By Guest Contributor Nicholas Janni, Author of Leader As Healer
When the words Leader as Healer first dropped into my mind over three years ago I sensed that, unusual as the term was, I should at the very least listen and contemplate. As the territory within it gradually revealed itself, I tentatively mentioned the words to several CEO clients, ready to have them dismissed. Their response, however, was an unequivocal ‘yes’.
Three years later, as we still struggle with the devastation of Covid-19, the ever more worrying inability to genuinely implement what is needed to avoid climate crises, and the many other issues I need hardly detail here, the words have taken on urgent meaning. They sit at the core of my work with leaders and teams, and in my book (UK publication March 24th, US June 28th).
There are a growing number of deeply inspiring initiatives within the business world and beyond to address the challenges of our times. Look for instance at my colleague and thought-leader Andrew White’s Leadership 2050 newsletter for outstanding articles and interviews.
My work is dedicated to exploring the inner development that I believe is required of leaders alongside, or perhaps at the core of effective outer action. It has long struck me that people are thrust into positions of senior leadership and responsibility with a lack of inner development that in many professions would be unthinkable. We need look no further than many of our politicians to see the damage this creates.
From the age of 16, when I experienced an unsought yet life-changing ‘awakening’, it has always been clear to me that we collectively live in and normalise a relatively small version of reality. Through many years of study and practice – for twenty years of directing and teaching acting in the theatre, and then in the last 25 years of work with executives – I have come to understand this ‘small’ version more and more clearly – what it is, why it is, and what is needed in order for it to melt. The dire consequences of its limitation are also ever more starkly evident.
Leader as Healer is in essence an urgent call to repair, to correct frameworks of thinking and acting in which doing eclipses being, and hyper-rational, analytical thinking relegates feeling, sensing, intuiting and the transpersonal to the outer fringes of life. I believe we need to see clearly how fragmented we have become, and the much higher possibility of the brilliance and sophistication of our thinking capacity taking its rightful place in a greatly expanded and coherent whole. As servant, rather than as master.
First, some more of the territory:
The biggest danger in this imbalance is that thinking does not feel, that is not its purpose. This leads to cultures of ‘absence’ rather than cultures of ‘presence’, and a multi-level disconnection, from ourselves, from each other, from nature; closed or numb hearts and a dangerous forgetting of the fundamental sanctity of life.
We have forgotten how much of us has gone ‘offline’. Although most of us have momentary experiences of expanded perception and connection, the weight of the collective ‘agreements’ about reality inevitably close down the expansion. Correcting this requires big commitment.
We cannot effectively lead teams and organisations, nor meet the wider challenges of today from this limited consciousness. It is not fit for purpose. Change is urgently needed.
The path of development must be based on a multi-level approach of bringing as much of ourselves as possible back ‘online’. The exiled, wounded parts as well as our higher functions, ones that have been described in every culture for several thousand years.
This is not a matter of adding a bit of meditation or mindfulness to an already dysfunctional operating system to make it work better, but rather, integrating what works well, while progressively moving into a massively upgraded version of ourselves, a version that is genuinely game-changing.
And then the primary elements of the work of Leader as Healer:
Re-writing the relationship between Being and Doing
Re-discovering the power of embodiment – understanding how much we have left our deep inner home, how the body is a primary gateway to aliveness, groundedness and to multiple levels of subtle information about everything around us.
Re-writing the way we think about emotion. Dissolving the idea of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotion. Understanding how we needed to exile many of our emotions as we grew up, how much of our life-force is locked away in those emotions, and what it means to build the capacity for integration. This includes intergenerational and collective aspects of our emotional structure.
Exploring what the much used word ‘purpose’ really means, and how the inevitable inheritance of the drive to ‘fit in’ limits the fire of a life of true purpose.
The essential role of meditation and mindfulness, not as tools to de-stress or focus better, but as gateways to an altogether new perception and experience of the world, and as a gradual melting of our core experience of separation. Included here are tools and practices to be used throughout the day, whatever we are doing, enabling a much deeper participation in life and a greatly enhanced capacity to relate.
Exploring the nature of creativity and innovation, and why the phrase ‘the idea came to me’ invites a re-write of the notion that we ‘do’ creativity’. As every true artist, and many scientists know, the really new levels of insight and understanding come to us when we understand what it means to create a heightened receptivity and ’emptiness’, for which we need to upgrade our capacity to be with, and even celebrate ‘unknowing’.
The time is Now!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicholas Janni is a transformational coach and leadership development expert. Over the last 20 years, he gained an international reputation for his leadership programmes, designed for chief executives and top teams from diverse sectors, public and private. Nicholas also teaches at Oxford University and the IMD Business School.
Leader As Healer outlines both a theoretical and practical map towards a new form of leadership, one that embodies the ‘skill, heart, and wisdom’ that the current moment demands. The pathway Janni describes is one of integration and restoration, which is designed to reawaken the innate human capacities – physical and emotional, individual and transpersonal – that were previously discarded and forgotten during our perilous journey towards profit-maximization and “infinite” economic growth. It offers a way to grow ourselves as leaders and to heal our organizations.