In this series, Visiting Professor of Leadership Nicholas Janni explores why rethinking a conventional leadership model – moving away from a constant drive towards growth and profit – is paramount to health and well-being.
Thinking and doing are dominant functions in our culture, resulting in a leader-as-executor ideal; this has severe implications as it reduces our feeling and sensing capacities.
By transitioning to a leader-as-healer approach focusing on being and connecting, we can learn to tolerate the discomfort generated by uncertainty and ambiguity, says Professor Janni.
A new vision of leadership
In the first session, “A new vision of leadership”, Professor Janni describes how the leader-as-healer ideal sees the world and its people with clearer perception and understanding. While we are in the middle of a life-changing pandemic, he argues, the bigger pandemic of fragmentation is a greater worry.
“Our thinking, our feeling and our sensing are now separate, they don’t operate as a coherent unit,” says Professor Janni. “We limit our relationship to the world and this has become normalized so we don’t even realize it.”
He urges a restoration of our deeper natural state, in which feeling, sensing and thinking operate as a coherent whole. According to Professor Janni, this has changed the lives of many people he has worked with, from entry-level to C-suite executives.
Why meditation/mindfulness are essential practices
“Paying attention deliberately – even to something as simple as our breathing – can have profound impacts on our entire lives,” says Professor Janni in “Why meditation/mindfulness are essential practices”.
In this second session, he reminds busy executives that meditation and mindfulness have been pursued by every culture around the world to access higher levels of consciousness.
Neuroscience research has shown that meditation affects brainwaves and allows us to go into “the zone” just like athletes for better workplace performance.
“Beyond stress reduction, it can allow us to open a much wider perception of the world,” says Janni.
Coming home to our bodies
In the third session, Professor Janni describes how we have become disconnected from our bodies.
“We live in a culture of fragmentation that is now normalized,” says Professor Janni. “As children, our world was intensely physical, but over the years we gradually become more and more disembodied.”
He discusses the need for creative play as well as exercises that channel our bodies through deliberate practice, like yoga or Tai chi: “Look at the CVs of many leaders and you’ll see they participate in these types of mind-body activities.”
By working on aligning their mind and body, a leader-as-healer creates a culture in which embodiment can flourish, opening new levels of energy and connectedness in and between people.
Emotional intelligence 2.0
The most important part of becoming a leader-as-header is also the most misunderstood – the idea that some emotions are positive while some are negative.
“As long as we remain locked in this mindset, it just creates more and more tension and fragmentation,” says Professor Janni. “In ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0’ there is no such thing as positive or negative emotion.”
Professor Janni explains that fear itself – an emotion typically viewed as negative – does not block us; it is only a problem when we block that fear. Rewriting the way we relate to emotion is an essential part of becoming a leader-as-healer, he says.
“When we feel safe enough to simply allow the feeling of fear to pass in our bodies the very opposite of blockage occurs – fear connects us and actually opens our bodies…and then new channels of ideas open.”