This blog is a continuation of our LeadershipFlow in Action interview with Richard Strozzi-Heckler. To read the first part of this interview click here.
Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD has been a big influence on my coaching and my study of leadership, so I am very excited to have him share his thoughts. He is the author of several books including The Leadership Dojo and, In Search of the Warrior Spirit. In 1995 he founded the Strozzi Institute located in Sonoma, California, their work is to teach people to identify barriers, change behaviors, and to help them embody new skills and abilities. So you see, this is right where I am in my exploration. The methods he uses at the Institute are grounded in somatics – the term somatic comes from the Greek, meaning ‘of the body.’ This emphasizes martial arts, ancient wisdom traditions, and body related disciplines in combination with best leadership and business practices.
Croft: So what would you say looking back in your evolution, where have you struggled the most with yourself and your challenge of self-mastery?
Richard: We are evolving just like nature is evolving – the universe is evolving. And if we listen closely there’s an ask of us to continue to become more awake, more conscious, and be able to express more compassion, love, and wisdom and to do that from an embodied place. We are being asked to evolve. The challenge has been letting go of the smaller self and moving towards a larger self where we begin to see the much larger picture of our interconnectedness and our interdependence. I think this is the place where the most powerful leaders come from. For me it has been an on-going process of letting go of the smaller self and surrendering into a larger energy.
Croft: So where is your cutting or learning edge now?
Richard: I’m listening very deeply now to what wants to come to form. This is different than having a plan or strategy but listening deeply to the chords of music that now ask to be listened to. I’m also putting more and more of my energy into training people to be able to embody what I’ve learned through my teachers over all these years. How can I pass down what I know so they can take it inside of their timelines and the present day culture and make it relevant?
Croft: That brings me back to the second job of the leader after vision – to build and create more leaders – the need for the leader to share their wisdom with other leaders and teams. And that sounds very much in alignment with what you guys do.
Richard: Yes, that is a primary intent and commitment I have for myself and for those that I work with. Expanding the work into areas of training leaders in the environmental sustainability field as well as those who work in social justice. We continue to work with building somatic coaches and master somatic coaches, and teachers of this work. We continue to have commitments to working inside of organizations of all kinds and to offer it to people who would not normally have access to it for reasons of class, money, color, and gender. The university system, the public school systems, private schools are becoming more aware of the importance of embodied leadership and the importance of embodied learning. The institute is involved in this area as well.
Croft: I find that in corporate organizations they hunger for this yet they are so unaware of it and they’ve got the blinders on – always concerned about what will this do to corporate profits. They don’t see the bigger picture; that it’s all intertwined. What do you find are the biggest challenges are as you’re trying to cultivate other leaders? What is the challenge for the typical student that comes to the Strozzi Institute?
Richard: I think one piece is that we’ve all been taught to believe learning happens by us sitting down at a desk or in a chair where we are fed information and then we are asked to turn that information into actions. I’m not abusing the idea of critical thinking and analytic thinking, or thinking rationally, because we are rational beings. But there’s a notion that we must read a book, see a DVD, listen to a CD, or memorize case studies, and these things will move us into new action. The whole idea of learning through the body is still pretty new. There is more openness to this way of learning in organizations now than when I started doing this a couple decades ago, but it’s still new to our ideas of transformation and learning.
Croft: So the last of my roadmap statements that I mentioned earlier is this: the culture we have is 100% perfect to get the results we are currently getting, so if we want different results we’ve got to change the culture.
Richard: It’s now imperative for leaders to lift up and see a bigger picture. We all need to look at how to stop this epidemic of violence and disenfranchisement; to quit seeing people simply as instrumental means. What are the practices that we need to take on to solve this environmental crisis and social inequity? Individuals, communities, organizations, and nations are at their best when they are centered and acting from purpose, and this purpose must now include the sacredness of life, which means we develop the qualities of centeredness, compassion, wisdom, love, and kindness in our leaders, in our citizens. This means being on a path of waking up, of being more conscious through the practices that we do individually and collectively that bring us into that particular kind of awareness. I’ve seen that it’s possible, that we begin to choose a path of interdependence and interconnectedness. This can be done by working somatically, by working through the body to move towards individual and collective transformation.
Croft: Richard, it’s been inspirational and very helpful for me on my journey. I appreciate all you and the Strozzi Institute are doing for leadership and also for humanity as a whole.
Richard: Thanks for those good words Croft. Together we can make a better world.
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