The time is now to cultivate a different leadership logic, along with the learning systems that enable our leaders to embrace this new logic amid unceasing transformation and increasing day-to-day pressures. The challenge we face is not simply about digitisation, collaborative ways of working or more efficient operations. Something much deeper, much more fundamental, is being demanded of us. The greatest breakthroughs of the 21st Century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.
At the beginning of 2020, many forecasted that this year would be a game-changer. But none of us could have known just how intense and catalysing 2020 would actually be. Over the past 6 months, world events have evolved us at an accelerated rate. 2021 is about to bring in a whole new realm of inspiring and initiatory energies. Over the next 12 months the heart and intuition will lead the way.
Your heart is your greatest strength. It’s through love, compassion, fairness, sincerity and empathy that we will emerge, like the phoenix rising from the ashes of a world that was. Slowly, the old ways are being dismantled as hierarchical systems and structures crumble before our eyes. This does not mean chaos and devastation. Rather, this process will be implemented as ‘stop:start’. Expect some big announcements that result in great changes. These changes will need some time to embed, and then there will be more changes. This is a process.
“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.”
The Next 12-18 Months
We are stepping into an era that requires we align our head with our heart so that each of us leads our globe with compassion and awareness – front and centre. A disconnected Ego-mind is what triggers negativity, which ‘pushes your buttons’ and gets you off track. The New Earth is calling us all to step into maturity, self-responsibility and higher wisdom to lead the way. Indeed, this is where we are heading. This IS the light at the end of the tunnel.
If you were hoping that the pandemic would be over very soon, reconsider and choose to re-engage yourself. We need to be grounded and practical here. This insight is meant to provide you with a window of enhanced vision that you can appreciate and work with.
“Better to put your heart on the line, risk everything, and walk away with nothing than play it safe. Love is a lot of things, but “safe” isn’t one of them.”
The Next Decade
This is a hugely exciting time to be alive! We will see more changes in the next decade than we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years! Humanity grows and expands our compassion and forgiveness with each new revelation and each new leap. We will reconceptualise the structures of power – whether they are politics, finance, religion, ethnicity, education – because everything will be changing over the next decade.
We are living in the most challenging, and also the most transformational, times in anyone’s living memory. Much of the change will be gradual. Gradual does not mean slow. Re-organising the structures of an entire planet in such a short time frame will be an enormous undertaking and an exceptionally satisfying one for those who are willing to share their gifts. We are each facing some of the deepest struggles of our lives, as our perceptions of our home life, career, relationships, and sense of purpose are upended and recalibrated — over and over again, it seems. Going forward, pause before choosing. Decide to lead with your heart – and use your integrity and strength.
“Once you realise you deserve a bright future, letting go of your dark past is the best choice you will ever make.”
These times of breakdown and breakthrough invoke fear, which is displayed behaviourally in the desire to contract, hunker-down, stick to the tried-and-true, and only daring to tweak the status-quo. Yet, paradoxically, these volatile conditions provide an ideal breeding ground for the emergence of new ways of operating and organising. The ‘new normal’ of business is unceasing transformation, hand-in-hand with increasing stakeholder complexity. Simply put, business-as-usual is no longer an option. In fact, business-as-usual is very much a part of the problem!
In reality, our new normal demands business-unusual. It demands we fundamentally redesign our leadership and organisational development approaches. And there is significant competitive advantage to be gained for organisations who embrace the opportunity to redesign their leadership logic while keeping the wheels on the road.
“In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.”
– Peter Drucker
The Natural Logic of Life
Recently, when asked what their most pressing challenge was, the CEO of a global chemicals company said that it was the need to transform the psyche of the company to one that embraces eco-systemic thinking – where social and environmental drivers are ingrained into day-to-day decision making. For the CEO of a large professional services firm, it was transforming their world-of-work in a way that enables everyone to bring their ‘whole-selves’ to work so that the organisation becomes more purposeful, vibrant, connected and altogether more human. For the Head of Strategy of a global bank it was embedding a learning culture that is not just agile and responsive, but purposeful and all together more human.
More and more of our business leaders are waking up to the realisation that our organisations are actually living systems, rather than machines. That these living systems are intimately entangled with the living systems of society and our more-than-human world. Nature has taught us that for these living organisations to thrive in times of increasing uncertainty and volatility, they must learn to become regenerative. Regenerative business seeks to create the conditions conducive for life, by operating in ways that embody the natural logic of life.
The command-and-control style of conventional business separates work functions from management functions. This creates silo-mentality and hierarchic bureaucracy that relies on a control-and-predict mindset of managing remotely by numbers. The organisation is perceived as a self-maximising machine struggling for survival in a dog-eat-dog world. This hyper-competitive, control-based logic is the opposite of how life actually is.
Vibrant ecosystems flourish through diversity, distributed decision-making, local attunement, and an evolutionary sense of purpose. The emerging future of business encourages wholeness within ourselves, our systems, and our society. It’s a radical departure from the traditional management theory and these are revolutionary times. Yesterday’s logic has failed us. Enter, living systems logic.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
Imagine for a Moment
The goal is to deliver on the purpose of the organisation, resulting in healthy profits. The organisation is viewed as a purpose-driven community, intimately interwoven within the living systems of our wider world. Nothing is separate from anything else, everything is interconnected.
