Nanoseconds often define our lives. These short moments steer us in a new direction of change with no return. They are often turning points and guide us to live a life with passion and purpose – without even intentionally knowing it.
Nothing will be the same. These breathtaking moments lead us into transformation for an astounding impact.
And that was also for me the case.
After 17 hours of intense labor, I found myself faced with death – for me and my daughter. This little human being was trying to make her way into this world. Drifting away as both of our hearts slowed, hearing the doctors speaking from afar “to act right now with no time left” – my impulse was a cry of prayers. All I was hoping for was to have the chance to hear her first little scream on this Earth. It all ended in an emergency C-section, so I didn’t have the chance to hear this first little scream, but after waking up from anesthesia, it was the most precious moment to hold a healthy baby in my arms.
That moment, when I was holding my little wonder, everything changed instantly. My world view, my focus, my heartbeat for life – even I did not realize this at that time.
Spending many years in my career on change-management projects, as a professional I knew how to move things and even people from A to B, and often also to Z and back to A. I was a master in changing the outer world, studying all that was available, from cutting-edge systems, the newest business models, technologies, leadership theories, human potential topics, to even topics such as cosmology. But much later, I realized that change only gets us so far. True transformation has another twist – it is change from the inside out, and not the other way around.
So, where do we start? Do we always need the moment of a catastrophe such as death, sickness, loss, new love, or birth?
My personal moment of transformation was this nanosecond of understanding how close birth and death are and how precious life is. The moment of transformation was not the outer requirement of being responsible as a mother for another human being who would fully rely on my care for many years. It was an innate impulse of course direction. From this moment on, all my decisions came from another perspective than before. My horizon widened based on the well being of this little human and the next generation she will grow up in.
My new perspective didn’t only apply to my role as a mom, it affected deeply my being as a business builder, consultant, and leader. A much deeper dedication grew inside of me, aligning all areas of my life. Instead of only the mind, my purpose shifted into an integrated motor of heart, gut, and mind – driving and influencing the outer world with a much larger impact.
Transformation is rooted in a deep urge of change, which is unfortunately often created by crisis. Nanoseconds lead us to this fundamental change in perspective and priorities.
Even though my birth experience was in many levels traumatizing, I wholeheartedly believe that it was meant to be – for both me and my daughter – and the correlation we interact in. It gave me another level of consciousness and urged me to deepen my work. Instead of fine-tuning the outer world by new concepts, systems, designs or orders, my inner focus and wisdom shifted, leading to another driver and greater impact.
Are leaders the “shamanic” healers of a new ecology?
We find ourselves in a world that is in the most developed state we’ve ever reached. We face fewer wars, deaths or catastrophes than ever in history – and still, that is not at all how we perceive it.
The United Nations rightfully defined 17 sustainability goals.
With our resources, knowledge and human power today we should be able to solve these challenges in a heartbeat. But we don’t. We hype the entrepreneurial startup world without looking at the solutions we create. More than 70 percent of our workforce is unhappy and not engaged. Not to mention the increase of depression and obesity. And the devastation in several areas of the world where people are facing political tumult or have no access to basic necessities, such as clean water. Even as we approach Mars, consume lab-created meat and use self- driving cars, the world is not healthy.
Our children are walking the streets to protest for climate change with Fridays for Future. It ́s time to wake up as leaders and become wise adults – or more exact, become a fearless mothering-kind species, making every decision instinctively based on the well-being of our children and society.
I knew intellectually in the moment of becoming a mom, with this deep birth experience, an intrinsic motivation took over.
The world of the future needs wise Evolutionary Leaders who heal the unhealthy status quo.
We know we can tackle every problem to solve the challenges of today, and yes, we could create Utopia in some form or another. And for that, we need a fully new mindset connected to a higher purpose than ourselves.
Many years ago, I had the pleasure to study with Chip Conley, a conscious- business leader who integrated the wisdom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into his hospitality company to successfully navigate the bubble bursts of Silicon Valley. He proved that when you see beyond the basic expectation of a client, shareholder and your employees and fulfill a peak experience, you create a deeper form of relationships, and a new “Mojo” will securely navigate your company through many storms.
In so many ways, he is for me an amazing example of an evolutionary leader, a new form of shaman of the emerging business world, transforming the many lives and businesses he touched.
It’s time to look beyond the known
Back to my own experience of enlightenment of my purpose, I learned fast. Only when we face our inner landscape, our shadows, our inner cosmology, and quantum fields, will we be able to embrace transformation and lead a life with impact. On so many examples we see it’s time to design new solutions from the inside out – just as Chip did with his approach of embedding Maslow in his operation system. I believe we can bring in our intellect and Artificial Intelligence, but even more, we need to lead with our higher instinct and a holistic, more integrated wisdom. We must bring together the whole available intelligence of body, mind, and spirit, with the relevant knowledge we have today from bioengineering and neuroscience. Learn from history and our ancestry. And embrace a larger quantum field we can’t even imagine today. It’s time to find better solutions for the greater good and make decisions based on the interconnection of the triple bottom line – People, Planet & Profit.
In my career, I am and was in charge of many initiatives, strategized and designed workplaces, events, departments, products, and services. In this nanosecond of being faced with death, followed by the moment of holding my precious gift in my arms, I realized, “I can’t hold back any longer.” I became more of a peaceful warrior who spreads the message of conscious change and holds the space to shift from an outer design into an evolutionary creation. Instead of playing small and nice, it was time to find this voice of inspiration and activism to inspire leaders to shift their perspectives and take action to create collectively a healthy business environment in which everyone can thrive and where solutions are created to lift society to a healthier paradigm.
Well, I do have to confess, that it is more than scary. Stepping forward, swimming against the stream, is uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous. I am not always the most liked or booked consultant in the field. For me, it would be so much easier to sell my deep knowledge of leadership, innovation and digitalization and “the Silicon Valley Mindset.” But I can’t, knowing how dangerous our decisions and resulting consequences are when we focus only on profit and quick results.
No wonder Eric Ries and a group of executives are pushing the long-term stock exchange right now. I am thrilled to see their great results, just as the group of B-Corps, who is a for-profit organization with a higher purpose for society such as Patagonia. Or another example that fires me up is a group of executives from Silicon Valley who formed with strong conviction an alliance to step up against the “free-range” development of addiction-based applications. They founded a non-profit which is now helping digital addiction victims; they have a voice out there to warn about the results within many apps, and they are working on rules to set into place for business to follow an ethical code. The same executives, who were in charge before to create these apps, now are stepping up. Why? Because now they have children and they feel firsthand the negative impact of their own action and creation.
Let’s not wait until it’s too late.
My purpose of being a change agent of the business world by inspiring others to look beyond, face the shadows and paint new horizons, isn’t a walk in the park, but it is the only way to bring humanity back into the center of a healthy society. When our intentions and decision-making is driven by a purpose beyond ourselves, it’s a process of healing.
Ask yourself if your purpose is based on love, with a twist of heroic action, evolving and aligned, inspiring others and a natural thing to do? Then you are on the right track.
The purpose discussion shouldn’t be lip service for marketing and profit, but showing action in role modeling, leading with a bigger impact than just your personal or business benefit.
We human beings have a gift within us – to create beyond what we know. Robots and AI are not a curse; it ́s our chance to focus on what is truly needed – a human connection, love, and care for each other and the planetary family. Would you rather work in an environment of fear and pressure, mistrust and unhappy colleagues, or in a workplace that cherishes your talents and dedication, one where you can laugh with colleagues and co-create wider global ecosystems?
No wonder the Conscious Business and Mindfulness movement is so popular right now. That salesforce.com just hired its first Chief Ethical Officer. And that companies such as Haniel as a 200+ year old company remembers again what they’re standing for – an entity for society, with offerings which are ‘enkelfähig’ (for grandchildren). Society is ready for change. Are we as leaders ready to go the extra mile and create with our businesses impact for the greater good?
From profit, we have to shift to impact, from success to significance, from performance to aliveness. That is my message.
We, as leaders, have a responsibility, just as mothers, to care, create and hold the space for others to flourish in a safe environment.
Business is sexy instead of evil. We are able to transform business into a force of positive evolution for our people. Instead of seeing the corporate world as a prison and an enemy, we can start seeing capitalism and the economy as a source of energy for evolution. My question is more which KPI’s are we driven by.
I am thrilled to see role-model nations like Bhutan and New Zealand that define their political success by the health and happiness of their society.
When one starts dancing, it’s potentially just a sign of craziness, but when one more joins in it is the start of a powerful movement.
In 2005, I started a women’s network in the U.S. based on circles of sharing and support. Everyone thought I was crazy to put so much of my effort and money into this initiative, instead of spending my little time with leisure. Well, in the bigger picture it paid off, as the movement took off. For me, it was never driven by the monetary payoff, but by a deeper innate purpose to spread inspiration and courage. But even then, I didn’t feel the urgency of change as I do today. So purpose can build up in its intensity.
Circles became big – whether it’s “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, Women in Digital or the Working out Loud movement. People finding their power through intimate circles of peer support, even when it’s a stranger (who becomes a friend fast). They help you become the best version of who you are, with no personal agenda, selflessly, collectively and for the greater good – not just for women, but for everyone. This experience led me to start the Future of Leadership Salon in 2018, which holds the space for inspiration beyond technology and controversial dialog for leaders.
We are not separated.
Every interaction has a wider impact than we can even imagine. Every thought creates a ripple effect of dimensions much larger than our own being.
I strongly believe it’s time to define a new business matrix. The status quo is proving this. Every company is an organism with a soul and a DNA. Every company, every service and product is part of a larger ecosystem. Every person in this equation is as important and relevant for survival as the other. Instead of increasing our mechanical ability of functioning, it’s time to become alive again.
In early 2000, I became very sick. For months I was fighting a virus that was shutting down my ability to function – the worst thing that could happen to me. I mastered over all my life the ability to function as society required it from me. I was the good girl, the caring daughter, the dedicated wife, the committed, responsible and focused leader. I was all of that, but not alive. My system needed to shut down, to make me realize that I had to shift from functioning to aliveness to stay alive. And the same we see also in businesses. We have plenty of examples in the economy where business drove their way of functioning too far, forgetting why they existed in the first place and who the driving force was: the human source. They became strictly machines … and died.
Transformation Is Painful, it ́s Scary and It ́s Needed.
One crucial thing differentiates us from all other species on this planet – our conscious choice. This conscious choice we can direct to things that matter most.
Today more than 80 percent of the day we run on autopilot, which means we are driven by automation of experiences and conditioning. If these are old patterns and survival mechanisms from our early days of existence, we are driven by our reptile brain. These decisions based on this conditioning will not birth anything new and for sure nothing better. It might be different, but not substantial. And substantial change is what we need, so our children can grow up in a healthy world.
Consciousness is the key to transformation. Transformation is the only catalyst to create a new paradigm.
You heard the quote by Einstein a million times: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
This quote alone is not as powerful as his additional statement: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
In 2007, I started offering Innovation Learning Journeys to Silicon Valley, showing executives cutting-edge new business solutions. Today my heart starts racing when I, after a transformation journey to Silicon Valley, Stockholm, Austin, and other places of impact, see what change the participants personally went through. Then I know I lived my purpose. My offer is not a safari where you look from the outside at innovations and models. We go into much deeper conversations of the core of leadership – with ourselves and other great leaders in these hubs of innovation. And we also look at the shadow sides of these places and products – and ourselves. The impact is a deep reflection on how our actions can have a positive influence and impact. It’s not an easy journey. At times, it might be challenging for everyone involved, including me, to stretch out of our comfort zone and examine the ugly, relating it to us and changing to an unknown perspective.
Through many years of studying great evolutionary leaders as role models, I saw that Leadership of the Future is built on these six characteristics:
- Compassionate • Continuous
To live on purpose is brave, not always easy and requires alignment on every step you go. Often in my mind, I hear this voice, “Do you really have to take this job and fly around the globe? What about my carbon footprint?” or “Salami is so delicious, but to stop global warming, it’s time to let go of meat. Do I really need it?” Or, “Again you are away for days for work, is that really good for the little one?” For every decision I make, I also have to ask myself hard questions about consequences that might not fulfill my pleasure, luxury or personal need but pay into a healthy future for my daughter and my mission. And surely, as a human being, I am not always on track.
The good thing is that through years of practicing mindfulness, the inner critical voice which keeps me on track shows up faster to allow me to make a conscious choice.
When you read this book, you are eager and ready to drive change. For you and the people you lead.
My experience is that the best way to do that is first to look at your inner landscape to be successful in transforming the outer world with tremendous impact.
I like to ask: “Are you ready to start more meaningful and crucial conversations with others but especially with yourself? Instead of monkey mind chatter, create focus and clarity? And are you ready to understand when your values are at stake to stay alive and not just perform?”
Become Your Inner Engineer
Being a mom and business leader isn’t a walk in the park. Many times, stress takes over. My best mechanism is then to STOP and to breathe. I put the effort in to understand the full context (from the insights at hand right now) to decide from a space of care ship beyond the obvious, free from ego, driven by the urge to create a world with less misery based on my purpose. When I am getting into this state, flow happens, and existence makes sense. People join my dance. It’s so thrilling to see when leaders are opening up and exploring a different path. At the annual Future of Leadership Salon e.g., we are holding a space for that exploration of deeper inspiration, crucial conversations and an evolutionary co- creation. And even when we are every year planning to finish officially at 6 p.m., participants are still in deep exchange of thoughts and laughter at 9 p.m. It’s alive, full of energy – a circle beyond, in full flow.
Our ego and desires lead too often as the drivers of our actions. How consciously are we directing our actions toward influence and impact? The end is clear for all of us; the road we take is up to us. Let ́s all travel more aware. Life is a precious gift, and leadership is a privilege to be in service not for one but many.
Being aligned with your purpose gives life a direction and meaning. But don’t ask yourself only what the world needs; start with what you can give – unconditional and deeply intrinsic, just as the love of a mother. What brings you meaning or where can you spread meaning? It’s not necessarily the big things, it ́s the little actions, when we touch people, create a smile on their face, encourage to go a new way, give hope or lift the burden of their pain and pressure just a little bit.
The UN sustainability goals, many unsettling statistics about satisfaction at work, social conflicts … which challenge are you most passionate about and eager to address? Listen to this inner voice and do THE work.
I encourage you to explore your inner landscape, be a detective of your unspoken world, and you also will find a path with meaning of no return to create true transformation. The purpose calling is usually close to your heart and doesn’t leave any space for reasoning – just like a parent’s intrinsic motivation to keep a child safe.
I am deeply grateful for my nanosecond of painful transformation. When you almost lose life, you know how precious it is. I don’t want that my daughter needs to walk the streets and dare adults to face their responsibility just as young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg does. It’s my job, it’s our job as leaders. Will you start dancing with me? I know together we can create ‘Utopia’, a healthy place with a happy society – and this is not on Mars, but here on Mother Earth.
Thank you for being you, being on this journey with me – for the children of today and tomorrow and our beautiful planet.