My work over the last two years has involved diving quite deeply into the ‘Social Currencies’ that bind together (or drive apart) our social context. This is a world governed by gut instinct, feeling, the things we ‘believe’ or hope for. This is the world of our humanity and connection, our community and aspiration. Our varied truths and many divisions.
On the one hand i have been encouraged by the stories that have been shared: through the large research projects, and the thousands of people who have travelled with me through the various exploratory journeys, i have heard stories of kindness, humility, compassion and empathy. Stories of hope, and reflective narratives of how people feel they can be good, how they strive to make the system better.
And of course i’ve heard many stories of conflict and loss: stories of division and pain, of exclusion and unfairness, of unkindness and strife. But interestingly very little ownership of this.
We tend to own our humanity and outsource the pain.
We seem to see the sun falling over the landscape, and leave others in the rain.
My first attempt to document this work was in the Quiet Leadership book published earlier this year: in that work i use the growth of a tree to consider our impact in the overall landscape.
We start with the acorn, representing our humility, then through stages of growth and maturity, until the leaves fall from the canopy and back to the ground.
This represents a cycle: not a journey with an end point, but an exploration that carries us through light and shade.
I describe the acorn for ‘humility’, because it does not contain the tree, but rather the potential of the tree. And that is how i see us: not as good or bad, but as holding the potential for both. And not as static structures in a landscape, but dynamically part of it.
When i was developing this work, for a long time it had a working title of ‘Imperfect Leadership’, as a recognition that we are all, in conception and execution, imperfect. We strive and seek, but we cannot truly be all good, all the time, however well intentioned we are.
We live in imperfect systems, partly because any system will be imperfect for some, and partly because we sometimes lack the visibility, space, time, or community, to calibrate our own actions within it.
Which has tipped me into thinking about kindness again: kindness to self, to others, to system. And what it means to be a person within a system. A story of kind humans, or humans who hope to be kind.
Humans who find comfort in kindness: both the idea and delivery of it, and the reception and warmth of it.
Last week ‘The Humble Leader’ was successful in it’s Kickstarter campaign, and is now heading into production.
As i embark on some other, deeper, research into complexity and failure, i also want to open up a new reflective space: one to consider human kind – the kindness it means to be human.