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Leadership trail

In September I (Jean-Paul Close) more or less blindly joined a pilgrimage referred to as a leadership trail. During 8 days we walked small Italian roads and trails from pitoresque village to village. My physical condition as a 63 year old was still in a deplorable state. It was the result of both an adventurous and exagerated lifestyle, topped with 18 month of relative covid immobility. Health had become the number one core natural value of my own society model referred to as Sustainocracy. I had personally focused very much on the welbeing of my daughters as a single father. They had become my source of inspiration to determine the core natural values of sustainable human evolution. As a consequence I extended the focus on wellness to all children of the entire human world. My own health however had received less self aware attention in the turmoil of a life full of stressful challenges.

A certain incident made me aware to pay more attention also to myself.

About five years ago I had started to address my own health and wellness by challenging my lifestyle through self reflection, awareness and experimentation with newly acquired information about myself. My voyage deep inside had taken a new dimension. As a consequence I had gradually reduced my medicine use (of about 12 pills per day) to only a few arthritus related painkillers per week. My sense of quality of life had evolved into the simplicity of enjoying nature, photography, family and friends. At the same time, and within the scope of Sustainocracy, a network of holistic health related locations emerged around the world where I could enjoy the benefits of massages, personal attention, cultural interaction and human warmth. This I also shared with many others by organizing health awareness trips, social engagement events and other types of health driven coalitions.

Letting go had become for me an exercize of internalization into the now, all the time, every instant, during each and every day. The space that reveiled itself again and again would offer so many new experiences, encounters, places to visit and all would enrich my soul by leaving a lasting impression, a cherished memory. Also these experiences were again to be released in the eternal letting go process. This is how I signed up for the trail, without expectations other than meeting again a dear friend after many years. This friend (Sujith Ravindran) was the one who had invited me to join.

Sujith Ravindran, multiple leadership author, coach and source of inspiration

Travelling to Rome was already new for me. The trail would go from a small place called Piediluco, all the way to Assisi, a territory in Italy that was to be discoverd now by me. The group consisted of 12 travellers, all men and each of them new to me, except of course my friend. All came with their packpack, a bottle of drinking water and some cash for our costs along the trail. So did I.

The slowest man walks up front

……And no one is left behind. This was the beautiful motto imposed onto the group by our leadership coach. Not an easy motto for people who are in the prime of their adult lifetime, living mainly a hectic professional and private life. As it happened, I was the slowest man due to my painful handicaps, left overs of the old injuries of careless incidents in my own lifetime and deterioration through age.

The beautiful scenary of Umbria in Italy

The first thing that I had to let go was my sense of guilt of being the one that slowed everyone down. The trail had very steep decents and rough long and steep rising paths. If I let the others go in front they would surely have lost me behind in no time. With them behind me give me a motivation to push myself beyond my limits.

The second thing that I had to let go was my pride when someone kindly offered to carry my backpack when the tough became really tough. Such pride I had let go already a long time ago when I had to depend fully on the support of family and friends to establish a home again for me as a single father with my two daughters after a second traumatic divorce. In fact, shared responsibility and cocreation had become part of the core natural values of the society vision that was born out of such experiences. A vision that determines that – our lasting wellness is a shared co-creation, not a cost nor a competition over the back of others -, a vision that was clearly present in the group process. The strongest man, that temporarily carries the heaviest weight, helps the entire group move forward better. This is a lesson in the political/financial world of competitive self centered hierarchies that still needs to be learned.

Sometimes two men decided to divide the load between them by attaching my backpack to a pole.

The analogy of real life, as it should ideally be, showed itself during the trail

Accepting this help for my self was also in the benefit of the group. At the same time I did not want to relieve myself from the challenge of carrying my own weight. Finding the right balance between self sufficiency and group dynamics became a beautiful and heartfelt negotiation. It reminded me of a motto that I had introduced into the Sustainocratic (people and institutions together) cocreation groups – what can be done by one self is done by one self, whatever is to complex or difficult, is done together -.

The slow pace allowed my fellow travellers to engage in deep conversations and sharing stories. My own attention was primarily on myself and finding my walking “cadans” in harmony with my own body. To my surprise I could manage fairly well and even, after a few days, could do my bit without any painkilling medication at all. Walking was relatively painless. Standing still, cooling down or sitting down was however a living hell for my knees. This I needed to deal with through some self determination.

Leadership archetypes

During the day, from morning till evening, Sujith introduced symbols, group rituals and basic overaching rules (such as “the slowest man”) for awareness and group cohesion. He also took his time to explain certain processes that he was taking us through. He had one to one conversations with the participants, shared wisdom and insights individually or collectively and conducted circle talks for the entire group.


Of particular interest to me were his five archetypes of leadership (Sage, King, Expert, Magician and Commander). Although these archetypes are often visualized as particular personalities or specific functions in society, to me they are all part of ourselves and our inner processes for inner and outer harmonization or symbiose. In my own learning processes over time I had visualised this in the first logo of my own STIR Foundation, including a color code.

