That insight is the gift of recognition given to me by a dear friend and guide. She articulated what she saw in me in a form of words that went beyond their surface meaning. They touched deeply, within, and found a knowing there, a connection with the spirit of who I am in this world. I had a similar experience a couple of years earlier encountering a daymark beacon on the Northumberland coast, and these new words added greater resonance to what unfolded then.
It seems like I’ve been fascinated by both navigation and leadership for nearly all of my life. As a child on family car journeys, I’d get engrossed in the big foldout map to understand the roads to getting to our destination. Later in school I loved orienteering, and most of all setting out the routes, measuring straight line distances by wading chest high across streams, or crawling through undergrowth and over fallen trees. Later, studying physiology for me was about understanding the biological pathways in the human body. In a first career, building project plans and product roadmaps was another expression of the same energy. Now this is directed to understanding and sharing the routes of individual, team and leadership growth, as well as illuminating how systems function and can be navigated.
For over a quarter of a century or more I have worked in the pursuit of leadership. Initially stumbling about, copying what I thought was good and being rewarded for it, just to learn later how deficient an approach it was. Then getting hold of a new path, only to find myself out of my depth, and needing to find an entirely different way on. The stumbling’s and less than good paths came from looking for direction and markers on the outside. All the time the better, truer, path to take was inwards; the insight to both the blocks and the good next steps lay within.
Coming back to systemic leadership sherpa. I know that ‘sherpa' is used in other ways, for those who have traditionally carried the load for mountaineers in the Himalayas, as well as guiding them to the summit. I though use 'sherpa' to describe an archetypal energy and identity. It embodies qualities of explorer, hero and magician, as well as service, knowledge, humility, knowing and not-knowing.
The capacities of sherpa that resonate within me are:
- The experience of proven routes which may be useful for others.
- The ability to offer good guidance in un-navigated territory.
- Having the humility to accompany others on their journey.
- Wisdom and encouragement in dealing with difficult obstacles.
- Taking others to an edge or traverse without letting them fall.
- Sensitive to a larger perspective, opening the heart and soul to greater summits.
- Courage, strength and tenderness
And one thing I discovered in all of this exploring, what I believe is so vitally important now, is that all of us who aspire to be effective leaders need to develop a more conscious practice of leadership.
That might seem like a catchy slogan, a destination even. Both are so far away from what I want to talk about. This is about a calling of our time; it takes courage and it’s an ongoing journey of both consciousness and of service. What I’ll describe next is a set of attitudes and fundamentals essential for this journey, if it’s for you and if you want to take it?