Coaching in a time of polycrisis: enabling post-heroic leadership of adaptive communities

As more people experience anxiety from a polycrisis of intersecting societal disruptions, some even anticipate societal collapse, while the unfortunate have already been experiencing breakdowns in their own societies. In such circumstances it can be normal to look to people in senior positions to solve the problems. Conversely, if we currently hold a senior position, it can be normal to look to ourselves to have the answers and offer reassurance. But just because it is ‘normal’ does not mean it is logical. Research on leadership has identified our human propensity to over emphasize the importance of senior role holders when we think times are tough (or when things are fantastic, but never when things seem just ordinary). Aggrandizing the importance of supposedly good or bad people at the top of a hierarchy is itself a reason for such widespread bad leadership – something that Richard Little and I discussed in a chapter in a book that asked why there are so many bad leaders. Instead, we can all take more time to understand systems of social organizing and help people to collaborate for positive outcomes. With the right support, senior leaders can help, not hinder, that process. Where might such support come from? Most senior executives are coached. Indeed, coaching is not only a large business sector, but potentially highly influential in how senior leaders better grapple with the developing polycrisis and spreading breakdowns of systems in societies. In a recent seminar I gave on the opportunity for coaches to make a difference, hosted by the Climate Coaching Alliance, I was joined by coaches Katie Carr and Matthew Painton. They specialize in supporting people who are seeking to integrate their awareness of likely or unfolding societal collapse. I am delighted Matthew will be discussing these topics in a Deep Adaptation Q&A later this month. Ahead of that, below he shares his thoughts on how coaches can respond to the current situation. Over to Matthew…

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Let’s face it, coaching and (non-clinical) therapy are privileged modalities – it requires disposable time and income to undergo elective processes of self-improvement. Generally, it is people who are already doing relatively well, or who have high expectations of themselves and of life who tend to engage expert, non-clinical, support and attention. But we could also say that every human being on earth, without exception, deserves to be seen, to be encouraged, to have wise and dedicated allies, to be ‘brought-on’, and to have close attention from someone with faith in their wholeness and potential, who will help them cope and develop into maturity in this complex and challenging world. In an ideal world, sustained and skillful attention from someone who is competent and dedicated to our well-being, as coach, mentor, counsellor, therapist, elder or tutor would be freely available on demand. But in this market-driven world such attention has become an artificially scarce commodity. 

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Grateful for Meg Wheatley

I recently gave a talk to the Climate Coaching Alliance about how to support people, professionally, who are beginning to integrate an awareness of the bad-to-worse scenarios of climate chaos into their work and lives.

In the coming weeks I will share the insights I gained from engaging with business and life coaches on this topic. But for now I want to give a shout out to the coaches, therapists, facilitators and guides who are already aware of how much has already been lost, how difficult things are and are set to become. Understandably, most business coaches and life coaches are not yet alive to these issues. They need to go through their own journeys on this issue for themselves. Which makes a network of coaches who are ‘collapse aware’ so incredibly necessary. The professionals you find in this network will not pathologize your outlook and you won’t need to worry about traumatising them! If interested, have a look at  http://guidance.deepadaptation.info

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