Pause. Reconnect. Rejoice. Reroute. Realize Regenerative Leadership. By Anaïs Sägesser. War, loneliness, inequity, biodiversity loss and climate crisis. Despite our good intentions, we are struggling to tackle the grand challenges of our times effectively. By breaking down grand challenges into small tangible problems that are solvable, we keep failing at the task. We need to change our mindset, way of sense-making, come together and collaborate for true change (1). This can feel overwhelming and time-intensive, particularly for managers and leaders since at the same time supply chains are at risk, inflation is on the rise and we are being asked to focus on the bottom line, both for the profitability of our investors and the job security of our staff. Competition, the push for innovation together with a globalised economy put us in an ever-accelerating wheel of growth and ever-increasing expectations towards ourselves and others We need to pause. Reconnect. Rejoice. Reroute. Realize and assume regenerative leadership. Taking a systemic viewpoint and acknowledging the importance of relationships and interconnectedness, our own interrelatedness with nature, we can start engaging with the world differently. For this, we need deep skills. Skills like listening truly, following curiosity, building trust, showing up fully, questioning ourselves and our mindsets constructively. We need to step out of the wheel of acceleration, growth and ever increasing expectations and begin to regenerate. Pause. There is a need for a time out. We can make it a practice to pause every now and then in our everyday life. Taking a moment to consciously “be” rather than “do”. If it’s not an everyday practice for us to pause in our (work)life, we may benefit from a bit of a longer pause. Often, a couple of days amidst nature, supported by experienced facilitators and guides and with like-minded people can be enough to open up to a different perspective. Reconnect. The constitutive axes of resonance to self, others and nature have been severely disturbed (2), affecting both our immediate well-being and our ability to think in new ways and to collaborate. To reconnect (or more precisely, perceive the connection once more) (3), stepping into nature is a wonderful first step. Being in nature has a strong effect on our mental health and feeling of well-being (4). There is increasing evidence that the benefits of being in nature do not only exert a positive effect on us individually, but also collectively, in regards to our values, openness to new perspectives and our propensity to lend a helping hand (5). By nurturing our connection to nature, research indicates we are also nurturing society’s potential to achieve well-being and sustainability (6). Rejoice. When we reconnect and are truly present in the moment, we can rediscover awe for the wonders of nature and replenish with joy. Being in the wilderness can induce strong and even transcendent emotions (7). Once we have…’fallen in love outwards,’ once we have experienced the fierce joy of life that attends extending our identity into nature, once we realize that the nature within and the nature without are continuous, then we too may share and manifest the exquisite beauty and effortless grace associated with the natural world. John Seed (8) Rainforest conservationist Reroute. As we have already overstepped multiple planetary boundaries (9) and are on our way to reaching critical tipping points in the Earth System (10), sustainable actions are no longer enough. We need to reroute our attention and action. In some indigeneous societies, humans have been stewards of the Earth. It is this role of stewardship that we need to take up once more if we are to enable future generations to flourish and thrive on Earth. Regenerate Leadership. We need to assume regenerative leadership. It calls and empowers us to take responsible and collaborative action and care for our relationships in order to regenerate, which means to renew or restore life supporting balance and action. This influences both our personal and professional realms and supports us in building up the necessary resilience to not only face adverse events but to continuously and actively engage in the world and make changes. It is a transformative journey. To me, regenerative leadership is an approach to leadership, which is nourished by a deep connection to self, others and nature (11) and serves the well-being of the entire ecosystem including our organisation, team and ourselves. We can pause, reconnect, rejoice, reroute and start regenerating right now. Together, in collaboration with each other and nature. Notes: (1) The first sentences of this blogpost were inspired by a social media post by Tomas Björkman regarding the Inner Development Goals Summit 2022 (2) Hartmut Rosa (2019) (3) To simplify I refer here to reconnecting, although one could also write that the connection is not broken but merely our awareness of it. So reconnecting, how I use it in this blog, means to become once more aware of the connection