Book review by Liliana Domingues
“Great leaders are awake, aware and attuned to themselves, to others, and to the world around them…they seek to live in full consciousness of self, others, nature and society.”
Richard Boyatzis, a leadership specialist, wrote down this sentence that has a lot on it. But I guess most of us don’t understand what this means, what is behind these words. Even though many have been spoken and written about leadership, and many are the terms used to talk about leaders: “effective leader”, “servant leader”, “conscious leader”, “brave leader”, “true leader”, … none of them brings to the surface the true meaning of what Richard Boayatzis talks about.
That is the most amazing thing about Giles Hutchins’ and Laura Storm’s book: Regenerative Leadership. In my opinion, this book really “gives birth” and meaning to what Richard Boyatzis talks about.
That is why I write a review of Giles Hutchins’ and Laura Storm’s book Regenerative Leadership: The DNA of life-affirming 21st-century organizations. Wordzworth Publishing. (https://www.regenerativeleadership.co/)
I am very grateful to life for bringing to me the opportunity to read and write about a book that is totally in alignment with what I feel in my heart and mind. It is like this book put it on words, in a very explicit and simple way, what drives me every day to get up at 5 am.
This book in a way gave me a sense of peace and harmony, enabling me to not struggle anymore with my more “engineering and logical” side and with my “spiritual and intuitive” side. But most important of all it gave me the sense that I made the right decision, some years ago, to leave behind a very “stable and normal life” to embark on a disruptive journey of self-discovery, that lead me to live in alignment to my soul, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
And why is that?
Since I was a little girl, I always had this perception that everything was interconnected. By loving and having a deep connection with nature, I always had this sense, that I couldn’t explain, that I was more of myself, by being in nature. I always felt a sense of connection, of being one with it. And I didn’t understand at the time why “others” didn’t have this feeling as I had, in a way that they could even harm and have some “nasty” behaviours against nature. I struggled a lot with this.
As Giles and Laura wrote:
Today’s prevalent worldview separates mind from nature and therefore views it as an array of senseless resources to exploit with no ethical consideration except in terms of the value it has to us, humans. With this mindset, our likelihood of surviving as a race is, as Bateson said, “that of a snowball in hell.”
In this book, Giles, and Laura dive deep in the explanation of what caused a shift from a time where ancient cultures lived in deep communion with nature and with the masculine-feminine qualities to a time where humans see themselves as separate from nature - what they call the Journey of Separation.
This Journey of Separation is characterized by the following stages:
- 1st – the original connection between humans and nature
- 2nd – a rising sense of separation, from around 10,000 years ago onwards
- 3rd – from around 500 years ago till today, a heightened sense of separation
- 4th – an emerging stage being born, which is one of healing, reconnection, and integration.
But what does this reconnection mean?
This re-connection means the integration of the left and right brain hemispheres, the inner and the outer aspects of ourselves, masculine and feminine qualities, and the relationship of humanity and nature.
In my perspective, this doesn´t mean that separation was a “bad” thing. I think that we must look to what humans have been doing in the past centuries with a sense of compassion and not give ourselves the temptation to enter on the “blaming game”. Separation was needed as part of the evolution process of the whole. It was through the separation process that we, as human beings, developed the sense of self-identity, increased our self-empowerment, that was important for us to evolve as separate parts.
But now, we reach a point, due to the imbalances within and around us, where, as Giles and Laura wrote:
“It is vital that we remember, or relearn, how to read the patterns, relationships, energies, insights, and intelligence innate within life”.
Why this reconnection is important?
This reconnection to Life, to what Giles and Laura name: “The Logic of Life”, is what indeed will enable us, as Humanity, to find our way to a more balanced structured, where people and planet can thrive together.
We cannot continue to try to solve our problems with the same level of consciousness that created the problems in the first place. We cannot continue to bring solutions that come from a separate view of ourselves, others, and life in general.
For us to evolve as individuals and as Humanity, we must have a deep understanding and embodiment of the whole system. We must understand that all our actions, even the simplest ones, generate a reaction on the greater whole.
That means, that the simple choice that we make when buying a certain “object”, will generate a consequence on ourselves (body, mind, and spirit), on others (on their body, mind, and spirit) and the Planet.
But you might say that many things are being done in the last two decades about decreasing the impact of our actions. That is indeed a fact. But as Giles and Laura dared to mention:
“(…) sustainability strategies, SDGs, CSR policies, Circular Economics focus mainly on outer aspects while overlooking the deeper underlying issue”. (…) these initiatives are being implemented with the same old mechanistic mindset that created the problems in the first place.”
The approaches mentioned above are what Giles and Laura called “outer sustainability”. They are important, of course, but the issue is that they are still based in a “silos” perspective. While applying “outer sustainability” strategies and measures, we are still disconnected, stressed and out of kilter with life itself. We are not contributing to real transformation and evolution.
