As the world looks for new approaches to business and innovative solutions to some critical problems, do we also need a new approach to leadership? As the other On Purpose Associates and I left Embercombe on Sunday after a long weekend of personal development training, this was the question left running through my mind.
For three days we had been taken through an array of sessions examining group dynamics, the power of ‘group think’, how better to understand our position and role within a group, and how to confront our fears and develop those sides of ourselves that we habitually neglect. We were emphatically shown the importance of regularly taking time to reflect on our own direction rather than keeping our heads stuck in the details. Sustainability was a strong focus. We worked in teams on the land, harvesting the food we cooked. We were encouraged to sleep under the stars and take time to wander the farm, a breathtakingly beautiful slice of Devon that was bathed almost surreally in early summer sunlight all weekend. And of course we ate, swam, drank and made merry.
But behind the merriment the message was serious. Embercombe pushed us to think about leadership in new ways. No strict authoritarianism, hard-and-fast rules or boardroom fear here, this approach is about empowering risk-taking and innovation, inspiring others and maintaining integrity. Ultimately it highlighted that true leadership must start with knowing oneself. Elements of this approach are of course evident in a scattering of businesses, some highly successful; but what if more of the world’s top leaders took this to heart? Perhaps at least this is a style of leadership more attune to, and more effective for, the values and aspirations of social enterprise.