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Becoming a Holistic Leader: Nurturing

May 7, 2011

Today is the last in a series of posts highlighting certain chapters of my new Holistic Leadership (2nd edition) e-book. You can download it for FREE at the bottom of the page. Take a moment to share your thoughts or a comment…Jim

The ability to nurture is an important part of leadership, yet it is only beginning to receive the attention it deserves. To become a Holistic Leadership, Nurturing is absolutely essential. Its five enabling elements are tightly interwoven:

 Empathy
 Communication
 Diversity
 Bonds
 Wellness

Unfortunately the idea of leaders, whether male or female, embracing a nurturing mindset is alien to many people. It’s a female role, not a male one, many would argue. But is it in reality?

It’s time to get over old, worn-out stereotypes of authoritarian leadership, where people are told what to do, how to think and how to act. This has no place in 21st Century organizations, not with the rapidity of change. People can’t be forced to be creative or to innovate.

Some people would call Nurturing, as part of Holistic Leadership, the really soft stuff. Because it’s strongly oriented around relationships and the human dimension, Nurturing is not easily quantifiable. Moreover, it is an area that has not traditionally been part of the heroic leadership mindset, which has been dominated by males.

The ability to show empathy is vital to enhancing our leadership. To be empathetic means to be able to put oneself in another’s shoes, or frame of reference. Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks of the habit of Seek first to understand, then be understood. This is a difficult habit to learn because it requires us to listen carefully to the other person and to really understand their point of view, all the while refraining from speaking ourselves. If we wish to be understood, we must first understand from where the other person in coming.

Improving our ability to empathize will in turn enhance our communication skills. Creating meaningful conversations, or dialogues, is essential if organizations are to enhance their collective ability to learn. But the challenge to this is the diversity that is growing in organizations. The Holistic Leader is able to see the value in diverse needs, wants, beliefs, expectations, personalities, backgrounds, gender, color and age. Being able to see from a systems perspective the benefits that diversity brings to an organization, and in turn influencing it in a forward-thinking way, is a strong leadership asset.

This leads to the creation of bonds within the organization. The Holistic Leader has contributed to creating a web of relationships, despite the challenge of addressing diversity in an organization that faces unrelenting change. These bonds, in turn, support collaborative learning and the creation of a learning culture.

The Holistic Leader understands and pays attention to the need for developing the triangle of spirit, mind, and body. Without daily practice of these three equally important parts, it’s difficult to achieve and maintain a high state of personal wellness. As with personal mastery, personal wellness starts from within. But the Holistic Leader also strives to help her co-workers (and followers) increase their awareness of this important element of nurturing leadership. For example, the network leader sows “wellness seeds” in the organization as a way to assist the organization create a healthier workplace: spiritually, intellectually, and physically.

The following two leadership vignettes provide contrasting examples of Nurturing Holistic Leadership….

Click here to download my new Holistic Leadership eBook, 2nd Edition

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