which is always there but which we may not always be able to perceive. (4) see e.g. Antonelli et al (2022), Meidenbauer et al (2020), Bratman et al (2019) (5) Kasap et al (2021) (6) Redondo et al (2021) & Zelenski et al (2015) (7) Bethelmy & Corraliza (2019) (8) John Seed is a rainforest conservationist in Australia. I found this quote in Buhner (2004, p.246) (9) see Rockström et al. (2009 and following landmark publications until 2022) (10) see Lenton & Schellnhuber (2002-2015) (11) Note that the separation of humans from nature is a social construct, which cannot be found in all languages. For an interesting analysis on the concept/ word of “nature” in some of the Indo-European languages see e.g. Ducarme et al. (2020) A warm thank you goes to Dr. Rachel Brooks, Dr. Ruth Förster and Sarah Schuppli for their careful review of this blog post. References Antonelli, Michele & Barbieri, Grazia & Donelli, Davide. (2022). Defining a new perspective in Environmental Health: the healing environment. International Journal of Biometeorology. 10.1007/s00484-022-02251-z. Bethelmy, Lisbeth & Corraliza, José. (2019). Transcendence and Sublime Experience in Nature: Awe and Inspiring Energy. Frontiers in Psychology. 10. 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00509. Bratman, Gregory & Daily, Gretchen & Levy, Benjamin & Gross, James. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning. 138. Pages 41–50. 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005 Buhner, Stephen Harrod. (2004). The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature Ducarme, F., Couvet, D. (2020). What does ‘nature’ mean?. Palgrave Commun 6, 14. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-0390-y Kasap, Emine & Ağzıtemiz, Feyza & Ünal, Gülten. (2021). Cognitive, Mental and Social Benefits of Interacting with Nature: A Systematic Review. 1. 16-27 Lenton; Timothy M. & Schellnhuber, Hans-Joachim - see their landmark publications (2002-2015) https://www.pik-potsdam.de/en/output/infodesk/tipping-elements/kippelemente Meidenbauer, Kimberly & Stenfors, Cecilia & Bratman, Gregory & Gross, James & Schertz, Kathryn & Choe, Kyoung Whan & Berman, Marc. (2020). The Affective Benefits of Nature Exposure: What's Nature Got to Do with It?. Journal of environmental psychology. 72. 101498.10.1016/j.jenvp.2020.101498. Redondo, Raquel & Valor, Carmen & Carrero Bosch, Isabel. (2021). Unraveling the Relationship between Well-Being, Sustainable Consumption and Nature Relatedness: a Study of University Students. Applied Research in Quality of Life. 1-18. 10.1007/s11482-021-09931-9. Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. Chapin, III, E. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M.Scheffer, C. Folke, H. Schellnhuber, B. Nykvist, C. A. De Wit, T. Hughes, S. van der Leeuw, H. Rodhe,S. Sörlin, P. K. Snyder, R. Costanza, U. Svedin, M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, R. W. Corell, V. J. Fabry, J. Hansen, B. Walker, D. Liverman, K. Richardson, P. Crutzen, and J. Foley. (2009). Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2): 32. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/ , this landmark publication was followed by more. For details see here https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries.html Rosa, Hartmut. (2019). Resonanz. Eine Soziologie der Weltbeziehung. Suhrkamp. Zelenski, John & Dopko, Raelyne & Capaldi, Colin. (2015). Cooperation is in our nature: Nature exposure may promote cooperative and environmentally sustainable behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.01.005. Courses in regenerative leadership There are a number of interesting and exciting courses on regenerative leadership. Most of them are offered online with the exception of our own course, which takes place in August 2022 in the Swiss mountains. As nature and community play such a central part in our understanding of regenerative leadership, we believe that for the transformative learning aspect (see upcoming blog by Dr. Ruth Förster), it is key to actually be in nature, in a group, in a safe enough space. In person, Switzerland: https://www.es.unisg.ch/en/programme/regenerative-leadership/ Online: https://centre.upeace.org/onlinecourses/regenerative-leadership/ Online: https://www.resilience.org/ Online: https://www.regenerativeleadership.co/ Online: https://www.jr-leadership.com/what-is-regenerative-leadership Online: https://rashtram.org/rlp/ Online: https://capitalinstitute.org/course-introduction-regenerative-economics/ About the Author As an impact driven educational entrepreneur & learning designer, Dr. Anaïs Sägesser co-shapes pioneering programs that effectively integrate impact project incubation, entrepreneurship & regenerative leadership development as well as personal growth. With her own experience from working in large corporate, SMEs, academia and NGOs she knows how important it is to make theory practical and works with immediately applicable tools and approaches. Anaïs graduated and then attained her doctorate from the University of St. Gallen.