That is why we must balance out “outer sustainability” with “inner sustainability”. According to Giles and Laura, “inner sustainability” is the “sustainability that fosters creativity and play, wellbeing and whole-body intelligence, applies nature’s wisdom, thinks in interconnected systems, and considers an individual’s sense of purpose within the whole”.
We cannot just focus on the digital and technical solutions - “outer sustainability”, regardless the urgency that we live in, because that translates itself in operating in the same old unbalanced and inefficient ways. We must promote a balance of the scales between the “outer sustainability” and the “inner sustainability”.
What is the role of leaders in this process of reconnection?
Leaders are the ones that set the tone, by inspiring others in their organisations, communities, and countries. The problem is that leaders are still operating from a mechanistic mindset.
These ways of leading led organisations to operate like machines only focused on efficiency and profit maximization with little consideration for the wider perspective. This profit is largely determined by an economic value disconnected from the social and environmental value. What resulted from this is what we know: climate change, degradation of natural resources, biodiversity loss, massive pollution of air, water and soil, several diseases, including stress, anxiety, depression…
Leaders nowadays, more than ever before, face the pressure to take a position in these issues, to find answers to complex and unencountered problems, to deal with disruptive business models, and an ongoing shift.
The problem is, as Giles and Laura wrote:
“Business leaders often overlook the root problem, and therefore unwittingly treat symptoms superficially, which is to say in the same way they have always done it since the Scientific Revolution.”
The VUCA world that we are living requires that leaders go beyond rational thinking. This “new” and complex world requires a new way of leading and operating. The level of complexity that leaders face today requires that leaders look at the inter-relation of challenges, and not only the fragmented parts of them.
By quoting Giles and Laura:
“(…) the birth of a new leadership norm, one that unlocks the intelligence of life and that thrives on agility, resilience, flexibility, and emergence. Leadership that is systemically attuned to the complex ecosystems we operate within. Leaders who are creating conditions for organizations to become more agile, emergent, and systemically attuned.”
There is a need for leaders to look to integrate a holistic perspective, rather than a narrow view at odds with the social and ecological grammar of life. These types of leaders are the ones more adapted to the challenges of a VUCA world, mainly because they are not caught up by “personal glory”, but more by the way they seek to contribute to the world around them and make an impact for the greater good.
The leaders that are needed are the ones:
“(…) who want to achieve more than just profit but also a positive difference. People want to feel a meaningful connection with the value. People want to feel a meaningful connection with the value they create during their workday, rather than feeling like lost corporate cogs enslaved in the monolith of machine mentality. People want to reconnect with their inner nature and work in soulful organizations that enhance life.” - Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm
Giles and Laura explore this new way of leadership. As they wrote:
“A way that enables our leaders to be a force for good, catalysing and spawning new systems and structures that create more value than they take. Rather than merely reducing our negative impact on life, doing less bad, we can seize the opportunity to constructively contribute to life’s evolution.”
This way of leadership is Regenerative Leadership. It is the type of leadership that enables leaders to see organizations, and life itself, as interconnected emergent systems. That means that organizations must be agile, vibrant, resilient, responsive, innovative, diverse, and regenerative.
Regenerative leaders are the ones that will enable organizations to thrive in the uncertain times that we are living.
How this book helps you to be a Regenerative Leader?
In this visionary and hugely exciting book Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm share the insights gleaned from a lifetime of working with several organizations, but most of all they share what they learned with their personal experiences on embracing their journey of reconnection.
They developed the DNA model of Regenerative Leadership that in a simple, but interconnected way, explains very well the capacities you need as a Regenerative Leader.
By reading this book, more than just having the tools and techniques that you can apply, you will be called to immerse and dive deep in yourself, and propel a more meaningful connection with your existence, not only as a leader but most of all as a human being.
You will know the importance of embracing yourself, and others, but also embracing a level of consciousness that enables you to take in more, listen to others, accommodate contradictions and paradoxes, encourage collaboration, integrate perspectives, and see systemically.
You will feel inspired by Giles and Laura personal stories, and you will be willing to become more than a “leader”, you will be willing to be who you truly are a life-steward, a caretaker, a co-creator, and a driver of humanity reconnection.
Thank you, Giles Hutchins, and Laura Storm, for your journey as visionary leaders, but most of all as human beings that question themselves and life in general, and through that process co-created such a piece of inspiration.
Continue to follow us on AMARNA Vida’s LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/amarnavida/ where we will continue to give you tips to become a more conscious organisation. Also, visit us at our website www.amarnavida.co
Be healthy, happy, and sustainable.
Founder and Executive Director
Powered by AMARNA Vida’s team