What do we mean when we say “Holistic Leadership?” In an era of rampant corporate branding, logos and the commodification of nearly everything, language, too, has become increasingly branded—molded and wrought into rigid cultural shapes that exclude far more than they include. “Leadership” is a word—a concept—that has suffered greatly under the weight of such branding. In so many contexts, the “leader” is conceived and cast as the person in the front of the room, the lone wolf who stands before the masses and sermonizes about how people should be and should act. So often, the leader is the one the rest follow, the one all others give their power away to. While this form of top-down leadership has its place amongst the many shapes that leadership can take, at Weaving Earth we feel it has been over-emphasized in today’s world, leaving us sorely lacking in the kind of leadership that can draw on the power of the entire system, not just the gifts of a few.
How Holistic Leadership Works
We seek to reclaim the word leadership and offer a far more holistic and inclusive conception of what it is. Leadership resides in everyone, and thankfully, it manifests through each of us in different ways. Leadership is far more related to ecology than to hierarchy. Holistic leadership is the notion that in any given moment, any person in the circle might have the spark of creativity for what’s most needed. When we cultivate in each other and ourselves the capacity to listen deeply to hear that authentic spark when it arises, and to trust our intuition about whether we are the conduit through which it will come, leadership flows and manifests in very different ways. It is horizontal, it is shared, it is collaborative and it draws upon the wisdom of the circle. This kind of leadership is far more about listening than talking, and functions like a healthy ecosystem – basing itself on the wisdom borne of interrelationships and the capacity to adapt and respond.
Holistic leadership also recognizes that we as individuals have different capacities and gifts. In a community ecology that strives to help people recognize their gifts and share them, it becomes a graceful process to step up in moments that call for our gifts and to step back when someone else’s gifts are needed. Anyone who has played on a team that has really “gelled”, been part of an ensemble, or worked within a group for a cause greater than the individuals within it will know what collective, holistic leadership can feel like. It is a place where each is encouraged to shine fully, and where one person’s ability to step up does not discourage others to do so as well – rather, the gifts of each person are celebrated and further call-out the gifts of others. Ideally, all get the opportunity to stretch ourselves and to cultivate emergent capacities within us that help us to become better leaders.
Holistic Learning and Leadership Program At Weaving Earth
Leadership doesn’t imply extroversion. It doesn’t demand comfort speaking in public. It doesn’t necessitate grand visions of what we “need to do” and how to do it. It is simply the capacity to listen within ourselves for what is needed, for what is ours to do, and to marshal the bravery to step from that vision into action. Holistic leadership assumes that all people are needed.
Just as the general concept of leadership has been rigidified, so too has learning. In the West, educational systems tend to prioritize certain kinds of learning over others—the ability to memorize information, for example, and regurgitate it on tests. This might look good by some metrics, but it doesn’t necessarily cultivate the kind of curiosity for the world and how it works that leads someone to become a life-long learner—nor does it necessarily elicit the unique brilliance carried within every individual. Holistic learning, which we often describe as relational education, seeks to cultivate lifelong learners and to draw out the unique genius and gifts that reside within each of us. It is supported by different styles—experiential, didactic, direct, participatory and personal. It strives to engage all of our senses—taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight and intuition (and more). Ultimately, we turn to nature as our primary guide and we seek to live in the questions rather than the answers.