The Ecology of Leadership: A Twist on the Idea of Professionalism

In our attempt to be ‘professional’, it seems that our society has become afraid of our own human-ness. Have we lost our sense of how to be with each other in the messiness of our humanity?

I was reading my LinkedIn Groups this morning and came across Mike Smith’s ‘Life Back West’ thoughts on people, teams, organizations, effectiveness and success (thanks Mike!). Now, it may seem that I jump around here a bit, so buckle your seat belt and see if you can stay with me on this …

So, after reading his short blurb on leadership that caught my eye, I went to Mike’s blog planning to oppose what I anticipated would be a description of an old belief system that suggests, if we are professional, our feelings are to be suppressed in the workplace.

Instead, Mike described how his young son has inspired his professional nature to include expression, compassion, and emotion. Having a young boy myself, I can totally relate to how he and I allow each other space for emotional expression. But then, why is it that we are not allowed too much expression at work without being sited as a problem?

leading revelation through chaosIt seems that our society has become afraid of our own human-ness. Have we lost our sense of how to be with each other in the messiness of our humanity? For me, today’s sorely needed emerging leaders can not be likened anymore to the stoic guy on a horse riding off into the sunset after he single-handedly saves the town from Godzilla. Why? Because this guy (usually someone we all aspire to be) rarely shows the kind of emotion that allows for each of us to change ourselves – a collective transformation. Rather, the so-called hero tends to be about eliminating a problem by taking out the people that go with it. This doesn’t work anymore.

What if instead, we began to choose our leaders (at least in part) based on how well they have learned to express their emotions, and how well they exemplify ways to share the messiness of their own humanity, while also being able to hold space for others to do the same?

I propose that we dare ourselves to allow more messiness in the workplace by helping to teach and “lead” groups through spells of negative emotion, rather than try to find ways to avoid or expel it. No more heroes of elimination. The key here is teaching groups or teams to hold space for their peers during their time of need, rather than expect the so-called leader to do it alone. This is known as collective leadership, or an ecology of leadership. And I believe that, using this approach, gold can be found within the mines (minds?) of our organizations, which will generate amazing new forms of innovation. Why? Because the form and function of all innovation is the result of the expression of  the group (or company) who created it. Seems we may have forgotten the fact that companies are made of people, from which products and services are an outcome; and not the other way around?

Daniel Goleman’s talk on TED points to this evolved form of leadership that I speak of here.

It starts with what he calls a ‘human moment’, which are the times when we are paying full attention to the person(s) we are with. He suggests that there is zero correlation between intelligence and the awareness of another (this is known as compassion). Yet we hire our leaders and managers almost completely based on their level of intelligence and rarely rate them based on their ability to express themselves, to show compassion, or their ability hold a group through troubling periods. Why is that?

Also interesting is that he correlates the rapid growth of information to compassion, and it makes sense! Creating this new synergy of perspectives begins to define what I like to call an ‘ecology of leadership’ – a new process of thought and relationship-building. It is an evolved form of collaboration where, as we become more present to the relationships in our lives, it actually helps to form a unified ‘whole’ world that works better, while also increasing personal identity and  individual value at the same time. How cool is that?!

Now, this is a bit of a paradox because our increasing access to information often pulls us away from being present with each other. But we have to remember that both are happening at the same time. What I am trying to suggest is that an ecology of leadership, along with increased awareness of our relationships, is changing the meaning of ‘professionalism’. It is morphing into something completely different than we know it today. In ecological terms, this means that even the concept of “the leader” has lived out it’s time, and we now need to consider what a collective leadership can look like. This evolutionary process will empower each of us, rather than just a mere few of us, and can then be carried into any group dynamics to help generate a deeper form of authenticity, purpose, and meaning within ourselves and our companies.

If your mind is spinning a bit, it suggests that the well goes deep here. I plan to write more about this in my blogging. But for now, let us all reconsider what it means to be a “professional”, and discuss together what kind of “leadership” we want and need in this new, interconnected world of ours.

