The need for a spiritual revolution
A #bookin8days client recommended “Leader as Healer: A new paradigm for 21st-century leadership”. A book about leadership. A new type of leadership. A care-to-dare type of leadership. The current imbalance between left- and right-brain thinking – specifically, the dominance of the former – poses the single biggest threat to the survival of our civilisation. The left brain has commandeered the right in order to reign over us and all we do, but with vastly limited perspective. The resultant disconnection, in which the left brain fails to share its feedback with the right, is a central pillar of the culture of absence in which we find ourselves.
Here is something to think about. Epigenetics is the study of how certain external effects modify gene expression. Epigenetic markers for stress were observed in the next four generations of mice. Disharmonious and unhealthy patterns from the past continue to repeat in our lives, however unconsciously, until they are brought fully into awareness and space is made for healing. We have a moral responsibility to work on ourselves for the sake of our children.
Change is coming
The gravity of this moment is an unprecedented evolutionary opportunity: the choice to integrate timeless contemplative wisdom with the advances of modern science and psychology. This is the moment when what we need most is enough people with the skill, heart and wisdom to help us pull ourselves back from the edge of breakdown and onto a different path.
Do we continue to endorse leaders who are detached and emotionally unavailable, who are incapable of truly relating or listening, and who remain restricted to a narrow bandwidth of linear thinking?
Leadership in this century
Today’s leaders must possess potent powers for logic, reason, discernment and strategic forecasting, yet must also be empathic and therefore embodied; grounded and therefore intuitive; present and therefore awake. They must be both intentional and surrendered, able to embrace the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of our time so as to become agents through which radical disruption transmutes into radical opportunity and planetary crisis into global transformation. Leaders need meta-skills. Moving from a ‘doing’ modality with little or no access to ‘being.’ Because the old type of leadership does not work in a VUCA or BANI (Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear and Incomprehensible) world.
The book is a passionate plea for what the author calls restoration. Restoration through which we reintegrate previously exiled aspects of our nature: physical, emotional and transpersonal. The healthy functioning of body, heart, mind and spirit. Because today’s leaders must possess potent powers for logic, reason, discernment and strategic forecasting. Yet, they must also be empathic and, therefore, embodied, grounded and intuitive.
The need for greater vitality, enhanced connection, and higher intelligence and wisdom. The need for the awakening of transpersonal levels of consciousness The need for the excision of that which is toxic, unhealthy and dangerous to the whole. The need for coherent presence- The need for feeling and empathy. But also the need to excise moral and spiritual tumours from the bodies of organisations or nations.
It is time for a new toolbox
The outmoded belief that traits like empathy, vulnerability and connection equate to weakness. The Leader as Healer understands that unless we acknowledge our grief, we cannot feel our joy; unless we embrace our fear, we cannot know true strength; unless we learn to embrace emotions unconditionally, we limit our access to higher levels of intelligence and insight.
Looking for flow
Flow is how energy works. When all of the physical tension we use to suppress emotion is relaxed, our bodies deeply settle as that formerly blocked energy is freed. Now that it can flow, it naturally metabolises into a resource for dynamic individual and group intelligence. When these emotional energies remain blocked, however, we operate on a narrower bandwidth, less able to feel or sense clearly, and therefore less able to be fully present for ourselves and others.
Being and doing
There are two fundamental modes from which we all operate: Being and Doing. We become consumed by task orientation: constant action, incessant doing. This all leads to what I call a culture of absence, which is a state of separation and collective numbness. People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. What we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive so that our experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.
Being arises from our receptive, emotional and sensing self, while doing describes action directed from the rational, analytical, strategic mind. Being and doing speak to the different halves of the human brain. Hyper-focus on doing has detached us from our emotional and sensing selves and is therefore limited by at least half the intelligence and internal resources we bring to our work. We can think of being and doing as two forms of movement or circles: when rational thinking governs, we tend to proceed along a forward trajectory. But, as we begin to bring being to the fore, we sense ourselves moving back and ‘down,’ as if dropping back into our bodies, and everything changes. We feel more embodied, more rooted in the self. This is a ‘backward circle’ and the foundation of a much broader bandwidth.
The rational mind alone is no longer enough; we have forgotten the deep wisdom of the body, and it is now time to resurrect it. Wherever reason and sensing (doing and being) come together, we experience greater and more coherent processing capacity. When we begin to inhabit the body as a primary way of sensing, feeling and knowing the world, then we find that we as human beings are in a state of intimate relationship and connection with all that is.” Embodiment is one of the greatest gifts of any performer and one we all instinctively crave. It should be no surprise, then, that conscious, engaged physical activity is a key to restoring connection with the body and maintaining good health. High-performing people often have a strong commitment to exercise. Conscious breathing can also bring you home to yourself.
The lessons from the book
- Operating from a larger intention brings into play forces one could never tap from just trying to impose our will on a situation.
- Relocate from the identity of ‘I as thinker’ to ‘I as Presence who thinks, feels and senses.’
- Sometimes, we need to take a metaphorical (or literal) walk in the woods or a walk around the lake.
- Analysing without feeling and sensing other people and situations means we are using less than half of our processing capacity.
- In the East, the two modalities of being and doing have long been recognised as yin and yang, complementary halves that comprise the core principles at the heart of life.
- By relocating into beingness, the Leader as Healer can enfold rich emotional, intuitive and sensing capacities, thereby amplifying their processing power.
- Creating stable integration between being and doing takes practice. It is a path towards mastery.
- Learning to use our attention consciously and deliberately is the gateway through which we can relocate ourselves in being.
- Attention is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
- Paying attention has nothing to do with thinking.
- The core principle of mindfulness is to deliberately and unconditionally pay attention to whatever is arising.
- Emotions are the gateway to our deeper humanity and a richer, more heartfelt, empathic relationship to life and leadership.
- The exiling of emotion is one of the foundational pillars of a culture of absence.
- Vulnerability is at the heart of our human capacity for empathy, suffering, joy, hurt, compassion, loneliness, and connection. Vulnerability is our natural underlying condition.
- The more present and open you become, the better able you are to feel what is happening emotionally in you.
- Those who possess emotional maturity do not react but instead respond.
- We are all born embodied, a natural experience for healthy humans. The body is your primary gateway to a sense of aliveness.
- Emotion is dependent on the flow of energy through the human body. When we block our emotions, we do so by holding tension in the body so that emotional energy is blocked and prevented from moving through us.
- Living a life without purpose is like navigating a stormy sea with no rudder, anchor or compass.
Leader as healer
At a fundamental level, the Leader as Healer rewrites the cultural code, thereby releasing massive amounts of new, creative, purposeful energy. The Leader as Healer knows that purpose is born of contribution and service. The Leader as Healer prioritises reunification with the body. Becoming comfortable with the world of emotions is also a deep and essential part of the work of the Leader as Healer. The Leader as Healer is committed to bringing body, mind and heart together. And the Leader as Healer is committed to self-discovery in order to develop the maturity that can create the conditions for genuine emotional intelligence to flourish in the organisation. The Leader as Healer is committed to creating a culture in which time for deep contemplation can be honoured without having to leave the world. Meditation and mindfulness are two of the most important and powerful resources of the Leader as Healer. The Leader as Healer embodies what poet David Whyte calls ‘robust vulnerability.’
Books that come to mind are “Legacy” but also “Biology of belief“. or “The Diamon Cutter“. It stays fairly abstract (meditate, journal, breathe, etc.). It does not get into the leadership nitty gritty such as “Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family” or even “The habit of excellence”. It is a book that is in between leadership and spirituality, and maybe that is exactly the point of the book.