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Transformational Leadership in the Time of Corona

June 8, 2020 By Patrick McNamara

Transformational Leadership in the Time of Corona

by Patrick Mc Namara

Every week my colleagues Robin Alfred and Katrin Muff and I, in partnership with the Findhorn International Centre for Sustainability host a session on Transformational Leadership in the Time of Corona. When the Foundation closed to in-person workshops, we wanted to offer something to help leaders to get through the crisis.

A group of 20-40 diverse people from 20 countries who lead organisations and teams, are thought leaders, social investors and community members come together online every Thursday. They want to connect with other leaders for inspiration, support and to learn how to more effectively lead their organisation or team in a constantly changing environment with many unknowns and no blueprint or clear pathway forward. And, some are here as individuals taking this time to re-imagine and re-position themselves. Others are concerned with lasting, systemic changes that shift society towards a sustainable, regenerative economy and planetary transformation. We share our views and do our best to figure out the challenges we see in this chaotic time!

Last week, we started with reflective time to bring ourselves present, listened to a poem and music for inspiration, and explored a question about how to be courageous in our leadership to create a deeper change that moves from urgency to awakening. One participant spoke of Joanna Macy and the Great Turning… to let go, to come from a place of humility and vulnerability, and to gain agency to take inspired action from a deeper place. That really spoke to me because I remember meeting Joanna when she came to the Foundation to do a Deep Ecology workshop. I can still remember chanting “deep e-cology… deep e-col-o-gy” to the rhythm of the drum and how inspired I was.

The dialogue led us to exploring ways to pivot to a positive approach and to find ways to keep the sustainable practices, like reducing travel and a kinder, more human way of working. We also discussed re-designing our organisations so they are flatter, with more collaboration and the ability to respond to unexpected changes.

One of the participants said,

The process used in these meetings engages us in deep dialogue in the break out groups and is also solidified later. I was taken by the notion that ‘crisis’/’chaos’ can invoke a feeling of fear. And the suggestion that in a crisis we need to pause: too quick action or ‘solution’ may have unintended outcomes. I was also taken with the thoughts about the dynamic of transformation (catalyst, that is a sense of expansion and immediacy vs evolution – a slower change). The three sessions I have attended have been mind-opening, and inspiring.

I have found the balance between facilitators in terms of internal/external developmental qualities required for transformative leadership to be helpful. It does remind one that both a sense of internal examination and humility, and an awareness of systems of change that are developing around the globe will help us draw from others the wisdom for changes that are desired/ required.

We are creating a community of practice through weekly dialogues and a newsletter to share what we’re learning on transformational leadership. To register for our next call, visit the Findhorn International Centre for Sustainability. We look forward to seeing you Thursday at 3:30-5:00pm Edinburgh time!