In a time of volatile and complex uncertainty, it is time to learn the lessons of conscious leadership that nature has compiled from 3.8 billion years of evolution.
I invite you to use nature as a model, mentor, and muse to rethink how you lead yourself, your family, your organization, and your community.
My own conscious love affair with plants started pretty late in life. Up until then, like many, I pretty much only saw plants for their beauty. Sure, every once in a while I would think about how they produce oxygen and how they are used for paper. In general my plant blindness level was pretty high though.
You probably know by now that it was the Music of the Plants that opened my eyes (and heart) to plant intelligence. Listening to a plant make music for the first time is an experience I will never forget. It brought me into “plant awareness” almost immediately!
From the moment I started to interact with plants via music, I innately understood what it meant to be alive!
Fast forward almost 10 years, and plants now inform my life. I live in constant gratitude for everything they give us directly and indirectly. I am in awe at how much wisdom they offer with their actions. If you are looking for a role model to teach you how to be a better human, look to the plants.
Plants give their bodies for humans
Everyday, plants give their bodies, and most often their lives, to ensure that humans are safe, healthy, and happy. They provide:
- fiber for clothing
- active ingredients in medicine
- nourishment in food
- elements for building materials
- oxygen for breathing
- wax for candles
- sources for dyes
- oils for soaps
- colors for cosmetics
- bodies for musical instruments
- aerosols that produce wellness
- pulp for toilet paper
…the list goes on and on.
And this is just a list of physical things. Add to that all the ecosystem services they provide!
- Supporting (e.g. soil formation, nutrient cycling, primary production)
- Provisioning (e.g. food, fresh water, fuelwood, fiber, biochemicals, genetic resources)
- Regulating (e.g. climate regulation, disease regulation, water regulation, water purification, pollination)
- Cultural (e.g. spiritual and religious, recreation and ecotourism, aesthetic, inspirational, educational, sense of place, cultural heritage).
You can’t take a step or a breath without connecting to a plant
Are you really aware of that? Do you think of it as you buy food in the grocery store or step on the grass when you take a short-cut? I know I didn’t before.
Recently, I was reading a scientific rebuttal article where the authors were responding to the claim made by a previous article that plants are not cognitive. In “Cognition Wars”, Fred Adams makes the claim that there is no decision-making in plants. He says that instead they are responding with hard-wired answers to environmental stimuli.
The rebuttal, written by Miguel Segundo-Ortin and Paco Calvo (one of my personal favorite philosophical scientists working in this area), is entitled, “Are plants cognitive? A reply to Adams”. Couldn’t get more direct than that title–go Paco!
I could list out the major arguments Segundo-Ortin and Calvo make to (in my humble opinion) provide ample evidence that plants are cognizant, but you can read the paper yourself to understand. Instead, I want to point out some things they didn’t mention, yet are equally of note.
First, if plants are cognizant of their actions, then that means that everything I mentioned above they do with conscious awareness! All those services and sacrifices are not just the byproduct of some function plants carry out. They are also the result of plants choosing to do them!
And it is this choice, or better said the wisdom they have acquired in order to consciously choose, that we can bring into our day to day lives.
Beyond the obvious efficiency reasons, I mean if you have a model that has had billions of years of testing to perfect what they do, why not follow that model?!
There is also a more subtle reason. With humans and the planet so out of whack–as evidenced by wide-scale pollution, the cataclysmic effects of climate change, and high levels of physical and mental illness–humans need to step back into balance.
And what is a functioning ecosystem if not many different types of beings all living together in balance?
This means that if we look at how plants behave within a well-functioning ecosystem, we can extract many models for how we can better live and work together in harmony.
There is much conscious leadership in dandelions
Let me give you a few examples of plant behavior we can learn from:
Raise your hands if you love Dandelions!
When I first moved to Damanhur Spiritual EcoCommunity, I didn’t much care for Dandelions.
Like many, I was taught that they are a noxious weed.
Ugh…. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Dandelions grow pretty much anywhere and everywhere with very little energy. They are extremely nutritious, from root to flower, and are almost impossible to eliminate.
One evolutionary trait they have employed is the use of wind for seed dispersal. Did you ever think that this was a co-evolution with humans? By creating a mechanism that is both physically efficient (tiny seed with its own little parachute) and appealing (white puff with seeds that easily detach), they know that even if there is no wind, they will probably attract the attention of someone that will blow their seeds far and wide.
If you look at this with regards to your leadership style and strategy, how can you create a more efficient model that uses these traits?
- Key characteristics:
- Easy to distribute.
- Can fly off on its own and start to grow on its own.
– Attracts people that instinctively know what to do in order to distribute (affordance).
- How can the Dandelion help you build a better business strategy or more efficient viral campaign?
Conscious leadership inspired by strawberry plants
Let’s look at strawberry plants next.
Have you ever noticed that strawberries put out runners. These horizontal “stems” bud into new plants. Runners have a number of advantages, one being that they extend the plant’s reach while maintaining a close, mutually-beneficial relationship with the main part of the plant. They do this in order to quickly send messages if there are herbivores coming around or soil conditions change.
Another advantage is that these new stems can send down roots and become full, new plants if the conditions are right. Rather than going blindly underground and poking up at what could be a bad place, runners explore from the outside. They choose the best sun and topsoil before laying down more energy intensive roots. Pretty clever, right?
So when you think of your leadership strategy, how would you introduce the concept of “runners” into your organization? What kind of feelers can you put out so that you have a quick and direct feedback loop between yourself and others?
And instead of investing in a costly launch strategy, how can you first send out runners to test the placement and market conditions? How can you efficiently receive vital information to ensure that you have the right strategy in place? And if you have the right strategy, how can you immediately set down roots in-situ instead of going back to the source?
Plants provide a wealth of guidance to develop your personal and professional life in balance with your individual nature and the natural world around you. Two things that are often seen at odds with one another. A recent client called it “Earth-Light Balance”. A pretty catchy term, don’t you think?
When you find the balance between individuality and interconnectedness, something plants demonstrate on a regular basis (and a whole lecture in ReConnect to the Plant Kingdom), you can easily operate in a state where self-care and care of others are one in the same. This provides a huge advantage to the efficiency and connection to your team.