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Healing Leadership

This is not a story about corporate leaders becoming healers, shamans, or fortune tellers. This story is about making the mission of leaders greater than just profit and status. This is a story of enriching the lives of communities and creating conscious and caring cultures.

There is too much unnecessary suffering linked to the systems and organisations we find ourselves engaged in and constantly navigating: the destruction of the precious environmental ecosystems, the increasing number of people living on the poverty line, the toxic systematic injustices that create enormous divide and harm in the society, the staggering number of people experiencing depression and stress that lead to chronic health problems to name a few.

This brings up a question, whether the leadership that got us here will get us to a better and brighter future?

When you search for a book on leadership, the first few titles that pop up are lists of things of how to do something as a leader. The emphasis is on doing, actioning, driving. In this context, leader is considered as someone who does, manages, directs, controls, rather than leadership as a concept and the being and presence of a leader.

Hortense le Gentil, a global executive coach and the author of Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be, wrote in a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article that “The most effective leadership today isn’t about technical expertise and having all the answers. It’s about being human, showing vulnerability, connecting with people and being able to unleash their potential.”

For decades, we have seen thought of a ‘leader’ as someone, who is unphased, in control and fearless. Showing any emotion was seen as a weakness. This chronic anxiety of showing emotion still plagues our society, which, in turn, gets in the way of us being inventive, creative, focused and more compassionate and inclusive individuals.

Indeed, some of the key reported and sought-after leadership skills on the leader quality list are integrity, communication, self-awareness, gratitude, learning agility, empathy. We see leaders displaying such virtues being openly celebrated and talked about across social media.

However, self-management, self-awareness, empathy, don’t just happen. To fully lean into these virtues and be comfortable with showing up authentically and fully, takes work and a mindset of lifelong learning. According to Norwest CEO Journey Study, 86% of CEOs and founders are investing in improving overall life quality by seeking outside help: one in three executives now have a coach and one in five have a therapist.

So, what is the recipe for becoming a healing leader?

Step one is remembering that this transformation will require investment: financial, time and effort. I would even go as far to say that this is not a bandwagon but a lifetime journey you’re looking to embark on.

Step two is taking care of you by getting to know and manage yourself through building self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Trust me, there are a lot of things you haven’t discovered, noticed, or reflected about yourself. Beware, many of these revelations and truths will be uncomfortable and unpleasant. However, once you find courage to stick with it and stay open minded, you will be rewarded with profound growth opportunities, that will make you a better leader, parent, partner, and citizen of your community.

Step three is an extension to step two by engaging all your senses and becoming a student. Be truly present, ask questions from a place of curiousity and compassion, and fine-tune yourself to capture that what goes unsaid. Observe, who is not sharing decision making spaces with you, who is being cut off, not recognised, not involved. Being an attentive and caring leader will also allow you to make better, more informed decisions.

Step four is expanding the measurement of your worth as a leader from just increased profits and market share to ways in which you serve the community your operations impact: your employees, clients, suppliers, partners, and the environment. In other words, practicing servant leadership.

Being a healing leader doesn’t mean throwing everything you know and have learnt about leadership away (though on some occasions it might be useful) but evolving as a leader. Seeing it not just as a ‘job’ and something you must do, but rather as a ‘state’ and something you have to be.

As you absorb the concept of a healing leader, I will leave you with this quote from Howard Hansen, the author of Healing Leadership – A Survival Guide for the Enlightened Leader: Leadership as a concept needs to be healed, so it can then be healing in itself.”


Useful sources:

Interview with Howard Hansen on Healing Leadership

Hortense le Gentil’s article in HBR

Healing a Broken Spirit: Role of a Servant Leadership


*Originally published in SOCIALight Magazine Conscious Growth column Issue 18. Link


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