Living in alignment with our own values is important for our personal wellbeing, and can also help us to have a more positive impact in our wider communities and on the natural environment too. Being mindful of how we embody our values is also a vital part of leadership; having the potential to inspire others to follow suit. In late November, some of the NOW team attended the Natural Leaders Now conference in London, which explored many of these themes. In this post our Research Volunteer, Nicola Round, reflects on her experience of the event.
Voluntarily spending an entire precious weekend sitting in a conference being talked at is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, last weekend it turned out to be a very good decision indeed (and there was just the right amount of being talked at). The conference in question was Natural Leaders Now and for me was a life-changer, helping me get that bit further on the quest I embarked on earlier this year, to discover who I am and what on earth I’m supposed to be doing here in this awesome but rather confusing world.
Preparing for the conference, I was feeling uncomfortable about the word ‘leaders’. Aren’t leaders brave pioneers, super-intelligent world-changers, or worse – aren’t they ruthlessly ambitious CEOs, or untrustworthy politicians? Many of us are suspicious of leadership and power, as Kanada Gorla explored in her master class at the conference. Violence and injustice have been perpetrated by so-called leaders, we don’t feel our leaders work for us – and even with a more positive idea of leadership, we feel it doesn’t refer to us. But a different definition of leadership was talked about last weekend.
“A true leader is one who is brave enough to act on what they know to be true.”
This was Chris Paradox quoting Mac Macartney (pictured above right). Chris showed us that we can cultivate this bravery. He faced his fears through striking up conversations with the usually stony-faced crowds on London buses and the tube, through singing and dancing. By doing what he believed to be right, he has brought brightness and smiles into other people’s lives.
So leadership is all about purpose, then – living what we believe, shining our light.
We can hold on too tightly to what we believe though, as Carolina Moeller showed us. We feel that if we can only shout loudly and earnestly enough about the devastation us humans are wreaking on our planet, then we can make people want to save it. But this doesn’t often work. It leaves our intended audience turning away and it leaves us frustrated and angry. So instead we need to hold lightly to our truth, to embody it, to live it, to let it flow.
Mary Daniels (pictured left) calls this ‘conscious living’ – asking regularly, what do we know about ourselves? Asking what we’ve learned, what we need to accept and let go of, what we’re grateful for, what we invite, what we trust in, what we commit to, what we love and who we are.
Gratitude was also picked up by several other speakers as the road towards meaningful action. For Scilla Elworthy, gratitude is the first step, and helps us to be open to the pain and suffering in the world and to act on it. Scilla received a standing ovation for her master class asking what is driving us, and how we bring that self-knowledge to the work we do.
I’ve been enjoying a delicious ‘gratitude bath’ each morning this week thanks to Chris Paradox who took us through the technique – starting each day spending ten minutes experiencing gratitude for our existence, for the miracle of it all, for the mind-blowing awareness we have through our senses. A powerful way to start each day which has me grinning, buzzing and ready for action! And as Clive de Carle says, gratitude can have a positive effect on our health.
This positivity can have far-reaching effects. Once we realise we are all connected, that we are all ‘energetic beings in physical form’ (as Chris Walton put it, in his talk on The Gamma Mindset), we realise that our energy can affect people everywhere. This made so much sense to me. I’ve had several experiences this year where I have been with people in places so full of energy, brightness and love that I have felt lifted and embraced by the whole world.
Bill Murtha and Andrew Thornton showed that we can use positive energy to change how we relate to our work; they encouraged us to bring our true selves to the workplace, to connect us to our work and to each other. People and businesses must lead by living their values from the inside out, as Oonagh Harpur says. I’ve done a lot of thinking about my values lately and how effectively I live them, and I’m finding this really helpful in making difficult decisions. It makes sense that businesses would too. They’re run by people after all.
We were asked at the end of the conference for one stand-out word. For me that word is embodiment. If we embody our values and beliefs, they will shine, and others will feel it. "Bring yourself to the world", says Mac, a man who truly brings himself to every situation. Embodies his truth. We take inspiration from authentic leaders. And it’s surprising to learn that I, and you, and everyone, can all be authentic leaders too!