- Flexible and adaptive teams that are empowered to make change happen at a local level, to self-organise and locally-attune amid an ever-changing environment.
- Leaders do not manage remotely through hierarchy. Instead, they facilitate environments where learning, co-creativity and authenticity flourish.
- Decision-making is not hierarchic but distributed.
This logic is the logic of how life really is and it’s simply good business.
“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.”
5 Areas of Focus for Living Systems Logic
There are already plenty of organisations thriving amid uncertainty by applying living-systems logic: the healthcare provider, Buurtzorg; the bank, Triodos; the employment agency, Vaga; the chemicals manufacturer, Scott Bader; the global network of social-enterprise community centres, Impact Hub; the multimedia provider, Sounds True; and the Brazilian hi-tech manufacturer, Semco, to name a few. Here are five important areas for leaders and change agents to focus on in these transformational times:
Connect with others, really listen and share with colleagues within and beyond the organisation. This will create collaborative networks that do more than just brainstorm but level up and prototype the future.
Within the organisation ‘accelerator skunkworks,’ ‘incubators’ or ‘innovation hubs’ operate like cocoons in stealth mode (Google X, for instance) where bright, out-of-the-box innovators across the organisation can engage in entrepreneurial explorations – with the support of the organisation – to invest in these prototypes. This means they can test them out before the activities are either spun off or integrated into the main business operations.
3. Diversity in the Boardroom
Yes, we need more diversity and inclusiveness in terms of age, gender and race – also in our way of thinking – by bringing in non-conformists that provoke and influence with different perspectives and insights. This can be achieved through inviting a wider range of non-executive directors, diverse stakeholder representatives, and a greater variety of external advisers. Utilising forward-thinking consultants and coaches is another way to gain diversity in the boardroom, beyond the traditional mainstream consultancies.
4. Sense of Purpose
As leaders we need to cultivate our inner compass and develop our own coherence within ourselves. To lead we must take the time and energy to embark on a process of ‘knowing thyself’. Only then will we begin to understand our deeper sense of purpose, beyond our ego-minds and masks. When we align our outer actions with our inner sense of purpose, we allow a deeper creative impulse and authenticity to flow through our work. When our organisational sense of purpose resonates with our personal purpose, truly extraordinary things happen – we develop what living-systems scientists refer to as ‘super-coherence.’
5. Time and Space
Taking personal responsibility for our work schedules and recognising that the continual busyness and stress actually undermines our ability to think out-of-the-box and sense our inner compass. Each of us can be more effective at managing our diaries, creating blocks in our schedule for ‘systemic thinking’ where we can reflect, pause and learn to tune-in to our more intuitive awareness and authentic, soulful selves.
Gone with the winds of change is the artificial certainty and mechanistic linearity of command-and-control cultures. The future brings a fresher, purposeful, altogether more human approach to our way of working.
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
The Human Element
It’s time to step fully into the truth of your own existence. The truth of your own personal power and innate ability to choose what you wish to create from the infinite possibilities available to you. The truth is that life itself is a miracle. Take care of your people and your people will take care of your business. Bottom line profits will follow.
It’s no secret that programs directed at employee engagement, leadership development, wellness, and employee assistance all show a significant return-on-investment for employers. Investment in the human element in business is a profit-making proposition.
A Towers-Watson study of 50 global companies, compared those with low regard for sustainable engagement strategies to those with high regard. These strategies include a people-first, heart-based leadership approach, along with emphasis on work-life balance, job clarity, supervisor support, and ethical business practices. The study found that those companies with low engagement had an average operating margin under 10%, whereas for those with high engagement, the average one-year operating margin was close to three times higher, at just over 27%. There is strong evidence that these results may be due to the positive impact that a more heart-centred leadership approach has on employee performance.
“If you find yourself craving approval, you are low on self-love. Stop grasping for a few scraps wherever you can. Go home and make yourself a feast. Love yourself deeply today.”
Leading to Please
Most of us are brought up to go against our natural flow. Whether it comes from family, community, religion, education, peers, or colleagues — somewhere along the way, we’re taught to live up to something outside of ourselves. We’re given a set of values, beliefs and expectations to live up to rather than being encouraged to connect with, and develop, those that are naturally within us. For anyone in a leadership position, this is exhausting! How can you bring out the best in others when you are disconnected from the best in yourself?
