Leader As Healer

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Three members of the Result team read the ‘Business Book of the Year 2023’ much of which chimes with our way of working. Here's what they thought.

Teresa Wilson

Leader as Healer is the book that I recommended the most to people last year. There was barely a conversation I had that didn’t involve the words, “You MUST read this book…” And now I’m here to tell you why you MUST read this book, too.

Why did it have such an impact? For me, it felt like a book whose time had come and whose central message is accessible, applicable and full of hope. It speaks with clarity – based on years of experience in the field – about how the world of work desperately needs to change. Right now. 

And it impacted me because the central message is so resonant with the philosophy and values that underpin the work we do at Result.

The ‘Leader as Executor’ paradigm, which has had dominion over the previous decades, has run its course. The focus on people as a resource to be used up in service of the dual gods of Productivity and Growth simply isn’t fit for purpose in the world we find ourselves in now; a VUCA world of increasing unpredictability and challenge.

Instead, Janni makes a case for the ‘Leader as Healer’ paradigm. 

“A call to break from the chronically imbalanced ways of thinking and functioning that have become the norm in so many corporate cultures, where ‘doing’ eclipses ‘being’, and hyper-rational, analytical thinking relegates feeling, sensing, intuiting and the transpersonal to the outer fringes of life.”

To put it simply, he says we have been seduced into privileging certain ways of understanding intelligence, and in doing so have neglected to include the wealth of additional sources of intelligence that every human has access to. If there is so much rich data available in people’s sensory, emotional or intuitive responses to the world, why would we NOT want to create workplace cultures that welcome and integrate these?

 The practical ‘how’ of this includes really simple ideas, such as:

  • Five minutes of silence at the start of the meeting to bring everyone into presence, in their bodies;
  • To acknowledge emotions, in real-time, with colleagues;
  • Taking a few deep breaths before a difficult phone call;
  • Paying attention to your posture throughout the day.

In this book, Janni offers us a model where well-being is interwoven with results; where emotions are as valued as rationality; where deep listening is a necessary skill; and where a co-created sense of mission and purpose fuels the energy to drive change from challenge.

To me, this is a book whose mission is to create workplaces where humans can thrive in their wholeness. A book whose time has come.

Jane Cordell

Leader as Healer is an enjoyable and intriguing read. It describes leaders’ tendency to disconnect from our emotional and physical selves and suggests ways to reintegrate these.

This accessible and manageably organised book is pitched mainly at top leaders. CEOs are its main source of feedback for example, but its messages are important for anyone leading others. There are some striking case studies such as a UK Government Permanent Secretary who decides to be more open and human about the challenges of a tough decision – and the positive and broad impact of this in the department they lead.

I found Janni’s work reassuring rather than newly enlightening. The author seems to affirm that of Brené Brown (vulnerability as strength) and Nancy Kline (vital importance of deep, present listening). Its suggested exercises echo the work of e.g. Shirzad Chamine (positive intelligence through regular sensory connection with the self). He talks about ‘widening our circle of compassion’ (p.107) and retaining a ‘sense of enchantment’ (p.145). These are surely the type of reminders we need in the increasingly volatile and often frighteningly unstable world in which we live. 

As I read the book, I wondered how an admittedly sterotyped CEO of the type Janni would called ‘executor’ (favouring doing over being, rationality over any other approach) would respond to Janni’s ideas.  I imagined them saying ‘That’s all very well, but I don’t have time.’ Janni however comments that ‘deeper listening actually saves time because our responses are more accurate and more attuned.’ (p.39). He gives an example of a CEO who made himself sit quietly to ‘settle’ before a difficult conversation –transforming not just the subsequent conversation but also his relationship with the person. For me this is important. We think we are too busy but by ignoring two thirds of the resources within us (our physical self and our emotional self) we are making life and work unnecessarily hard for ourselves.

As a coach, I love the power of questions. Finding your personal sense of purpose and inspiring others to do so has to be at the top of any leader’s priorities. Here are some which Janni suggests you pose to yourself and your teams:

‘What aspects of your work are you proud of?’

‘What is meaningful to you in the work we are doing together?’

‘What is the work that is mine to do?’

I recommend the book if you are feeling jaded as a leader. It’s refreshing and its practical sections offer simple clear things which will generate deeper awareness. Janni emphasises presence, the message ‘I am here and I am available’. How often do we convey that and actually mean it?

Hormoz Ahmadzadeh

Leader as Healer was recommended as a ‘must read’ to me and it immediately looked like it should be an interesting read. I found out a little bit more about it, including the fact that it was awarded ‘Business Book of the Year 2023’. Who am I to argue with a personal recommendation and a prestigious award?

As I started it, I liked the accessible way in which Janni had set it out and conveyed his messages. 

His main idea is that in many work environments the focus is all on rational and analytical thinking and ‘doing’, which can overshadow feeling, sensing, and intuition and therefore, ‘being’. 

The book sets out and in chapters explores the important idea that to be a healer as a leader, there is a need for an effective integration of mind, heart and body to create a more effective authentic leader. 

The book consolidated ideas and thoughts that I have acquired through my journey as a coach and facilitator. It made me think of Brené Brown (there is a direct reference to her and Brown’s focus on vulnerability as strength), Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) and in terms of listening with intent and full attention, Nancy Kline.

As I finished it my overall thought was this is in the end is all about ‘Authentic Leadership’ ,which was first talked about in the 60s but came to its own in the noughties. I thought ‘I like all of this, but I know a lot of it already’. Apart from lived experience, this is all familiar from past reading and what we have used in leadership workshops.

For me personally, the most useful aspect was how valuable mindfulness is. I had become aware of mindfulness on a coaching programme I attended during lockdown, so I started and stuck to my mindfulness routine. After lockdown as routines were affected, I slipped back into the old habits of not doing it, so this was a timely reminder. 

This book would be a wonderful recommendation for some of the people we work with. When we talk about feelings, intuition, empathy, and vulnerability it sits extremely uncomfortably with some of our programme participants. For them, it could be highly impacful and that’s maybe why it’s an important book. Its clear and compelling message for people who think feelings are a weakness, could well be a game changer. 

Book of the year though? I’m still not sure why. Maybe its timing is right. 

The need for this way of being and thinking is right (again) as many organisations have regressed to the old-fashioned way of focus on hardnosed doing and productivity.


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