Dr. Kathleen E. Allen consults with organizations and corporations around issues of leadership and organizational change. She has done extensive research into the emerging field of Biomimicry – leadership lessons drawn from the realm of nature. In “Leading from the Roots,”she offers insights from the world of nature and ecology that serve as metaphors and templates for sustainable ways in which organizations and their leaders should function so that everyone benefits beyond the bottom line.
The author opens the book with a wonderful example of a “living bridge.” In the state of Meghalaya in northeast India, one of the wettest places on earth. crossing flooded streams can be a challenge in the monsoon season. Over the centuries the inhabitants have learned to use the unique route system of the strangler fig tree. They guide the complex root system to grow across the stream, eventually taking root in the adjoining bank. Over the course of two human lifetimes, the tree grows to the point where it forms a living bridge that is able to withstand the flood waters that flow during the monsoon, and the village inhabitants can use the living bridges to cross the stream during all seasons of the year.
“Ever since I first heard of these remarkable bridges, they have shaped and expanded my thinking and my work in leadership and organizations. For instance, the living bridges have given me insights into how to view leadership transition. Instead of approaching the transition between a retiring executive and a new leader as an abrupt ending and new beginning, I now seek to imagine how the organization can create a living bridge where the knowledge and wisdom of the retiring executive remains in the organization and the new leader extends that legacy into the future.” (page 10)
The book is structured with nine chapters outlining specific lessons and principles derived from nature: “Nature Runs on Sunlight,”” In Nature, Waste Is Never Wasted,” “Nature Rewards Cooperation,” etc. The final two chapters contain the author’s challenge and call to action to create organizations and leaders who apply these principles to mimic the wisdom of nature. She implores the reader to stop thinking of an organization as a static machine, but rather as a living, breathing, and evolving organism.
For this book to be of practical value to an organization, the wise leader would use the questions that the author provides at the end of each chapter, and have his or her leadership team engage in deep discussion of how these principles and laws of nature might be applied to their specific organization.