[ See related content on Authentic Leadership]

Learn more about the author, Vic Desotelle 

The Art of Authentic Leadership

How To Become An Authentic Leader

By Vic Desotelle

Authentic Leadership is for those who
choose to ‘BE change’ as the way to ‘SEE change’


Authenticity as Prerequisite for Leadership

Today’s growing global problems can not be solved using the same methods that created them in the first place. Thus, we must evolve our approaches toward innovation, including a new eye on leadership. This article addresses leadership from a very different perspective. How do we bring in new forms of technologies, build conscious business paradigms, support social issues, and formulate economies that create well being in our communities?

To create a better world for our children and our children’s children, we need to apply leadership in a new way. ‘Authentic Leadership’ addresses this need. Specifically, it reshapes our way of thinking and collaborating. It helps us to make more choices available to more people, and to make better decisions by using evolved forms of collaboration and individual empowerment. This kind of leadership is what is needed to help us build a sustainable vibrant world society.

Authenticity is the difference between leading and leadership

There is a difference between practicing formulated exercises to create personal change, and experiencing deep transformational change through self awareness. This is done by first empowering yourself as a leader based on your interests, capabilities, and passions, to realize your own unique authentic identity.

Once this is achieved, a shift in personal understanding of leadership will occur. With this shift, comes an evolution in the way you are able to help others realize their own power and their own sense of leadership. Thus, you become a catalyst for change rather than a director of change.

The primary role of an Authentic Leader is to follow change from behind, not direct it from from the front.

That’s right: I said ‘follow’. By following team members and watching for ways to enhance their own ‘yellow brick road’, you inject power into both the individual’s and the group’s journey – one individual at a time, including yourself.

Change carries greater purpose than satisfying our own self imposed ideals that others want to follow. This is not empowering and does not lead others toward their own authority. Realizing this is a big step toward becoming an authentic leader. To do this, the way leadership is viewed has to change:

Rather than placing your leadership in front of others and ‘leading the charge’, you instead follow and keep a watchful eye for the opportunities to ‘catalyze desired change’. This enables change – not through your direction, but by facilitating and empowering those who reveal guiding insights with a passion to act.

Choosing ‘director’ leadership or ‘follower’ leadership says much about how we will affect change.

Director-leadership reinforces old ways and helps to stabilize existing cultural norms, whereas follower-leadership establishes new pathways for culture systems to emerge. Both have their role in evolving a society. However, ‘follower’ lead approach focuses on creating the new by recognizing when old principles, rules, and behaviors don’t work anymore. Unlike ‘director’ leadership, ‘follower’ leadership allows effort to be on creating the new without putting energy on breaking down old norms that no longer serve us.

This actually is the only way real change happens, since killing off the people and systems that serve the old way does not in fact kill off the behavior of that old way. When you look at history, our revolutions, which arise to address needed change, have not really been effective. The same patterns have tended to repeat themselves over and over. To create real change, we must attend to the emerging new, not put energy into eliminating the old.

The ‘Bulls-Eye’ – An Old Metaphor for Leading and Succeeding

Have you seen how the target is so often used as a business metaphor? I do like this metaphor of the arrow hitting the bulls-eye, but for a different reason than you may think. What if, for the authentic leader, it is no longer appropriate to aim for the center of the target? What if your best shot is actually when the arrow lands in the furthest outer ring?

For the authentic leader, viewing situations from a target’s periphery is more powerful than from its center. The edge is a place where you have to be more a part of the interactions with others. You are not at the center of the world for all to adore. The new leader has moved passed his own “me center” needs that satisfy personal ego. Instead respect is gained by risking at the edge. Risking being seen in in the vulnerability of one’s humanity as a person that makes mistakes and is flawed like we all are. The periphery of the target is not as safe as the center. It’s at this periphery, and not the center, where an authentic leader’s true power is realized.

