Holistic Leadership – Connecting Through the Interstices

Some say holistic is something that comes from New Age, some kind of spiritual fluff that does not belong together with leadership. This is not correct. Others say that holistic is a modern trend that organizations who want to be in the forefront better adjust to. This is not correct either. Holistic is now a scientific way of studying complex systems that is very different from the analytic or reductionistic tradition that earlier was more of the norm.

What does holistic mean?

The word holistic comes from the Greek word holos meaning all, whole, entire. Holism is the idea that a unity of parts will become more than the sum of its parts. When the parts are close together in a system such as an organization, the whole impacts the parts so their functions could be altered. The whole and the parts reciprocally influence and determine each other so they merge their individual characters. The whole is in the parts and the parts are in the whole. For example, look at what happens when two people fall in love with each other. They immediately start to adjust to each other´s behaviors. In other places we could call this family culture or team spirit.

When using a holistic approach, a complex system such as an organization should be viewed as a coherent whole where the parts are best understood in relation to one another and to the whole.

Holistic Leadership

Using the holistic leadership approach contains viewing leadership as an integral component of the organizational system, a component that is best understood in relation to the other parts in the organization and to the whole of the organization. In this way leadership becomes a function that impacts the whole organization and is impacted by the whole organization.

When Genuine Contact Professionals talk about Holistic Leadership, we often mention that we look at leadership as an action that could be executed by anyone in the organization. This action when carried out by many people, will have a tremendous impact on how well the organization will handle change. Will it dive or thrive? The organization itself will also have a big impact on the leadership action. Is this action supported or blocked by the organization´s structure and culture? Will the organization be able to benefit by viewing leadership as an integral component that carries it forward or will it still look at leadership as something that is taken on by a few people who tries to assemble the jigsaw?

Holistic leadership is a component that will function in relation to all other components and to the whole organization. Creating a culture of leadership that allows for holistic leadership to be practiced throughout the organization means starting from the whole and then tending to the interstices in the organization. The interstices are that which connects the components, sometimes called the glue, the culture or the spirit of the organization. Let´s call it the organizational culture. Since the culture is what connects many of the other components, the impact of that culture on the other parts is important. Do we want it to align or support the parts for a common purpose? Do we want it to enhance or divert leadership in everyone?

These are questions that will need some conscious thinking. Senior leaders will need to decide what implementing a holistic leadership approach will mean for themselves and for the organization. Maybe it is already present so how could it be supported and grow and what will that mean. One of the most important questions of all might be – how will I as a senior leader be leading in a way so that others could lead and what impact will that have on me?

Read more!

Are you interested in learning more about the background and impact of holistic leadership and what it might require of you as an appointed leader? A starting point could be to read one of the books about the Genuine Contact Program and Holistic Leadership written by Birgitt Williams, the founder of the Genuine Contact Program and Eiwor Backelund Jacobsson, one of the first trainers who have followed Birgitt through the years. You can find them here: Culture of Leadership and Nourishing a Culture of Leadership

The Art of Leadership

The Art of Leadership

Sometimes we talk about leadership as an art and people agree and say ”yes, of course” but what is it that they actually agree with? What is leadership, what is art and what is the art of leadership?

Within Genuine Contact we speak about a culture of leadership, where leadership is seen as a verb, something you do. I experience that there is a common misunderstanding that this verb, this action, should mostly be performed by those in leadership positions. Nothing could be more wrong. If leadership is going to be beneficial for an organization, everyone needs to commit to this action so that the work is done in the best way with the best results.

So what about art? Wikipedia says that art, in one of many definitions, could be described as a way to express a person´s imaginative, conceptual ideas and/or technical skills. When we speak about the art of cooking or the art of leadership, we often use the word art as a subjective way to praising highly attained skills. We use it as a way to measure high quality and high value.

Mastering leadership so well that it becomes an art, will take some serious learning, experimenting and experiencing. Just look at how famous artists once was children playing with crayons and papers. Their masterpieces have been preceeded by hundreds of drawings, some given to grandmothers and put up on walls, most of them thrown directly into the garbage bin. That is the way to become so skillful that people measure your work as art.

When you learn to master leadership, the tool you use most is yourself. You are a full palette of colors, and learning to master leadership means blending those colors skillfully. There are art classes also in leadership. Learning the skills in a intellectual way will not be enough to become an artist. You will need to go out in the real world and start painting, meaning to put yourself in a place where you can take leadership. Your training will not need certain positions or assignments. You could take leadership for your family, for your organization or for the work that you do, whatever that is. Most of all you could take leadership for yourself, leading your life towards your goals. The possibilities are there. You just need to take a deep breath and make the dive.

When committing to this class of artwork, it is good to have some kind of support. Within the Genuine Contact Organization we use mentoring to support each other reach mastery. In our Quality Commitment we agree to constantly work on our own skills development to uphold the quality of our work. This is done through mentoring networks, mentoring conferences and reviewing taken workshops or adding new. This kind of support is necessary in order to be a great artist. Look for a Genuine Contact Professional in our country or language area to find out how you could be supported when creating your leadership art.

The Beauty of Autumn and Stories

“Autumn paints in colors that Summer has never seen.”

I like Autumn like no other season, the crisp air, the yellow, orange and red leaves, the smell of damp moss on trees in the forest and most of all the calm feeling of fulfillment. This year Autumn in Sweden has showed exceptionally golden trees and mountain ashes without leaves but covered with red berries. Painted with colors that Summer never sees.

The Autumn could be a time of calm and preparation for Winter, of looking back at what was achieved since Spring and being grateful for the harvest. Just like Stephen King writes about Autumn in one of his books: “It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”

We would also benefit from settling in, maybe light a fire and tell our stories about what we have done so far. Too often we only have one perspective – forward. That makes us miss out on learnings from the past, of connections to a history we can be proud of. It makes us feel as if we have not done enough and so we continue to hurry to do more and more. If we only take a moment in that armchair, gather our thoughts and listen to each other, we would know that we have achieved much more than we thought possible. We could get relief and rest, find new energy and be able to plan for next Spring in a much more efficient and powerful way, from the core of our being instead of from our misinterpretations of expectations from the surrounding.

The storytelling that we use in the Genuine Contact approach, is not about dwelling in the past. It is about honoring the past, learning from it and then move on. Organizations that build in such checkpoints into their annual cycle will probably help their staff be more in balance, happier with their results and thus more efficient. That hour or two spent in storytelling or if we rather want to call it evaluation, will be worthwhile. And it will certainly increase internal communication, connections and engagement.

“If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.”

Victoria Erickson