Since I’ve been doing this incredibly rewarding leadership work with women, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I felt incongruent with my own sense of purpose and values. That was the point of creating it; to align my work with what mattered to me and bring forward the gifts that I felt so inspired to contribute. Every moment in leading my workshops and in my one to one coaching has felt like a precious experience of leading ‘on purpose’ and living my dream. And for that I’m extremely grateful.
And yet, about 2 years ago after my second son was born, I began to experience a restlessness and a sense that something wasn’t quite right. I felt there was another development ‘edge’ that I needed to lean towards. Curiously, I experienced alongside this, a very creative spell and seemed to be receiving lots of inspiring new ideas, deep insights and learning (mostly at 3am after a breast feed!!!). Despite being exhausted, I was overflowing with wonderful creative possibilities, particularly in relation to Women at the Heart of Leadership.
Feeling the Integrity Gap (?)
It was wonderful to have such inspired creativity but what also emerged was something I now call the ‘integrity gap’. I had a feeling that although I was on track with my ‘right-work’, how I was being and what I was doing was not fully aligned with the sense of possibility that was emerging through these insights and ideas and I began to feel even more restless. But the restlessness wasn’t just the ‘well, get on with it then’ kind. It felt confusing and on occasions there was intense fear present with it. What I know about fear is that when we avoid it, it sabotages us, but when we face it, we get to know more about what’s at it’s root and then have the choice to move beyond it. So I began to take more notice of the fear and engage more with what the restlessness was teaching me. What I soon realised was that it really represented a challenge I was facing. It was showing me the difference between where I was then and where life was calling me…. towards taking bigger and bolder steps in my own leadership and with even greater transparency and authenticity. It was nudging me to wake up to more of myself, to go deeper and find the parts of me that I hadn’t yet expressed and to begin to integrate this as the next phase in living my potential.
‘Ok great, so now let’s get on with it’, I would hear myself say, believing that I had a good plan! Now I knew more about what was happening and could see some of the fear I had been carrying, why couldn’t I just get on with it?
Not so easy. On closer inspection, which meant really feeling the fear, I discovered it was coming from a much younger part of me, squealing with concerns about ‘what might happen if…bla bla bla’. Recognising that I had a less evolved part of me that was not operating from a place of clarity and wisdom, whilst another more adult part of me was, helped me to understand the confusion. I noticed, for example, that when I was ‘in command’, centred in the most conscious, adult and wise aspect of myself, I was totally inspired, creative and unstoppable. And yet, if I let myself get caught up in my false beliefs, centred in a younger, more fear-driven part of me, the breaks would go full on and I would want to give up! So the integration for me was and still is about helping the little voice of fear to feel safe and contained whilst I (the wise adult) step into taking the risks that I know are needed in order to evolve and blossom on my path of leadership.
What has also been really helpful to me over the last couple of years is to see my own process as ‘evolutionary’. This is an ongoing experience that is not just about doing what’s next, but includes transforming myself in the process of doing what’s next. It’s about who I’m being as much as what I’m doing.
Have you noticed that it tends to be when we ‘step up’ to the next level of our development as leaders that all the obstacles come up to seemingly ‘get in our way’? Well, from an evolutionary perspective, this is a totally normal phenomenon and even something to celebrate!! The obstacles can seem to be ‘external’ and apparently out of our control or ‘internal’ and therefore pointing clearly to where our power lies to overcome them and therefore precisely where we need to pay attention.
I realise that my own transition to being more fully authentic and powerful in my leadership is likely to be representative of what many of you are also facing in different ways and to differing degrees. It’s an issue that is very much ‘in the field’ for women right now (and men too in a different way). It’s part of the natural process of what we call ‘Evolutionary Leadership’. It’s natural for us to be evolving towards greater levels of authenticity in our self expression. Through everything we experience, we’re being given opportunities to grow into who we really are. And this is where I hear the struggle in others so often; ‘it’s a challenge to be the real me because I feel I have to show up in a particular way in order to feel accepted!’
So what do we mean by Evolutionary Leadership?
I’ll just take a moment to explain this in a bit more depth. It’s partly about the conscious parallel process of growing ourselves whilst we serve others through our leadership. Rather than just bolting on skills that we think are ‘good leadership skills’, we’re also deepening our inner capacity to lead, by letting go of what is in the way of accessing our deeper wisdom, unique strengths and inner guidance.
But there is also a much wider context that we can understand better when we look through the lens of nature itself. If we take a journey back through time 14 billion years ago we arrive at the Big Bang; that unimaginable moment when from total darkness, stillness and peace came the birth of light and life itself, in a very noisy and chaotic way! The creative process of life began in an instant – the cycle from the formless into form. And so the unfolding of life in all it’s beauty and complexity continued. 14 billion years on, you and I are a direct result of that big bang, we’re an integral part of the ongoing evolution of life. And if we really allow ourselves to connect deeply with the life energy within us, we will notice that the life-force that caused the big bang is the same creative life-force that is flowing through us. As I heard spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen say recently, ‘the Big Bang didn’t just happen once, it’s still banging!’
Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnggg…. and so on! (I chuckled!)
