Thought for the week

Exploring serenity in the workplace (blog)

A retrospective blog written about Thom Dennis and Jessica Ball's introduction into "A New Leadership Narrative"

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Culture ChangeManagement Consultancy, Serenity in Leadership has embarked on a journey to understand what it takes to be an effective leader today and in the future. CEO, Thom Dennis and Lead Facilitator, JessicaBall,  interview some of the most esteemed business owners and influencers to capture their honest reflections and perspectives on leadership – the good, the bad and the transformative.

In this series, guests chat to Thom and Jessica and answer many anticipated questions about what tomorrow’s leader will require from the individual and the collective, in order to do business better. From diversity & inclusion and male-dominated boardrooms to embracing the role vulnerability plays in innovation -  our conversations take us across a spectrum of signification talking points.

Episode #1 invites us into a conversation between Thom and Jessica , who discuss the most avoided – and most complex -topics in leadership today. We’ve extracted some of their key thoughts, ideas and proposed solutions about the future of leadership, that inform the rest of the interview series, which you can watch here.


Where it all began

Before entering into the corporate world, Thom Dennis spent 17 years as a Royal Marine. During this time, he saw many people in positions of power and therefore, many versions of power. The people who always stood out to him were those who knew not to abuse their position of authority but rather, chose to lead from a place of humility and compassion. These were formative years for Thom, who later arrived at the name Serenity in Leadership, after experiencing, first-hand, what a calm and self-connected leader can bring to the table. Thom realised that it is ultimately those who lead from a place of serenity, who will be most effective at creating sustainable and positive change in the future.  


Creating a serene environment

Thom and Jessica discuss the controversial topic of gender and reveal that there are nuances that many leaders shy away from when it comes to their leading styles. These nuances can be found within the masculine and feminine traits that we all possess as human beings. While men and women are different, both have the ability to call upon the same set of qualities and skills when it comes to their behaviour.


There is a challenge around the complex dynamic between men and women in the workplace, which is so often stereotyped and therefore, perpetuated. While women can be stigmatised for displaying their opposite gender traits e.g. assertive women labelled “bossy” and kind men, labelled “weak.”

Assertiveness is not just a skill reserved for men, just as empathy and compassion is not just a skill reserved for women. Both masculine traits – such as decision-making and self-centredness, and feminine traits - compassion, intuition and deep listening – are accessible to all. Jessica believes that the Masculine and Feminine are operating at two levels:

1)   Our experience in a society that may have developed fixed narratives around what it means to be a man and a woman

2)   Our ability to call upon different qualities that society has chosen to label feminine and masculine, and how those can be used to their best advantage in a work environment


Serenity in Leadership is about integrating these two forces so that men and women can not only see their differences as strengths, but learn to embrace and integrate the valuable traits that may not come as naturally to each gender, respectively.


Responsible workplaces

“You can be successful without abusing people”


When we embrace our 'whole self' - connecting with our values, and becoming aware of our inner dialogue, assumptions and biases – we pave the way for responsible workplaces to be born. After all, a responsible workplace stems from responsible power: when employees and employers reflect on and take responsibility for the impact of their decisions on others. We can only take steps to be more responsible for our actions if we are developing a greater sense of self-awareness and empathy.

Thom believes that responsible power is the cornerstone of business success. 
For employers, a responsible workplace encourages compassionate leadership and accountability.  For employees, are responsible workplace fosters psychological safety, risk taking and -self -expression. For the organisation’s culture, a responsible workplace builds trust and collaboration and welcomes diversity in its people.

People owning their responsibility come largely from accepting that we have control over our expression of power and that this can be extracted from our understanding of the Masculine and the Feminine. While the two terms are often hard to digest by those in positions of power, namely for their uncomfortable (yet inaccurate) association with femininity, they are in fact referring to soft skills that women are stereotypically known to express.


Combating a culture of fear

Thom explains that Jessica, an expert in facilitation, was the inspiration behind one of their effective change methods: Dialogue.


The organisation has been doing an open series of dialogues as a way to explore gender, power and identity. The reason for this being that dialogue brings people together to listen and be heard and as a result, creates the opportunity to defuse tension that people bring into organisations. Dialogue is a non- judgemental practice of deep listening; an engaged conversation that aims to expand perspectives and develop a deeper sense of understanding of others. In this way, organisations that engage in dialogue can be helped when their own filters of the world prevent them from expanding their perspectives.The awareness of this is what creates lasting change.

When more leaders can make a conscious decision about listening to their employees as opposed to hearing things through their own filters – then, compassion, trust and transparency can be fostered.

Thom and Jessica discuss that with so many organisations operating within a culture of fear, the repercussions of being open and honest are of isolation, dismissal or even harassment. Therefore, the act of dialogue is a critical step in developing our soft (feminine) skills and utilising our healthy masculine skills to be able to build accountable and responsible organisations.  


The future of work

The challenges that leaders face today are more complex, more challenging and difficult than before, and so the ability to see what it important and to be able to focus on that and discard the rest, isa great skill. It is easier to achieve stillness when your mind is not distracting you.

As a result, everything Serenity in leadership does stems from a place of great calmness. Thom believes that only once we find this peace – this ability to self-regulate and take responsibility for our behaviour – can we lead for the betterment of others. At the end of the day, leaders have a great challenge with their people; human beings are just that - human. We have strengths and we have hang-ups. This means that how to get the best out of people comes down to really suspending judgement and noticing our own judgements that are getting in the way of the bigger picture.


The above is just a taste of the lessons we can learn from Thom and Jessica. For the full interview, which is packed with plenty of challenging questions and insight into power, the masculine and feminine and building responsible workplaces, subscribe to any of our channels below. Don’t forget to share with your community!

·       iTunes

·       Anchor

·       Spotify

·       YouTube

Get in touch with us today if you are:

-      Interested in using facilitated dialogue in your organisation

-      Curious to understand how the masculine and feminine can be used for organisational change

-      Serious about building a responsible workplace

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