STIR Logo combining all achetypes

The image represents the four elements (intelligence, emotional, physical and spiritual……or earth, air, water and fire if you like) around the fifth one represented by the layers of awareness (the awakening consciousness) that are gradually revealed to us.

This is also the way I organized level 4 regional development, by gathering the archetypes together around the same table.

A few years later I visited a spiritual place in the Netherlands, the village of Steyl, where a spiritual leader had been made a Saint by the Catholic church. He had used the same color code as I had, only 150 years earlier, also with a similar significance. We also recall the Circle of Life of the Indians or other ancient native cultures around nature. We always find back this commonality in understanding our inner and outer processes. It was beautiful to see the analogy with the insights of Sujith.

I was not only the slowest man, but also the most silent one. Not that I did not want to speak. Often during the trail I was too short of breath or too concentrated on my steps. Instead I could observe and see that each of the participants was going through their own leadership development path. While my own inner process at the time of the walk was primarily physical, others had to deal with other aspects of themselves. Some encountered themselves with their inner emotions while others deepened into their beliefs or spiritual wellness. Many developed their rationality through the open dialogues that arose.

For all, each in their own way, new layers of awareness were somehow revealed and uncovered. For me it was yet again a confirmation about what I was doing every day in my daily life through Sustainocratic ventures. However with a difference. This time I was the one who was enjoying the abundance of care of the group while in the usual circumstances I am the one bringing all together, the care giver, the initiator of processes. It was rest giving for me, very comforting, and surely the type of sense of security and support by togetherness that I try to extend across the world.

All archetypes of leadership are mingled in this trail and have nothing to do with the one up front

Interesting research upon the question “why are so many working on solving problems, but nobody on solving their root causes?”

This question was raised by Eugen Oetringer on LinkedIn. The question received thousands of views and many people responded with their particular remarks. Eugen made “yellow online post-its” of each of the remarks and subsequently tried to group them into comprehensive labeled buckets that could be seen as root causes of the impedements to address the issues at hand.

The unorganized set of remarks
Eugen’s interpretation of the patterns he saw

When he presented his analysis in the weekly School of Talents & Wellness online encounter I noted the possible bias in the interpretation caused by the way Eugen tends to structure his personal line of thinking. I wondered if someone else would come to the same or another interpretation, based on the same input? Eugen took on this challenge and I myself got motivated to do the exercize.

Indeed a totally different outcome was reveiled, one that surprised Eugen to such an extend that we decided to ask a few different people, with different backgrounds, to do the same.

Jean-Paul’s interpretation of the same set of remarks

The question and the list of responses was the same for Eugen and me. The grouping of the responses into buckets and the naming of these buckets is something subjective for both:

  • Eugen: Fear, Missing common good (common responsibility and own interests first), Our metrics incentivize symptom fixing, Lack of Training or thinking in terms of Root causes.
  • Jean-Paul: Fear, Laziness (uncertainty), Interests and Need for Professional Leadership

Now we are waiting for other people to do the same. What would be the reason (personal root causes?) of the differences in interpretation by Eugen and myself? What can we objectively or intersubjectively learn from this? At least we are now looking at a doubled interpretation, ready for a broader dialogue. On the other hand, does it bring us closer to addressing the original root causes as asked in the poll at the first place? Or have we only introduced more? If we can pinpoint root causes, who would we consider the ones to deal with them?

Another possible viewpoint is that “if we address the common root causes of our current institution or even society as a whole the entire society system may collapse”. This would mean that the root causes are original system design faults, inherent of the system. If we want to solve them we have to disgard the system entirely and build a new one based on different values and interrelations. We apply our knowledge of the past but do not attempt to repair, we reposition. This is in fact what we do with Sustainocracy. Many elements of the old system are still valid, also in the context of Sustainocracy, but with a difference. In Sustainocracy the objectives, with individual and shared responsibilities, are different, directly related to the human biological reality, resilience and sustainable progress.

Why them don’t enough people or institutions join Sustainocracy? Only partly the listed arguments remain valid, maybe 30 to 40%. In particular the lack of leadership is a mayor drawback. But more importantly is the blindness, the unawareness, the lack of openness to new options. This is a remark that Eugen also included in his analysis: the bias and inability to see things differently. This is not something we can teach, it needs time, our determination and our own leadership to expand with those that do.

Work in progress, will be continued……

Leadership is never democratic

The majority of people want to keep things as they are. They are conservative by nature. To change something one needs guts, vision or a desperate need. Than leadership appears. The rest is powerful management of what has been.


Those focused on economic growth only fear chaos and stand progress in the way

So don’t expect leadership from your politically chosen representatives. They forcefully try to please the voting majorities. Leadership and change is always outside politics.