Liminal Leadership and the Bluebell Wood

As I step into the bluebell wood I’m always struck by a haze of enchantment, captivated by the smell, the birdsong but also the feeling that I’m entering into a different realm, the “otherworld.” I imagine myself stepping through a peaceful doorway and allowing worlds to meet within me.

I leave the bluebell wood feeling inspired by the same experience as being in the presence of a real leader, someone who can inspire us to do those things that, deep down, we know are good. Things we want to do, but can’t motivate ourselves to do on our own. Leadership is a mysterious, hard to define, quality, but we know it when we experience it.

I want to be around leaders who focus on the “we” rather than the “me”. They realise their role is to create a culture of trust, care and expansive influence. Leaders that make decisions from their whole self.

We are adept at using the logical parts of our brains, we have to be to get on in the world. This is a “yes, and” situation – we also need to cultivate the right intuitive brain and learn how to process the information that comes in from other parts of our bodies too. For me I work from some core principles.

  • Trust the mysterious.
  • Learn to thrive, not just survive
  • Recognise that change is essential and stability is necessary.

I want to start with what appears to be paradoxical: that change is essential, yet stability is necessary.

How can we cope with all of life disturbances pulling us in different ways, yet keep a clear direction ahead? How can we be constantly adapting to change yet remain stable at our core?

‘Adaptive resilience’ is the capacity to remain productive and true to our core purpose and identity, while absorbing disturbance and adapting, with integrity, to changing circumstances.

‘Individual resilience’ is having the strength and ability to carry on in the face of trauma or difficulty. Responding to stress in a timely way, that allows self-confidence and social competence to increase, through mastery and responsibility.

So how do we do this? We have to start by re-engaging with the space inside ourselves where we find our resilience. We live in an externalised culture; we are constantly transferring our power to the external. We are in a world of wealth and power, we often feel that we are waiting to get in on the act.

What does this do to the human spirit, our creativity, our imagination? We find ourselves believing that this outside power is stronger than our inside world, which created the machine in the first place!

We need to find the bridge between our internal creativity and the external reality so we can bring the true value back.

For me a leader is someone who can create the conditions for change to occur inside us. We have become focussed on ‘product’ and ‘output’, rather than process and journey. I’m left wondering if, in the future, our creative work will be less a vision of self-expression, more about creating the conditions for change. If this is the case, then it will be essential to be both adaptable and resilient. Learning how to trust the mysterious and uncertain in our own creative lives is key to this process.

The true value of our mysterious inner worlds, from whence creativity springs and the bluebell wood emerges, cannot be determined solely by the price others are prepared to pay for our creations. We must learn to value the process and journey and be prepared to put our own price on these.

What is the future of leadership?

I believe Leadership will take a different shape. Crisis can break down silos, empires and egos. To lead you need to manage fear and come alongside it, not pretend you can make it go away.

What is the shadow that we cast? Trust and ethical behaviour sits at the heart of a business, its leadership style and performance.

Looking at our climate predicament, I don’t think we need the kind of leadership that comes from an authority figure anymore. We need to drop the idea of the heroic leader, in favour of seeing leadership as promoting actions which help us all cope practically and emotionally. Stories of individual agency and potency are unhelpful when they focus solely on the individual and ignore the collective.

I believe to become resilient you have to keep trusting the mysterious. Tapping into the mystery inside ourselves invites ideas that we can use to help others tap into their own creativity and intuition. Thoughts that change the world come from these mysterious places inside ourselves.

If we ignore the mysterious, our creativity vanishes and we project it onto others. We need to find ways to contain and cooperate with our own internal filters.

There is always an intelligence in the apparently random. We need to learn to trust ourselves and value the difference that we offer the world.

I like to step into my Mercurial nature. Mercury was the Roman god of commerce, he was the messenger of the gods. In the ancient art of alchemy, mercury was referred to as ‘quicksilver’. It was both toxic and magical, I like that. The ability to move like mercury can help us cross over worlds, to remain fluid amongst the rigidity of organisations and systems.

The role of a Liminal leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have and express their own ideas and feel valued. It’s much more about creating climates, conditions in which change can occur and the bluebell wood can grow.

 

‘The Bluebell’ – Poem by Anne Bront

A fine and subtle spirit dwells

In every little flower,

Each one its own sweet feeling breathes

With more or less of power.

There is a silent eloquence

In every wild bluebell

That fills my softened heart with bliss

That words could never tell.

~ Anne Brontë 

When I first posted this piece on Linkedin I had some lovely feedback thank you.

“Spot on Becky! I love the way you think and see through all the clutter in life and get to the essence. This is beautifully written and expressed. Thank you for letting us take the journey with you and may there always be a Bluebell Wood in everyone’s life.” 

“Thought provoking, insightful and beautiful and I so resonate with the need for a different Leadership style moving forward. I’m reminded of what can be referred to as the ‘space between’, where before we can become intimate with another, we need to become intimate with our self, when you refer to becoming engaged with the ‘space within ourselves’. I think this recent pandemic experience has brought to the surface how important it is that we bring our ‘whole self’ to work and life, and to all our interrelationships involved. Thank you for articulating and sharing this.”

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