In her native Potawatomi language there is no gender. There are no words that signify woman or man. The distinction that is crucial to them is animate or inanimate. Think about that; everything that is animate uses the same pronouns as are used for people, for family. Everything that is animate is a ‘who’ only inanimate things are its. Even stones are ‘who.’ This is the shift we need to make. We need to know, deep in our bones, that we are all one, that we are all important and worthy of respect and, yes, reverence – even other humans.
In Kashmir Shavism everything is God. Think about that, everything is God. As a practice that means that nothing is pushed away and everything has it’s place. Finding the ‘fit’ of horrible disasters into your life is a healing experience. Like in childbirth resistance is pain, so in life resistance is what brings the trauma and anguish that so cripples us. Embracing Life does not mean condoning awful things, but it does mean respecting the situation and dancing with it until the ‘fit’ becomes known. Much like running a rapids it is working with the powerful energies of the water that is the thrill of the adventure. We are all ONE – all entitled to respect and appreciation, to be experienced with gratitude and yes, even reverence.
We have been seduced by the thought that leadership means that the person designated as "leader" does something that makes others what to do something too. A corollary of that is that "others" don't want to do anything and wouldn't, if it wasn't for the "leader."
What if that wasn't true? What if, let's just suppose, the "others" really, really wanted to do something. Consider for a moment if you might be an "other," do you want to do something? Do you have dreams and desires? Do you think you just might have solutions to some problems you see everyday? Do you?
So, if "others" do have dreams, desires and possible solutions, what role does the "leader" play? What if, "leader" was a job description, much like teacher, or mentor, or janitor? If "leadership" was a job title, what would the job description look like? Humm, maybe a little like teacher, a little like mentor, a little like coach, and a little like trailblazer, and maybe just a little like scout? Maybe the "leaders" job is to evoke from the "others" their innate abilities, dreams and desires? Maybe the "leader" is really a cheerleader with vision?
That leads to another seduction. "Leaders" often think that that job title means they can now do whatever they want. They have dreams desires and potential solutions that they really, really want to try out. Good on them! What that usually comes with, however, is the whining about the "others." Stories about how "they" don't understand, how "they" won't follow through, about how "they" don't really care and worries that what they do or want to do won't last.
This seduction is most often seen in organizations where the leadership changes about every 4-5 years for top leaders and about every two years for up and coming stars.
Michael Watkins surveyed Fortune 500 company HR Directors and found that executives had an average tenure of 4 years; high-potential managers 2 1/2 - 3 years, he quotes Brad Smart as saying that the cost of a failed executive hire was 15 to 24 times base compensation.
This is expensive in every way. The constant yanking around that happens as "leaders," who believe this seduction, strive to make their own mark, at the cost of the organizations progress. This becomes a never-ending cycle, one that organizations survive in spite of the turmoil it causes.
In some organizations and in many governmental roles tenure is mandated with the belief that change will prevent corruption. This process has become so ingrained that leadership succession is almost mandated in some companies.
Organizations that continually rotate leaders select for those that can "get their way" the fastest. The focus on manipulative power, political cunning, and strong will have more to say about the character of the person, than about their ability to serve and build the organization.
These two seductions create a lazy approach to leadership. It is way easier to try and get your own way than it is to listen and hear what the collective is saying. History is littered with "leaders," including kings and others, who tried to go against the will of the people and paid dearly. It is much easier to frighten and cajole, manipulate and out smart than it is to erase self-doubt, clarify vision and believe in others even when they don't believe in themselves.
We are not taught collaborative techniques to work and play together, we are taught competitive techniques that keep us separate and reinforce the belief that one someone is better than anyone else.
Knowing these seductions and being able to address them is critical as we move into regenerative business practices. The pressing need for organizations to be flexible and resilient, the demand for innovation that is off the charts, all call for a leadership that is skilled in evoking the very best from "others." This kind of shift cannot be done by one person - no matter how skilled and forceful. In fact force is the opposite of innovation as it is an expression of fear, not experimentation, trust or curiosity - all components of creativity and innovation.
The ability to be collaborative, to evoke the best from others and to create a culture of excited experimentation and innovation are the hallmarks of the new transformative leadership and are the new measures of a leader practicing resilient intelligence.
By applying the ‘methods’ nature uses to create thriving ecologies, by acting with each other the same way that the rest of the planet’s life forms interact, by recognizing our interdependence and working to strengthen it, transformational leaders use the dynamics of systems and the Resilient Values Set™ to engage with each other that evoke the best from us.
All of us are seeking to contribute, to grow in service to what is important to us. We want to contribute to the grater good and we want to see the results of our labor create a thriving world, not a desiccated desert, yet when we look around that not what we see. Knowing that nature is both regenerative and distributive surely gives us a clue about how we should behave. The world should be better for our presence. Everyone should benefit from what we do, make, create, but that’s not the case.
There are just two of the fifteen values from the Resilient Values set™ that can make a huge difference in our lives, if we but lived them: Work to Maintain the Health of the Whole, and All actions Create the Conditions that Support LIFE. Think about these and consider who living just these two would impact your own daily life choices.
I’m open for conversation and coaching – contact me anytime: (509) 934-5930 or by email at Bridge2Partnership@gmail.com
In times of difficulty sometimes things take on new meaning. In my Spiritual Practices class I was struck by a new understanding of hospitality. When things get difficult and scary, when things don’t seem to be going my way the need for hospitality just increases. In times of strife hospitality can be expressed by giving people, (the ‘other’ side), the benefit of the doubt.
Nothing can be harder when I cannot imagine how ‘they’ can think that. Nothing can be harder when I know ‘they’ have got it all wrong. Nothing can be harder when I have to wonder ‘how dare they.’ But I’m sure that if I bring curiosity into the situation and wonder, instead of declaring, then perhaps I can be more hospitable to those who seem to think differently.
We are all such unique individuals. The process of individuation by which we learn and understand what makes us not only special but valuable to others can get lost in the individualism that sees ‘me’ as the only important being. In truth, the interconnectedness that this time has made so clear, offers up the importance of the uniqueness of each of us that is manifested in the interdependence that makes our lives.
Sometimes that very interdependence, that being needed, can be felt as restrictive, because interconnection requires small ‘sacrifices’ of self in order to work together. When that feeling of being restricted prompts people to distance themselves from others instead of reaching out in curiosity, then the circle of interdependence gets broken.
Now is the time for me to practice genuine hospitality, to give others the benefit of the doubt. I need to trust they have the same goals even if they approach the situation differently. I need to appreciate being needed and not run from the demands that makes on me. I need to make strengthening that interconnectedness my service. I need to open myself and extend that hospitality to others.
Kathryn Alexander, MA
Regenerative approaches require a deep integration with nature. Collaboration requires different structures and ways of working together. If we want different results we have to do things differently!