In Leadership Ecology, you want to target the OUTER ring, not the center bulls-eye.

From the outer ring you have a very different perspective on leadership. By placing yourself in the outer ring, you are in the best position to move others into the center, not you. Aiming for this part of the target also challenges your own awareness, and thereby your authenticity as a person. And this is so important as a leader, because people can feel your truth. It is not as hidden as you may think. Most can tell when you are not really coming from your authentic self.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall …

Each of us sees ourselves best by reflecting off of others. In fact, I propose that it’s the ONLY way we can see our true authentic selves. That is, your ability to be truly who you are will become evident once you surround yourself with others who can empathize with your life path and compassionately share with you how they see you. This mirroring concept is core to good a leader’s ability to facilitate others along their path.

It is the authentic leader’s responsibility to be a reflection of you. It must be done in a nonjudgmental way, while at the same time being boldly-truthful – a mirror of ‘you’.

A mirrored message can not be recognized by you until someone actually reflects it back to you, and taking in reflected (mirrored) messages can be difficult. Often, what another says about you triggers the ego’s protection mechanisms. But allow them anyway. Permitting these reflections will help you see through your own forest of day-to-day trials. As you serve others in this way your own leadership qualities and abilities improve and becomes more meaningful. As a mirror, you generate and acknowledge your own insights with others. This process actually becomes a spiritual journey as you enter into your own personal labyrinth toward becoming more aware.

Creating an Ecology of Leadership

When we come to realize our own authentic identity, we move to a place of compassion and empathy for others. Rather than being in the front office, where too often isolated decisions are made, instead your influence radiates out in an attempt to partner with others. You no longer are a director overseeing subordinates, but instead see value in empowering others, helping to shape an empowered network of interactions. A ‘Leadership Ecology’ begins to form.

Evolving an ‘Ecology of Leadership’ is not done by placing yourself at the center of attention, or at the front of the room with everyone’s eyes pointed at you. Rather, it is done by positioning yourself to easily focus on others in the group, not them being focused on you. As we’ve discussed in the bulls-eye model, this comes from a place of guiding from the periphery, rather than directing from the center or the front office.

When a Leadership Ecology occurs, a web of relationships emerges revealing each person’s authentic leadership qualities through the transfer of their power to others. When done in a conscious way – a shared collaborative awakening happens.

Authentic Leadership is Collaborative?

Once you get comfortable with this new perspective, your actions and your direction of others, will come from a different place – an empathic place, which is the first step in empowering others to their own leadership. This is what ‘authentic leadership’ is all about. It’s this kind of leadership that empowers others into their own leadership. It marks the beginning your organization moving toward new forms of collaboration that create unexpected, even disruptive innovation that is built on a foundation of group empowerment – a collaborative leadership.

Each One’s Uniqueness Revealed

Each one of us is unique, and too often our one-of-a-kind identities do not reveal themselves through traditional coaching or mentoring methods. Leadership consulting and coaching process formulas only work to a point. How do we address that part of our personality that is not just about creating goals, strategies, and tasks to perform more efficiently? Our business-oriented activities too often cloak who we really are – our inner personal truths.

Our inner truths and beliefs are the real drivers behind all choices we make in our external life.

Once you reveal and own your inner truth, your true identity is revealed. Now the whole world will look different. Your choices and actions change as well. In your full authentic self, you become a more balanced self-realized leader of others. And it starts with the others reflections so that you can see inside yourself and then emanate true power; true leadership.

Entering the Labyrinth of Authentic Leadership

Entering the labyrinth of authentic leadership can rarely be done without having others involved in your awakening process. It also can not be done by merely understanding the concept. To really grok its value, and to see authentic transformation, this kind of work must be experienced in the day to day trials of your life. You must actually walk through the labyrinth of your own making, not just think about it. This often starts with a coach or mentor – someone who can support you as you move toward the root of personal insight. Insights that will include valuable tools for using on the job. Such as, becoming more clear about situational problems, the ability to recognize employee character behaviors, understanding resulting decisions that they make, and how to help each other evolve into the creation of collaborative solutions.