In other words life is constantly evolving, not just around us but through us and if we become present and pay attention to our inner experience for long enough, we can begin to recognise that creative impulse within us as the desire for our own growth, transformation and self expression. It’s not necessarily easy for us to access this natural inspiration, the messages of which can often be drowned out by the hectic way we live our lives. And I believe this is an aspect of the restlessness that I was experiencing and that which I know many others are feeling too. Life was (and still is) calling me, as life is calling all of us, to evolve to higher levels of consciousness as humanity. It’s calling us to let go of the old patterns that no longer serve us and to co-create a new way forward. It’s calling us to wake up and BE agents of creativity – letting go of the old and birthing the new!
This is the essence of Evolutionary Leadership; to be conscious agents of the creative process of life that evolve our world to greater degrees of well-being and wholeness. We don’t ever ‘arrive’ anywhere, we just continue to evolve in this way, unfolding more of who we are and therefore more of our potential along the way. It’s a process of awakening to our authenticity; our purpose, our power and our potential and engaging that consciously in our lives. And in realising this potential within us, even to the smallest degree, we naturally begin to orientate our lives towards finding a way to create and contribute. Instead of being victimised by circumstances, we’ll naturally begin to take leadership where we see its absence and where we feel more passionately called to make a generative impact.
What I’ve noticed as an ‘evolutionary leader’, is that the questions ‘what do I want to achieve for myself?’ or ‘what I want to get out of life?’ become less important than the question ‘where is my inspiration leading me and what do I want to contribute?’
I have playfully named this transitioning time for me as ‘coming out of the Evolutionary closet’ (as a feminine leader I mean). So as I creak my closet door open wider and look out onto the world around me, I continue to ask myself these more evolutionary questions about my life and I invite you to try them on too.
- What do I most deeply desire to EXPERIENCE, create and CONTRIBUTE through my leadership?
- What might be possible when I take the risk to really BE WHO I AM, powerfully and visibly in the world and without apology?
- How might I take my next step into the TRUE CALLING on my life and lead from the most authentic and POWERFUL place in me? (And what’s possible when I do?)
- How can I lead with greater INTEGRITY so that I can offer the UNIQUE GIFTS AND TALENTS that are mine to contribute through my leadership? (And what’s possible when I do?)
- What do I need to LET GO OF or EMBRACE in order to take the next steps towards fulfilling my potential?
- How do I take proper CARE OF MYSELF in this process of bringing my leadership to life?
These questions are big and deep ones and they are some of the questions that are at the heart of the Women at the Heart of Leadership community. As such, they will naturally continue to provide context for much of our development work.
So as I face into these questions myself, I see that I am also facing the fear that as I step out of my safe and cosy (but somewhat cramped) closet and bring this evolutionary approach into the more mainstream leadership conversation, I might end up standing here on my own.
BUT the truth is, if I’m going to continue to walk the talk in what I truly believe and in what I am teaching, and as I reach into higher levels of my own growth, I need to take a stand and be willing to speak openly, lovingly, clearly and with self-authority about perspectives that I think are key to our growth and evolution as women leaders. Then standing on my own doesn’t just become tolerable, but it becomes the right thing to do in this moment.
All this is really about LEADING FROM THE HEART… listening to what my heart is telling me, where it’s calling me to serve and being willing to LEAD MYSELF towards that destiny. This is true for all of us if we care about living our potential and making a difference in the world. And it’s not easy. We all have people in our lives who we fear will not see us or validate us if we show up fully and powerfully in our truth. But I wonder if you’ve noticed that more often than not, it’s the opposite – we won’t be truly validated or recognised when we’re not showing up in our power. We just need to find it within us and learn how to express it.
Finally, when I’m stepping into doing something new that feels risky but important, I find it helpful to ask myself this question and invite you to do the same:
‘If not me, then who?’
Here’s what we’re really talking about in evolutionary leadership terms: What if there was a unique purpose for your life, that only you could undertake? It doesn’t need to be something overwhelmingly huge and you don’t need to become the next Mother Teresa! But it is likely to be something that calls you to contribute your unique gifts, that stretches you well beyond your comfort zone and that tests your leadership to the full. What if this were true and that your leadership is really about accepting your part in consciously evolving humanity?
I truly believe that there is an extraordinary impact that we can have in the world, when we choose to lead from the inner source of our passion and power. It takes faith, commitment, the cultivation of awareness, the willingness to take responsibility and some profound self-nurturing to get us on track and to keep us there! But it’s all totally possible, especially when we find ways to support each other in the learning process.
In truth, I KNOW that I am not standing alone in this time of transition. There are MANY women experiencing this restlessness and taking risks both alongside and way ahead of me. We are living in a time of massive transition in the world and this is a collective issue and a collective journey that we are part of. I believe that as women we have an important role to play in how we respond as Feminine Leaders firstly to our personal challenges and then to the wider more global ones. This is why we’re co-creating a space for many other women to join us in this inspiring and nourishing journey of evolutionary leadership, so that we can respond with true care and power in creative, purposeful and collaborative ways.
I hope that a few or perhaps many pieces of what I have shared will be resonating with you in some way.
And I invite you to sit with some of these questions I’ve posed and to see what insights unfold within you.
It is my intention as the offerings of the WHL Community unfold to go more deeply into them with you and to co-create the space, support and community to strengthen your own sense of authentic leadership as a heart-centred woman… to find your way to living and leading from your authentic power and bringing your greatest contributions to life in service of your life flourishing and in service of something greater than you.
Thank you for reading this. Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections…