The NATURE of Presidential Leadership and Crisis Management within Institutions at Risk

I am a member of the Edu Alliance Advisory Council. January 23, Edu Alliance posted this blog:

Presidential Leadership and Crisis Management within Institutions at Risk

I incorporate Nature’s wisdom and lessons into my university consulting and service. As it is with Great Blue Heron, I employ an ecosystems approach to assessing universities. Here is an excerpt to that effect from my Edu Alliance blog post:

My Ecosystem Approach — As a forester and doctoral-trained applied ecologist, I view universities the same way I might any organism in a natural ecosystem. My doctoral research evaluated soil-site productivity. That is, the potential for a given set of conditions to produce biomass and forest products and services. Often, the actual forest in place may express past treatments and poor management, and not be truly reflective of the potential. I used independent measures of soil, slope, fertility, topography, and other objective metrics to assess potential. If a great site is supporting a poorly performing stand, then investments in rehabilitation could return dividends. If the site is poor, no investment will return dividends. The same is true for universities.

I am thrilled to apply the fundamental tenets of my doctoral findings to university leadership and crisis management. Living proof that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature!

Steve’s Foolish Weather Dare

The Write Launch recently posted an essay chronicling a rather daring bike ride from my Ohio days:

The lessons I learned apply to much of living, learning, serving, and leading.

My concluding remarks from the essay:

“A towering thunderstorm reminds me that I am of little consequence. And that same storm instructs me that I have an obligation to extend nature’s lessons and inspiration to others. Spreading the gospel of Earth Stewardship is the small price I must pay for enjoying the magic and wonder of this world that sustains us from conception to death. I pledge to devote my remaining days to Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading. To Applying Nature’s Wisdom to Life and Work. So much of nature’s wonder can be condensed in 30-minute lessons.

All we need do is get off the porch. Mount your steed. Test your limits. Challenge yourself. Pursue inspiration. Embrace humility. Make a difference. Live. Learn. Serve. Lead.”


Featured Image: A storm across Big Blue Lake… not the Ohio biking storm that I raced.

Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading

This blog appears on the Future Fit Leadership Academy (FFLA) web site: London-based FFLA “provides real-life education – applied transformative development; pioneering thinking and doing for the day-to-day practicalities of leadership and organizational transformation.”

FFLA Guest blog (May 2017) by Steve Jones, PhD

I’m pleased to be designated Faculty at the Future Fit Leadership Academy. Allow me to introduce a concept that meshes well with the spirit and purpose of FFLA. As a forester and doctoral-trained applied ecologist, and a former university CEO, I am devoting my life to championing the cause of nature-inspired learning and leading. My ultimate intent is to enhance lives and enterprise success, even as my efforts sow the seeds for responsible Earth stewardship. FFLA has a parallel mission.

Nature-inspired learning and leading accepts and promotes that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in, or is compellingly inspired by Nature. I hold that every human enterprise can benefit from applying Nature’s wisdom. However, most individuals and businesses are blind to that natural wisdom. How can we overcome the blindness, and awaken the senses to so that we might achieve enterprise success?

Parallel to core tenets elaborated in Giles Hutchins’ latest book Future Fit, I propose three essential steps for seeking and ensuring enterprise success:

  • Viewing your business as an organism within an ecosystem
  • Learning to LOOK, SEE, FEEL, and ACT (discovering the business soul as per Future Fit)
  • Establishing a Vision (a regenerative Future Fit vision)

The second step, learning to look, see, feel, and act, addresses overcoming the blindness:

  • Look – Nature teaches that true awareness of our operating environment is essential to enterprise survival and success. Are you among those who are blind to the world around you? Are you slave to electronic devices and the continuous flow of content (drivel) whose immediacy masquerades as urgent and important? Are you willing to jettison the comfort of your blindness?
  • See – Seeing is more than a superficial glance and acknowledgment. Essential Seeing peels away the layers of debris and extraneous matter. Seeing requires a deep examination, appreciation, understanding, and assessment. Unless you LOOK and SEE, your enterprise risks never truly knowing its place.
  • Feel – Looking and Seeing are necessary for your success, but not sufficient. Unless you see deeply enough to stir empathy, prompt emotion, and generate sentiment and stimulation, then chances are that nothing will happen to alter your enterprise trajectory. Nature instructs that we FEEL deeply enough to motivate movement. Feeling comes naturally when we seek it. Enterprises perform best when they are purpose-driven, passion-fueled, and results-oriented.
  • Act – Deep Feeling inspires, propels, and enables you to ACT… with purpose, passion, and a fierce determination. You will learn to adopt a results-oriented philosophy, a relentless compulsion to make the most of your personal and professional ecosystem. You will act on behalf of your enterprise and the larger ecosystem in which you operate.

I fully embrace Future Fit’s early stage-setting: “The root cause… is a corrupting logic that sets us apart from, and in competition with, our own true nature, each other, and the world around us.” We are blind to so much of Nature and the world’s magic, wonder, awe, and beauty… factors that should inspire, motivate, and energize ourselves and our enterprises.

Future Fit introduces Module Four with a quote from Boyatzis and McKee, who hit the nail on the head: “Great leaders are awake, aware, and attuned to themselves, to others, and to the world around them… (They) seek to live in full consciousness of self, others, nature, and society.” I have long opined that we are not apart from Nature, but must accept that we are one with Nature. We have unfortunately grown away from that awareness, and continue to do so at our peril – individually, our enterprises, and humanity.

I found resonance in Future Fit’s premise, “This wisdom of Nature is far beyond anything our rationalizing minds can grasp,” quoting Confucius: “He who is in harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.” Such is the premise and core philosophy of my first book, Nature Based Leadership (LifeRich 2016), and is likewise weaved through my second, Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (submitted April 2017 to LifeRich Publishing).

Albert Einstein observed, “Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.” If only individuals and enterprises broadly could see and appreciate such wisdom. Here is the vision that FFLA, my writing, and my firm ( share: That soul-infused, regenerative, future-fit organizations get it, practice it, and spread the gospel.

Helen Keller, a brave, remarkably soul-infused 20th-Century icon said, “Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” Our quest for a better, future-fit tomorrow is a daring adventure. I’m pleased and honored to be affiliated with FFLA. Ms. Keller also observed, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart” (Future Fit, page 117). Our daring adventure is informed by our head, yet is led by our heart. We are daring to see the invisible; only then can we do the impossible!

Nature’s Powerful Lessons for Leaders of Sustainable Enterprises

Verbatim from my guest blog at:

Mt. Denali, AlaskaOne of the most engaging and fascinating aspects of the business world is the way in which diverse types of learning and experience can contribute to creating successful enterprises.

Sound business practices, rooted in practical, empirical analysis, are certainly necessary, yet not sufficient. Passion-fueled, purpose-driven, results-oriented organizations also require leadership – and in my experience, organizations of this type are often led by people who bring an outlook of humility and inspiration to everything they do, and help their co-workers do the same by infusing those qualities (along with sound business practices) throughout their operations.

How Do We Learn to Do This?

Every leader follows a different path, but for many of us, especially in the sustainability community, Nature can be an unsurpassed teacher of these essential qualities of humility and inspiration, while also offering insights into good business decisions.

This perspective was brought home to me one crisp, clear Alaska morning in 2004. I had traveled the night before with some colleagues by road and small plane to a remote lodge near Mount Denali, at the foot of a smaller adjacent peak called Mount Quigley. The day was so inviting that I bolted my coffee, laced up my boots, and set out ahead of my companions, eager to climb and, with luck, get a glimpse of the often cloud-shrouded Denali.

The ascent went smoothly, and as I neared Quigley’s summit and the trail began to flatten, I paused. My companions were far behind, and I felt full of myself, that the day was mine, and that I had secured a victory.

Just then, I had a sense that I was no longer alone, and glanced instinctively to the south. My eyes first looked horizontally… and then up, and up, and up, and up, at 18,000 vertical feet of snow fields, glaciers, rock faces, a gleaming, white magnificence in the morning sunlight.

In that instant, I realized I had done nothing in climbing Quigley. In fact, everything I had done in my five-plus decades felt utterly insignificant. I was experiencing, simultaneously, total humility and unbounded inspiration, absolute and overwhelming. And that perspective is one that I’ve sought to bring to everything I’ve done since.

Today, as CEO of Great Blue Heron LLC, I have the pleasure of working with business and organizational clients who (like the clients of EarthShift Global) embrace the tenets of sustainability and responsible Earth stewardship. In addition to my Alaskan experience, I draw on my managerial background (including presidencies of three different universities) and my education and work in applied ecology and forestry. My usual first step is to help my clients view their enterprise as an organism within an ecosystem, and understand the enterprise environment, including its potential, limits, and risks.

This framework makes lessons from Nature tremendously valuable in strategy and decision-making. A particularly useful one involves envisioning two identical acorns – one gets buried in the rich loam of an east-facing concave lower slope, the other in an exposed, convex, west-facing upper slope. The first has a potentially bright future, and may even become a Mighty Oak, while the second is doomed by adverse exposure; shallow, dry, and nutrient-impoverished soil; and persistent strong winds.

The lesson for managers and leaders is that, among the many facets of the business ecosystem, few are more important than location. This is why I urge my clients to define their dream for their enterprise, and understand that aspirations, however strong, cannot overcome the fixed limits imposed by the conditions and available resources in their location.

These are just a couple of examples of why I believe that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in, or powerfully inspired by, Nature. And no enterprise is better suited for the application of Nature’s wisdom and inspiration than one fundamentally committed to sustainability. May your own life and work be Nature-inspired!

About the Author — Guest Post:   Stephen B. Jones, CEO, Great Blue Heron LLCStephen Jones of Great Blue Heron

Holder of a bachelor’s degree in forestry and doctorate in applied ecology, Steve is devoting his life to championing the cause of Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading. He founded the Nature Based Leadership Institute at Antioch University New England in 2015 while serving as that institution’s president — his third university presidency – after thirty-two years in higher education and over a decade in the paper and allied-products manufacturing industry. He founded Great Blue Heron LLC to further his goals of enhancing lives and enterprise success while sowing the seeds for responsible Earth stewardship.

— Photo by Flickr user Harvey Barrison used under Creative Commons