Realizing our authentic self is the true power source of all good leaders … Once obtained, they give it away freely.

You will also become skilled at both offering and receiving acknowledgment – from a place that goes beyond selfish ego. These are all unique and personal experiences to you and you alone. As you to awaken to a more authentic self, a personal transformational change will emerge from within you that affects not just you, but those around you as well.

A New Understanding of Leadership – Listen Up!

We are moving into a new understanding leadership and management that are no longer only about reaching targeted goals and objectives. Sure these are important, but they are less significant than the need for ‘authentic leadership’.

To understand what it means to be a leader today, we must be retaught and move away from traditional methods. You will not find absolute formulas or rigid processes for building on prescribed objectives.

Although sometimes useful, authentic practices tend to stay away from prescribed rational formulas and instead rely on a blending of your own and others intuitive instincts. The greatest challenge is learning to use your instinctual senses to listen deeply into yourself, as well as into others. Do not make your primary motive for listening to direct what you hear another say and direct them toward action. No. Instead listening is done guide through reflection, helping another to see their own aha’s. This is ‘empowerment’, which is the primary measure for how well authentic leaders are applying themselves.

Reevaluating Your Expectations

This is the first step toward becoming an evolved leader – an authentic leader, is to reevaluate your expectations. What are your true objectives and plans, based on your hidden personal motives? This can not be done alone. But done in a safe, nonjudgmental container, groups can work and learn together how to realize a deeper sense of self. By supporting each other, we reveal things that bring profound insight to who you are and how you perceive the world. Beyond that, your ability to support your team, family, or organization becomes more trusting and more meaningful. This is true leadership. Expectations in your role as leader have changed. Now you are moving toward an ‘authentic leadership’.

Imagine Leading and Being Lead in an Authentic Way

What would it mean for your team’s productivity and success if you acted as their mentor or coach, rather than as their manager or director? What if you shifted your ‘I’m in charge’ thinking, to enabling their charge?

What would happen if you shift your motivation from being an ‘authoritative director’ to being an ‘authentic leader’?

Start aiming at the outer ring of the target instead of the center, and watch what happens.

Written By Vic Desotelle EMAIL VIC

Our Truths Are Based On Internal Beliefs That Are Too Often Wrong

Here’ an important message to our leaders and decision makers:

Assume that your truths and beliefs are an Illusion.


Consider how our brain works …
Watch what happens to your belief system as you stare at this image.

1-Follow the moving pink dot: What do you see?
2-Look at the middle black cross. Now what do you see?
3-Now star for a few seconds at the black cross. What happens?

This should be proof enough that we don’t always see what we think we see.

If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, the dots will remain only one color, pink. However if you stare at the black ” +” in the centre, the moving dot turns to green. Now, concentrate on the black ” + ” in the centre of the picture. After a short period, all the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see only a single green dot rotating. It’s amazing how our brain works. There really is no green dot , and the pink ones really don’t disappear.


About A More Advanced Form Of Leadership

My good friend Maria Kostelas from Flutes of the World is an exceptional thinker, innovator, musician, and writer. She shared some thoughts with me today. Read up …

Maria says …

“Thought leaders do not wait in silence. Nor do they wait for others’ minds to be opened, or for safe places to speak into. Today’s thought leaders are the openers of minds so that they too may participate in the leading of the group. They are modern day prophets who dare say “we,” knowing their words spring from a place of unity.”

She suggests this book …

The Art of Original Thinking: The Making of a Thought Leader” by Jan Phillips.  Have you heard of it?  She’s a good writer and quite an eloquent, (w)holistic-synthesizer, offering content that addresses individual needs in relation to corporate and global community, economic conditions, and… possibilities.