Leading to please makes gaining the acceptance or approval of others a top priority, which takes energy and focus away from developing your best self, and bringing your best self to your role. It also splits your focus. Instead of aligning your focus and personal values with the values, purpose and objectives of the organisation, you are tied up with anxiety over how your efforts are received by others. Sometimes, without even realising it, this anxiety can take the form of:
- Taking full credit for the work of your team
- Mistaking fear for respect and leading with an “iron fist”
- Making decisions based on what makes you look best, instead of what’s best for the team or business
- Undermining or ignoring the unique strengths of team members
- Failure to learn from mistakes or acknowledge them
- Feeling overwhelmed by expectations
This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Typically, these behaviours come from over-personalising your role and results. Instead of accepting yourself as you are, you seek acceptance externally, giving everything around you a lot more power over you. When you need outside approval mistakes are seen as personal failures instead of opportunities to learn. A team member’s strength is received as a personal threat instead of an asset to the team. Image has priority over growth and personal success has priority over team or company success. When this happens, there is no trust. There are no shared values within the team. There is no true leadership. The team becomes dysfunctional and blame becomes the norm.
“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
Pants on Fire!
This is what we have been taught: That we are not enough. That our innate wisdom and our life experiences are not enough. That we each, as individuals, do not yet (and possibly will never) possess all that is needed to really make a difference in the world. We have been conditioned to believe that this is true. But look at what this is really saying: That we are powerless.
Look deeper, and you will find that this is a lie. It is an illusion, propagated and reinforced by our modern society. Pervasive beliefs like this one, deeply rooted in our awareness for hundreds or even thousands of years, are a primary reason why we stay so stuck! But we don’t have to be lost, stuck, or confused. Not anymore. We can step out of this lie. We can unlearn old, mistaken beliefs such as “I am not enough” or “I don’t have what it takes to really make a difference.” We can consciously choose to release these lies from our life, and we can instead begin an earnest and intentional search for the truth.
The truth is that, like fractals, we each possess all the power and brilliance of the entire universe! We are celestial beings; we come from stardust. We have infinite potential, and we come naturally equipped with a deep longing to bring forth our highest self. Take a deep breath. Really let this sink in. Feel it deep within your heart. You are not powerless. You are, in fact, infinitely powerful.
“At any particular time, leaders are operating from either fear or love.”
Heart-based leadership is about leading yourself first, knowing your impact and taking responsibility. This might mean unlearning who you are — or who you’ve always thought you need to be — and learning who you want, and have the potential, to be. Through self-acceptance, you can drop the anxiety and gain the clarity and confidence to lead from your heart, inspiring and guiding those around you to do the same.
Think of a horse jumping over a fence. The horse throws its heart out in front, so the rest of its’ body must follow. Throw your heart out in front. Be vulnerable. Be real. Be open to your own strengths and weaknesses, and you will empower your team to do the same. You will build trust. You will establish a culture of growth and you; your team and the organisation will begin to come alive. Together, you will move forward.
Heart-based leadership is a powerful way to connect across age, gender and culture. However, it requires you, as a leader, to work on yourself first. Do the work to get in touch with what you need to improve, then be open about it with your team. Talk about what you want to work on, how you will do it and what end result you want to create. You don’t have to dig into deeply personal details. Instead, say things like, “I’ve realised that I tend to over-personalise feedback. I now know that I need to develop my inner strength and self-acceptance to take feedback less personally. I’m going to continue working on this with the goal of becoming a more supportive leader with whom you all feel comfortable speaking openly.”
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
Open up, share, and ask others how they feel. Co-create together at a heart level; at a vulnerable level. Don’t hide. Be willing to put yourself out there. When you do this, you create power in your world. You activate it within yourself, and it spreads out to others. Vulnerability is hard — for everyone. But vulnerability is the starting point of growth. All it takes is one person to start it — to be the leader — and others will follow.
When that happens, amazing connections are made. People let their walls down and start supporting each other, collaborating and helping each other succeed. They come alive in ways that feed the life of your business. Instead of competitiveness, bickering, defensiveness and lack of motivation, you get cooperation, progress, engagement and joyful energy that propels everyone forward.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Business Moving Forward
Having been raised and programmed by this modern world, our task now is to unlearn all that no longer serves us. Regenerative life-affirming business lead by heart-centred leadership teams is not a utopian dream; it is how life really is. As more people awaken, we see that the shift is happening faster across the world in our business mind-set. The rising popularity of movements such as Conscious Capitalism, Teal, The Purpose Movement and B-Corps heralds the dawning of a new business logic; a deeper richer consciousness that expands not only our perception of organisations as living systems but also our perception of ourselves as purposeful human beings playing our part in an innately interconnected world. Today’s businesses that embrace this living systems logic will be tomorrow’s success stories.
There will be much flatter organisational principles in operation moving forward. There will still be some macro-structures, but they will be almost fractal-like, reflecting the needs and beliefs of those they serve, born of their consciousness, created to liberate and expand, not to diminish or depreciate.
The days of hierarchy are almost past. Flat not tall, giving back not taking, local not remote, flowing not rigid, cooperative and collaborative not coercive, nourishing not depleting … these are directions our new structures and systems will move towards. As generosity and compassion increase, we will evolve new ways to organise together for the purpose of mutual benefit and upliftment.
Not a single one of us will ever be the same, after 2020. This is a collective initiation. This is a massive global awakening. And we are all in this together. If you have made it all the way to the end of this article, the answer is LOVE. Love is the way.
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”