Regenerative Leadership develops a leadership framework for building regenerative organizations. Hutchins and Storm argue that "when looking around the world today, as conscious human beings we might see the erosion of ecosystem that sustain all life, the trash and plastic island in our oceans, the declining insect populations…then we might also see the volatile political climate…social inequality…increasing levels of stress, depression, and burnout…both our outer and inner landscapes are under great strain". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019) The question that Hutchins and Storm seek to answer is what can we do about it?
Addressing this challenge requires a radical shift in leadership thinking: The climate emergency has laid down a line in the sand, and we only "have 12 years to turn this around or else we are facing a dire situation. The situation that cannot be solved at a political level alone- it takes all of us…leaders of all walks to life to step up with courage and conviction". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.34) In other words, addressing this challenge starts with us individually seeking to reconnect with ourselves. "Have you ever put in more hours at work in an attempt to feel (temporarily) good or worth? While we busy ourselves with outer 'doing' we are numbing our inner 'being'". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.14) For many leaders, this means working on yourself. Holding in your impatience and our need to be heard and at the front.
Leaders are under increasing pressure to deal with complexity but don't have the necessary skills: As leaders, we need to build new skills to operate in an increasingly complex landscape where 20th-century skills no longer fit the 21st-century's needs. "79% of…leaders described their biggest challenge as leading in complexity, yet less than 50% felt quipped to lead in these complex business environments". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.28) Often, a lack of self-awareness prevents leaders from dealing with complexity and "creates friction and negative ripple effects throughout the organization". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.129)
We require a new way of leadership thinking based on understanding the wider system we're operating in – awareness-based Leadership. We must remember that "how we show-u[ and interact with one part of the system sends ripples throughout the system". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.61) We need to understand how we impact the entire system we're operating in, moving beyond a focus on shareholder value and even stakeholder value towards life-affirming value. For Hutchins and Storm, this means businesses and organizations building developmental and purpose-led cultures; regenerative, agile and self-managing operations; and integrating sustainability and systemic reporting.
Developmental and purpose-led culture: effective regenerative Leadership should focus on unlocking the potential of our people, creating space for them to thrive. "We must seek to encourage people to bring more of their whole selves to work – bring their differences and uniqueness to the table" (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.109). Creating an organization where people are free to grow and admit their weakness is the single biggest opportunity to unlock organizational resources. "In an ordinary organization, most people are doing a second job no one is paying them for…most people are spending time and energy covering up their weaknesses, managing other people's impressions of them, playing politics…hiding their limitations. We regard this as the single biggest loss of resources that organizations suffer every day. Is anything more valuable to a company than the way its people spend their energies?" (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.189)
Agile and self-managing organization: mechanistic organizational structures – hierarchies and bureaucracy – decrease the ability of organizations and individuals to see new potential and address emerging challenges quickly. We want an organization that is being challenged – "not tension in a system signifies no aliveness, no learning, no evolution". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.109) Building a self-managing organization takes time. It requires trust to be developed, staff coaching, and leaders to shoulder the blame when things go wrong.
Integrating sustainability and systemic reporting: much of our business literature focuses on organizations as if they work like clockwork – assuming they can be controlled and deployed in controlled ways. In doing so, we have created silos of separation in our organizations. Our goal is to break down silos - creating a connection between people.
This shift requires Leadership and organizations to emphasize leadership dynamics that promote self-awareness and systemic awareness. Self-awareness is when individuals gain perspectives on their thoughts, habits, behaviours and blind spots – in short, when we're more aware of who we are. Systemic awareness is Leadership through an understanding of networks, flows, and relationships within systems – how does our organization engage with and contribute towards our world? This also requires us to create space and time for rest and reflection – "we have created a culture where…we want non-stop great ideas, the execution, the rewards, the performance, without factoring in the need for regeneration and restoration…" (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.230)
How do we make purpose more central to our organizations? People need to believe in the organization to feel a sense of purpose, and people need a purpose to engage effectively in an organization over the long term. In the short term, the rider can overcome the elephants' emotions but not in the long term.
"True Leadership is about realizing that the current way no longer works and it's time to move on to a new way. True Leadership is about daring to cross the threshold from the old to the new even without having all the answers before you embark on the journey". (Hutchins and Storm, 2019, p.321)
Let’s connect. If you found this blog interesting, have questions about ordinary leadership or want to chat about leadership in general, it would be great to connect. I set aside two hours every week to make new connections and renew old ones. We have half an hour to talk about whatever you want - how we could work together, your projects and ideas, or something else. It's space for connection. You can book a slot here, and there is more background here.