A quote from Jan Phillips:

“… And this is the great challenge for any emergent thought leader-to know that one’s ideas will be criticized and resisted, and yet to dare to speak, knowing that these thoughts are the only building blocks we have to a new and safer world. …”

“… Transformation originates in people who see a better way or a fairer world, people who reveal themselves, disclose their dreams, and unfold their hopes in the presence of others. And this very unfolding, this revelation of raw, unharnessed desire, this deep longing to be a force for good in the world is what inspires others to feel their own longings, to remember their own purpose, and to act, perhaps for the first time, in accordance with their inner spirit.”

Other points that Maria makes …

The poet Audre Lorde reminds us:

“… We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for the final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us… The transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation and that always seems fraught with danger. We fear the very visibility without which we also cannot truly live…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which is also the source of our greatest strength.”

Howard Bloom, author of Global Brain and The Lucifer Principle, writes:

“Imagine what it would be like if at every staff meeting you were expected to put the care of the multitudes we mistakenly call “consumers” first. Imagine what it would be like to go to work each morning in a company that saw your passions as your greatest engines, your curiosities as your fuel, and your idealism as the pistons of your labors and of your soul. Imagine what it would be like if your superiors told you that the ultimate challenge was to tune your empathic abilities so you could sense the needs of your firm’s customers even before those customers quite knew what they hankered after.”

This is not just about your boss. That’s not what the new leadership is exactly. No, this stuff includes you too. And if you are a leader of others: Can you relate to this?! No?? Best you start.

Vic’s Supplements Plan For Wellness … and Sustainability

Our wellness influences what we create as human beings and how it either supports or depletes the world’s complex ecology of life – a planetary well being, so to speak.

Our individuality is made up of a physical body, mind(fulness) and thoughts, emotions and attitude, and spiritual connection with something greater than us. The interactions between sustainability, leadership, collaboration, and innovation (my favorite subjects) start inside ourselves. That is, how we treat the inward effects the outward. Each then, are tightly connected to other bodies, thoughts, emotions, and spirits that make up a collective of creativity, and the outcomes of our innovation and creativity start with you and me feeling whole as individuals. Keeping our bodies attuned within a now toxic environment becomes very important. To be global change agents, we must recognize that all four areas of inner being affect the same four aspects of an outer being that is realized within our communities and the earth as a whole. This is why some people call the earth ‘Gaia’, because it better represents our planet as a living being made up of an intertwined ecology of living things. This way of thinking is in fact at the source of all human development within the context of understanding a deep ecology. Let us come to recognize that giving credence to our individual wellness directly influences the next generation of innovation, and will be the result of a more conscious, collaborative, global design process.

That said, the outline below suggest some ways to use supplements to keep our bodies well. Everything below comes from a body-wellness perspective and is based on three key points …

1-Clean the colon (the ‘inner’ toxic environment)

Plain and simple: 90% of all human disease starts in the colon, so a clean colon is will prevent most of the stuff that’s killing or making us sick.

2-Alkalize the body (an acid world is an angry world)

pH balance is the best indicator of human health. Our body organs regenerate and rejuvenate when alkaline and get sick when acid. For example, cancer can not live in an alkaline body but thrives in an acid one. Also, a balanced set of healthy bacteria help to keep bad micro-organisms from passing further into your body, including one that seems to be prevalent in today’s highly food processed world known as candida.

2-Assimilation of nutrients (know how to take in the good while shielding ourselves from the bad)

I have found that, just because you take supplements does not mean that your body is taking in the ingredients. The body’s ability to break down and utilize supplements is as important as the supplement ingredients themselves. Laboratory-made ingredients usually are far less capable of assimilating properly than supplements made from natural sources because their molecular structure is often too large to pass through cell membranes and often do not have the carriers that help with the exchange processes in the body. So be sure that you consider this as part of your supplements selection process.


My solution:

This is not, by any means, a perfect solution – there isn’t one. I’m posting this because I want to share what I know through my own studies, hoping that it will encourage more of you change agents to build your own wellness solution.

