Leadership is always a tussle between management and strategy, between fire-fighting the latest crisis and developing the vision, working in the business and working on the business. The current climate has increased the tension in this trade off. Our attention is pulled right to the very brink of our organisation’s survival and there is no more normal day-to-day. We are in possibly the most acute existential crisis our species has ever collectively faced, and constantly battling with a fog of fear – Are my loved ones safe? Can I make ends meet? Will I survive the crash? Is that tickle in my throat the start of something more serious?
And yet, as we are pulled right into the heart of crisis management, there is also the opportunity to explore the other pole. When the status quo breaks down, it is easier to think outside the box. We can use this unprecedented time to re-envision our business, test out new strategies and make use of the freedom to let go of old ways of doing things. In fact, now we can truly let loose our imagination on the whole future of work! I see articles daily on how this pandemic will be the opportunity to create a new future, and an equal number of articles saying don’t bet on it, it will be just like before. So who decides? If this is a pivotal moment, what is that calling up in you? What is the future you want to create?
This post poses the question: With business as usual on pause, can we expand our sense of leadership to include awareness of the intricately interconnected systems we live in?
There are so many assumptions in that request that the effort is likely to be doomed from the start. Which may explain why so many change initiatives fail, or are measured in such a way as to obscure their failure.
Rather, ask us to get to know your organisation.
Ask us to assess its current health and readiness to walk its path to the future.
Ask us to discover its hidden strengths and blind spots and to hear the full choir of its many voices.
Ask us to find movement when it gets stuck.
Ask us to listen in to the whispers on the wind about what is calling to it from the future.
Ask us to see who belongs here now, and who may be acknowledged for their part and allowed to gracefully leave.
Ask us who is coming.
Ask us what unites your organisation, what fires its passions, what its soul longs for.
Ask us where it sits in its lifecycle and what is the next step to open its fullest potential.
Ask us to explore its impact, both current and potential – its impact internally on the people, soul and history within – and its impact externally, on the marketplace, community and ecosystem that it’s part of.
Ask us to explore where your organisation sits in the sea change to a deeper and more holistic paradigm of conscious business.
So let’s talk about the ‘Consciousness’ word and why it matters to organisational life beyond ideas about mindfulness or personal development. Hopefully in a succinct way…
Some might wish that humans possessed tightly contained minds that are easy to control, mould and train for functional purposes, and which could operate separately from our emotions. You can see how that might make things simpler and more predictable in a management world that requires outputs, deliverables and measurable performance. But in reality, when you hire someone you get all the other stuff – a physical body, feelings and emotions, compulsions and habits, oh and other unknowable outcomes like creativity, originality and moments of genius too! 🙂
To look at the totality of a human being – that is, as a whole person – we need to include the deeper longings and unconscious drivers that generate meaning, fulfillment and the realisation of potential. Research tells us that our inner drives will regularly override rational thinking. These drives originate below conscious awareness, buried in instincts and conditioning. Indeed, the self-fashioned ‘work me’ that shows up to deliver business outputs is often a tiny presenting part of the full person. Imagine then the potential of bringing the whole person to work. And go bigger – imagine the true capabilities that become activated if you make an evolutionary leap and become a purposeful, conscious, co-active agent in a causal universe. “What the @*#?!” I hear you exclaim…
Yes, I am redefining the role and purpose of a human being based on current theory. Superfast version = Quantum physics explains that no experiment happens in a vacuum, or in any truly objective way. ‘Events’ occur in an experiment every time you introduce a human observer. In other words, we affect life. It’s not a static, inert backdrop. Life changes and evolves with us!
And the same is true for organisations. As an evolving, intelligent entity, an organisation is collectively expressed through human agents who go about fulfilling it’s purpose. But we’ve been going about business rather narrowly and blindly. So now we’ve reached the limits of thinking in terms of ‘negative externalities’ and even ‘carbon reduction’. We need a vision and plans of action based on renewal, balance and guardianship of life.
It’s time to become truly conscious and activate all of our awarenesses, which includes our felt senses and visceral connection to life – no more self-numbing, drugging or avoiding. It’s unwise to continue bearing the human and planetary cost of operating within depleted, stressed, unsustainable and under-resourced systems. We need conscious, fully alive people being creative with life to nurture the vibrant future that we want on our beautiful home planet.
In his book ‘Homo Deus’, historian and author Y N Harari articulately and humorously explains why scientists don’t yet understand consciousness. But it doesn’t have to be explained. It has to be experienced and practically applied here and now. We can draw on millennia old wisdom about consciousness from humanity’s treasure chests, as well as nature’s intelligent templates, which have undergone millions of years of testing. There are techniques and methodologies that exist right now and use present-moment phenomenon and the quantum field to work systemically with the entire chain of life.
We can choose to act decisively and innovate a different future reality – one in which sentient life is integral and precious to commercial activity. That’s what consciousness and specifically this conscious business movement is really about.