How Reflective Walking Can Make you a Better Leader
We are pleased to announce that our innovative work on Reflective walking has been noted by The Institute of Leadership and Management’s ‘The Edge’ magazine. Managers are being advised to amble outside of their normal working environment to help solve problems.
‘Reflective walking’ sounds like the kind of New Age fad favoured by Highgate Mums in between their juice cleanse and taking little Petronella to ballet classes. But taking some time out for a meditative stroll could help you solve problems and become a better leader or manager, according to leadership training company Call of the Wild.
“I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs” (Jean-Jaques Roussaeu)
“If we want to see a situation from a different viewpoint, adjusting our position, either metaphorically or literally allows us to do so” (Ladkin 2010)
“Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention and ceremony.” (Victor Turner)
Walking is part of the human evolutionary story, but the conscious act of walking as recreation and reflection dates back only a few hundred years in Europe. Proponents of walking at this time sought to further justify this habit by referring to the Ancient Greek tradition of the wondering philosopher; it is indeed appealing to imagine the image of the itinerant Sophist travelling from place to place selling knowledge to a local population seeking wisdom. It is this link between the mental and physical aspect of reflection and the attainment of knowledge that particularly interests us in the sphere of leadership development and which has influenced the practical application of walking in our leadership and management development programmes.
The process of walking involves the person doing the walking, moving through the physical world in which “leadership” occurs. This idea may be summarised by the French philosopher Merleau Ponty who stated that “The world is not what I think but what I live though”, reflective leadership walking allows us to consider the phenomenon of leadership from the mind/body perspective. The idea of a walk or journey also has the connotation of a “liminal” space as described by the anthropologist Victor Turner. Liminal spaces are places of limbo and threshold, spaces where we abide as we wait to move from what we were to what we will become; boyhood to manhood, wife to mother, ignorance to knowledge.
It is within the geographical liminal space of a leadership walk that our particular interest lies. This is the effect of the environment on the mental processes of the delegates and the facilitators alike, what Will Self would term as psycho-geography. Psycho-geography relates to the playfulness and naturally occurring impact of outdoor environments on the human ability to think and reflect. The act of walking offers the walker a “place and space” to reflect and consider the experiences that await them as leaders back in the workplace. The concept of a liminal space in this context may be therefore understood as a place where ideas and concepts of the phenomenon we call leadership are in various stages of flux and negotiation.
We also draw on the ideas of Dr Donna Ladkin as described in her book “Rethinking Leadership”, where she offers a new perspective on leadership by taking a philosophical stance and asking new questions about the very nature of leadership. Her reference to “Sides, Aspects and Identity” where the observer of a phenomenon is forced to “fill in” the unobservable elements of that particular phenomenon, is, we feel, particularly relevant. It is only by changing their perspective, physically or metaphorically that the observer is able to see a phenomenon such as leadership from a different perspective. The different aspects offered by a reflective leadership walk appear to be a fruitful area for further consideration.