Leadership style fits the values – the foundational values that inform the world-view, of the leader. Leadership has evolved over time. New ways of moving people to do things have come into being as our confidence in living systems has grown. As a species we seem to be evolving, almost in spite of our selves.
The earliest leadership approach was framed by fear – fear of the other. The various values that inform this style are centered around loyalty. Loyalty was shorthand for acknowledging obedience to someone recognized as an authority. The assumption that ‘we’ need to be protected from ‘them’ justified many actions with the ‘other’ that would not be allowed with the ‘inside’ group. Secrecy, deception, vengeance are a few of the tolerated behaviors that this style of leadership allows. We have seen a very public demonstration of this on the American political stage just recently.
According to Jane Jacobs the second type of leadership came from the desire to trade with neighbors, people that may have recently been at war with us or might be in the future. How do you engender trust with such people? Here the core value is honesty, a value that is often at odds with loyalty. In such a fragile type of relationship it is imperative to get a voluntary agreement and to codify that in contracts. Innovation and a fierce commitment to competition are two other drivers in this second scenario. The focus on comfort and convenience have been at the heart of so much commerce that we have taken it for granted and not really paid attention to the impact. Now we are beginning to see that is one of the major drivers destroying our world and social entrepreneurship is striving to make a difference in other ways.
Given that we are watching so many of our foundational systems, medicine, education, law, etc. begin to collapse the visionary leader is starting to look for avenues that will build the world anew. To do that requires a dramatic shift in leadership. Leadership by autocratic command generates a more, faster, better approach to problem solving that does not yield the curious, creative approach that solves complex messy problems like those we are currently facing. Neither does the creative and innovation focused leadership that is seeking new products getting to the market faster. Leadership must now be much more strongly concerned with not only the what, but with the how. It is not paying attention to the how that has gotten us into trouble.
The regenerative leader must be concerned with the impact of business practices as well as sales. Design is key – modular to ensure ease of recycling, material resources – mimicking nature so that the earth is left better for her contribution using full cycles and no poisons or waste. These require way more curiosity and creativity than ever before. To mimic nature, you need to know nature, so biology becomes a new business skill. Here two key values from the Resilient Values Set™ become invaluable for setting the context for decision-making: Work to maintain the integrity of the whole, and all actions create the conditions that support LIFE. Regenerative leaders are LIFE centric, not profit centric.
LIFE centric leaders, care for their people, they care for their community, and they care for their planet. They use their understanding of living systems to manage and troubleshoot. They encourage experimentation to generate the innovation this new approach to business and life requires. Regenerative leaders love to see things around them thrive and they use that interior experience as a compass to tell themselves if they are proceeding in the right direction, or not. Using their heart to drive their head, they are curious, joyfull and exciting to around. The goal to thrive while doing good business makes work meaningful and exciting.
Be rightly suspicious when all you hear more, bigger, faster coming out of some ‘leaders’ mouth. Leaders now ask not what you can do for their company, but what can our company do for the planet?
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!