Over the past few years, my colleagues and I have hosted monthly sessions with the goal of building a Regenerative Leadership Community. During these calls, we’re expanding on many ideas involving regenerative business practices, the adaptive cycle, and of course, living systems leadership. As a result, we’re uncovering some of the key leadership patterns of people who are working on sustainability globally, regionally, and locally. We’re learning more about how these innovative individuals think about, and practice, leadership.
My contribution during our last session on June 29th included information from Sustainability and Beyond, a recent virtual summit I was honored to co-chair the program committee. The summit included world-renowned experts and business leaders speaking on topics ranging from visionary leadership to the economic imperatives of sustainability, to aspects of equity and justice required for a regenerative future. I would encourage you to follow the link above to learn more about the Summit, as it would be impossible to describe the depth and breadth of the information that was packed into those few days. (I’m still trying to distill much of it myself!)
As co-chair, my role at the summit was to listen deeply to how these remarkable people viewed the world, practiced leadership, and led systems change. What was very clear as I tried to absorb the information presented was that as people, each of these leaders exhibited several common ways or patterns how they thought about and practiced leadership in their systems change work. Here are the 7 patterns that demonstrate how they have been reimagining leadership to create a more regenerative and sustainable global future:
- There’s a strong focus on leading through attraction and influence, rather than command and control. Most leaders working on more sustainable futures abandon more traditional hierarchical structures. This modern leadership mindset helps us nurture important feedback loops, and lessons resistance to change over time.
- Interdependence is deeply understood as part of their worldview and it shaped how they worked with others (partnerships, collaborations, and alliances) and designed and implemented large-scale change. They understood that change flows along lines of relationships and trust and were skilled at inviting opposition and resistance into the conversation to transform resisters into allies. They understood that in a system of connected networks that are interdependent, means that when one thing changes, it will ripple throughout the network creating impact in other areas.
- These leaders, like many others who have embraced a living system model, often make decisions based on and powered by a higher shared purpose. They have all asked the question: What is the deep need in the world (community, region, etc.) that I and my organization are uniquely designed to meet. This purpose links their work with the larger environment and keeps their egos and self-interest out of their work.
- They all planted their feet firmly in system change. This required them to be able to see the present and be able to imagine a better future. Hope is an essential emotion that caused them to show up and start influencing the world around them. This active hope means taking a clear view of reality first, identifying what we hope and desire, and then showing up every day and act in alignment with the better future they imagine, whether or not they believe their actions will be successful.
- These speakers embraced a seventh-generation mindset. I was pleased to hear this concept reverberate throughout many presentations during the summit. The Iroquois Confederacy constitution introduced this concept for their leaders. The leader’s job is to make decisions in the present that includes the unborn voices of children seven generations in the future. Basically, it means to take the long view and that what we do now will greatly impact people “seven generations” into the future. It’s a necessary part of a regenerative leadership style that helps us get out of this quarter-to-quarter, or annual goal setting that we’ve become entrenched in, particularly here in the U.S.
- Indigenous wisdom is providing inspiration for these leaders, and many of the presentations at the summit used lessons from indigenous sources at the conference. Of course, this makes sense, as this knowledge is rooted in thousands of years of living and adapting in a sustainable, regenerative way.
- Finally, it was also clear that these leaders were addressing the audience from the perspective of the whole system, or in other words, a holistic worldview. This viewpoint sees the interconnection between social justice, equity and climate change.So many of our current defaults optimize a part of the system over the whole – money over planet, for example. These leaders were looking to optimize the whole over the different parts of the system.
It was a privilege to be involved in the summit and help curate the themes and patterns that reflected how these speakers were reimagining leadership for our global futures. And it was fun to share it with the Regenerative Community to bounce these and more ideas off of.
I would encourage you to check out the Sustainability and Beyond summit via this link, and to consider joining us for our next Regenerative Community Leadership conversation next Wednesday, July 28th at 1 pm Central. Click on this link for more information on these informative, interactive and enlightening sessions.