1-Alkalize the Body

(a) Alkalize the body with pH drops

Drink lots of water throughout the day with drops in it. Try Cell Power pH drops and/or try Phion pH drops.

(b) Drink raw lemon juice

Lemon juice with touch of B grade syrup as lemons are a great alkalizer to the body and makes my stomach feel good. It cuts my apetite so its easier to eat way less food during day, which is very important. This program is called the Master Cleanse which uses just lemon juice. I’ve gone 10 days with just this and no other food – It was great, but takes will power I don’t have right now.

2-Cleanse the Digestive System

Clean out the colon and keep it that way. I like using Dr. Schultz 5 or 30 day bowel detox system, or something similar. Listen to his lectures on how he describes the interaction between a healthy colon and overall wellness – his approach is wise and sound.


3-Add Highly Assimilable Nutrients

(a) Nutraceutical

Vitamins do not get into the body due to size of dissolved particles, and our diets (even if healthy) no longer have the nutrients they once did due to destroyed soils. New vitamin products are called ‘Nutricuticals’ help get those needed extras, especially ingredients that get lost during food processing, such as aminos, enzymes, healthy bacteria. These are the two I use: IntegraMax and sometimes Eniva Vibe. Try both and see which one works for you.

(b) Superfoods with Juicing

Make lots of juices with live fresh vegies and fruits and add super foods. Top superfoods are seaweed, raw honey, wheatgrass juice, and whole crushed flax seed. Add Dr. Shultz superfood to your juice. Also, go get 2 to 4 ounces of wheat grass juice from a local juice bar a couple times a week. It is one of the highest forms of nature-made nutrition on the planet. Also add seaweed to your diet as it contains the macro and micro minerals that our diet does not provide anymore. And when you can, use raw honey in green tea and or just by the spoonful. The tea is high in antioxidants and the honey is high in enzymes, which are normally heated out of most all of our foods but essential for nutrient breakdown and assimilation. I often add all or any of these into my juice concoction, plus dark greens, carrots, raspberries and blueberries. All are extra high antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Mix up a juice to satisfy your taste buds, but just get it into your body.

(c) Probiotics and Fish Oil

An unbalanced flora allows the bad bacteria to populate and they generate major acid. Plus omegas help to reestablish cell membranes thereby reducing irriation. Take Jaro probiotics or Blue Rock probiotics (mix of 4 to 7 billion healthy bacteria types), along with a balance of omegas that come from clean fish oil pills that have total of 1000mgs of dnl and hcl (see backs of bottles).


4-Exercise to burn off stress

My stress level has been chronically off the charts for too long and is main reason for my acid reflux and stomach problems. Exercise helps but I still don’t do this one enough, but am walking now very often. It helps a lot. Looking forward to things has also has helped to calm down my anxiety. (Special note: I have also recognized that taking too many supplements causes stomach problems – more is not better. Monitor the quantities that work for your body.)


5-The ‘Magic Nine’ Foods For Wellnes

I have added eight foods into my diet that combine high levels of the magic that the body needs to run well. Note these foods are either ‘raw’ or properly ‘processed’ to retain their magic. They are: Fish Oil (omegas) Seaweed (minerals), Raw Honey (enzymes), Wheatgrass Juice (vitamins/minerals), Whole Flax Seed (omegas/fiber) [ground at time of intake], Blueberries (vitamins/antioxidants), Green Tea (metabolism/antioxidants), Cayenne Pepper [metabolism and circulation], and a Superfood Blend (vitamins/minerals) [best ‘processed’ combo I’ve found is from Dr. Schultz.


Note: I’m a believer in the products I’ve listed here through my own research and experimenting. I suggest you try them, but by all means, find the ones that work for you! In principle, emphasize prevention or cure solutions, and the use of earth-grown substances instead of lab-based pharmaceuticals. And recognize that BOTH supplements and pharmaceuticals have their place in wellness and well being.


If you have any suggestions regarding this list, please email me and let me know.

Vic Desotelle