By Sahana Chattopadhyay and originally published on medium.com
Exploring the leadership qualities necessary to design life-affirming and regenerative businesses.
This is the first of two parts. Part 2 is here.
In a recent meeting of the Business Roundtable, “the CEOs of nearly 200 companies just said shareholder value is no longer their main objective”. Given the dominant paradigms of endless growth and shareholder profit at any cost, the articulation of this sentiment from prime business circles is a shift indeed.
Of course, it needs to be seen whether this is only talk or is it backed by commitment and intention. Nonetheless, it is proof that we have reached a point of stagnancy and exhaustion with our old models and structures. There is no further benefit to be gleaned from them. In fact, clinging to the old ways is now proving to be chaotic, cataclysmic, and even apocalyptic.
In a deeply complex, inter-related and interconnected world, every single thought we have, each decision and action we take has far-reaching impact — often beyond our ability to comprehend. And this is multiplied manifold when the actor is a large organization. Hence, it is time to change the underlying narratives, metaphors, and consciousness that are driving today’s organizations.
This requires a complete reinvention and re-designing of the fundamental organizational principles, ethos, and purpose — the very raison d’etre of organizations must shift. New strategies, technologies, and processes superficially affixed on top of the existing paradigms and worldviews will not work. The old debilitating and destructive patterns will creep in through the backdoor, under different names and guises.
The shift from maximizing shareholder profit to the well-being of all calls for an awareness-based, conscious transformation toward building life-affirming, regenerative, and thrivable organizations.
In this post, I have attempted to explore some of the key dimensions and facets of the leadership quest that this shift is asking of us…
We are at a transformational moment in human history — on the cusp of a profound transition from an Industrial Growth Society (IGS) to a Life-Sustaining Society (LSS).The breakdowns on multiple fronts are heralding the destabilization of the old order.
The system is literally self-terminating. And as Arundhuti Roy says so eloquently, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Joanna Macy calls it The Great Turning. What we are collectively experiencing as decay and disintegration, disequilibrium and dissolution are the death throes of an old-world order.
In the face of this destabilization, our organizations and leadership must become amplifiers and compasses for another world — one which is built on the principles of thrivability for all and not only for a handful of the rich and powerful. Michelle Holliday describes “thrivability” thus:
In practice, thrivability is about identifying and committing to your organization’s own best means of enhancing life’s ability to thrive. And it’s about aligning with life’s core operating patterns across every aspect of the organization.
Is the idea far-fetched? I don’t think so. Is it necessary? I can think of no other purpose for the existence of an organization in today’s context. Will it be easy? Absolutely not.
It will require each and every one of us to operate from and aspire to our highest selves, to reclaim our essential humanity lost to years of conditioning, and to push back against the forces doing their utmost to drag us backward. As Umair Haque says,
“Organizational leadership today means building an organization that is a model for the world it hopes to create. That models — demonstrates, displays, shows, exemplifies, for all to see — the better world that it hopes to spark.”
However, our current organizational paradigms and business models reward ruthlessness, aggression, cunning, competitiveness, authoritarianism, and an overarching “what’s in it for me” attitude. Unfortunately, these very traits strip us of our innate humanity and purpose, which are imbued with generosity, gratitude, compassion, courage, joy, love, and meaning.
These qualities find little place in our organizations today — or lurk and hide in corners, afraid to reveal themselves for fear of ridicule, contempt, and condescension. This has created workplaces that are devoid of purpose, possibilities, and promise. People are literally ‘Dying for a Paycheck.’
Given this backdrop, I have used the phrase “leadership quest” deliberately. I believe leaders and each one of us have to “undertake a journey toward actualizing our highest future potential” in the service of a thrivable and regenerative world. And this quest will see an unfolding of pioneering and regenerative leadership principles and ethos necessary to build a life-sustaining society….
It is a quest, a journey of human evolution, a collective awakening of consciousness that is already taking place across the world in many shapes and forms.
We are at a unique stage in human history where technology and human consciousness are evolving and growing rapidly and exponentially. Their intersection — if put in the service of the well-being of all sentient beings and our Planet — can have an astounding impact.
And our organizations can become platforms and holding spaces for The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Wouldn’t that be a worthy quest for all?
The inspiration for this post came while reading Jenny Andersson’s summary of the Connectle webinar on Regenerative Leadership 2 — Becoming Imaginal Cells: Co-Creative and Collaborative Leadership for the Future. As I read, a few thoughts arose that I have tried to capture here in relation to regenerative leadership, the leadership quest, and Leading in Uncertain Times.
In Part 2 Sahana explores the pathways for a Leadership Quest.
Featured image/graphic link, block quoting and some paragraph spacing added by Enlivening Edge Magazine.