Nurturing: Deepening the Essence of Holistic Leadership
If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach. This post looks at Nuturing as one of the four components of Holistic Leadership.
The ability to nurture is an important part of leadership, yet it’s only beginning to receive the attention it deserves. To become a Holistic Leadership, however, Nurturing is absolutely essential. Its five enabling elements are tightly interwoven:
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’s an area that hasn’t traditionally been part of the heroic leadership mindset, historically 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. The late Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, spoke 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 is essential if organizations are to enhance their collective ability to learn. But the challenge to this is the diversity that’s 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.
Sounds into Syllables
Leadership resides at all levels of organizations and communities, and is not specific to certain age groups. Many young people, including teenagers, have done exceptional things for their communities and society. Kayla Cornale received a Gold Medal for Health Sciences at the 2006 Canada Wide Science Fair. At the time Kayla was a grade 11 student in Burlington, Ontario. Her project was entitled Sounds into Syllables: Windows to the World of Childhood Autism.
As a high school student Kayla wanted to have a closer relationship with her cousin, Lorena. However, due to Lorena’s autism this proved very difficult. As she watched Lorena memorize songs, something she excelled at, Kayla got the idea to use the piano as the medium for communication. By assigning letters of the alphabet to the middle keys in the form of chords, Kayla then connected them to language. The result was a trademarked patent viewed as a major breakthrough in autism research.
Kayla’s Sounds into Syllables method was used in a number of school districts around the Province of Ontario starting in 2004. Winning over 50 awards world-wide, Kayla represented Canada at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2005 and 2006, placing 1st in the world in the category of behavioral and social sciences.
Kayla was later recognized by CNN’s Heroes’ Award in November 2007. Indeed, she was the only Canadian finalist among 7,000 people nominated by viewers in 80 countries, and one of the three finalists in the Young Wonders category for people under 18. She received a scholarship to Stanford University in California, graduating in 2011 with a BA and a Masters of Linguistics in 2012.
Captain Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian soldier to be killed in combat since the Second World War. Her death occurred on May 17, 2006 during a brutal firefight with the Taliban in the Panjwaye District in Afghanistan. Goddard’s role as crew commander was to call in artillery fire. This meant being in a forward position during the battle and physically exposing herself. A rocket propelled grenade fired by the Taliban struck her LAV vehicle, exploding on impact and killing her instantly.
Her husband received on Goddard’s behalf the Memorial Cross (also known as the Silver Cross).
A strong student and member of the debating club, Captain Goddard received a scholarship to attend Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Despite her fondness for the military, she was also deeply interested in humanitarian issues and how to bring about peace in areas of conflict. Because of imperfect vision she wasn’t able to join the Air Force and chose the Army instead. Her strong math skills lead her to specialize in artillery.
Captain Goddard was highly regarded by her peers, and remembered for her vivaciousness, kindness and listening skills. Serving her country was more than just about being a soldier and learning technical skills, but about leadership and how to make the world a better place.
The gateways to wisdom and knowledge are always open. (Louise Hay)
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