Most of the recent training I have been asked to design and deliver recently has been around Narrative and Leadership. It has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure. It seems to me that there is a trend whereby the higher up the Leadership ladder a person goes, the more difficult it is to stay connected with their core values, almost as though, with each rung they ascend, they add an extra layer of 'professionalism and objectivity' that smothers down the reasons they started the journey in the first place.
During the sessions I used Joseph Campbell's concept of the 'Heroes Journey' as a tool with which to explore Leadership; the core values and challenges that people faced. It became apparent that many Leaders felt the need to be invulnerable, to not be seen to fail. This lead to feelings of isolation and stress and a sense of not knowing why they were doing it any more. It reminded me of the stories of Heroes who lost their way, who forgot their quest, whether it was the story of Odysseus and the Lotus Eaters, who forgot everything and just craved more Lotus, or the Irish Myths about the fabled land of Tír Na NÓg, where people forget the outside world. In all of these quest stories, the Hero must become lost in order to find their meaning again, to re-member themselves again and that is often a painful process. So it was for some of the Leaders I worked with, who suddenly reconnected with their youthful selves, full of hope, about to embark on their quests of becoming teachers and leaders, filled with passions and convictions ...... and now they were lost. However as the stories show us, nobody can be courageous without feeling fear, the two emotions exist as counterpoints to each other and so it is with Leadership and growth. We need to remember what drove us to start the journey, our core-values.
Without allowing space to re-connect with our core values we are like people eating food without salt, life and our work is flavourless and we eat out of necessity, not out of delight. Within the workplace we can start to create 'ritual/ that celebrate the core values of those that work there. It can be as simple as placing a box in the office where food, sanitary wear etc can be placed to be donated to charities, (kindness.) We can introduce digital tools so that staff can share challenges and successes with each other, (authenticity.) The Leaders can openly admit when they have made a mistake or even create a 'Mistake Board' to ensure that people know it is all part of the process, (Honesty, Integrity.) In this way we add meaning and richness to the work we do, we add salt and spice and we feast on our work with delight.
In order for this to happen the mindset of the organisation has to encompass it. The mindset of an individual is held in their believed story, the mindset of an organisation is held in its shared narrative. We need a narrative that welcomes passion, drive, intellect, kindness. I like to think of it as passion being the sea that surges and pushes all things forward, the drive. Care and kindness are the boat that holds our staff, pupils, patients and then the intellect, the professionalism is the rudder that gives direction, but if we do not have space for the sea of passion, then we are not going anywhere!!
If we look at the way we communicate in these 3 ways, passion, care and professionalism we can see how, if all are welcomed and promoted then we are also stimulating and engaging the triumvirate minds of all involved. Passion and drive stimulates the reptilian brain. Care and emotions, stimulate the limbic system and professionalism/intellect stimulate and engage the neocortex - full engagement, full steam ahead!!
If we are to move forward as individuals, organisations, communities, we need it to matter to us and that will only happen if we care and we will only care if we recognise that our core values are being met. Let us start to greet core values at the entrances of our organisations.