Yesterday I was in Switzerland high in the Jura mountains with the participants of One Planet Leaders, a joint initiative of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and IMD (Institute for Management Development). One of the course leaders, Carolina Moeller, had asked me to run a session on Narrative Leadership because she liked something I had written for the Guardian Newspaper’s Sustainable Business blog a few months ago.
We went from Lausanne by coach then walked for an hour or so in groups to our base-camp – a comfortable restaurant in the middle of nowhere. The snow has melted early this year, leaving only thin grey patches in shaded hollows. We were in no rush to get anywhere; our object was not to push ourselves towards a goal but to slow down enough to meet and be met by the landscape. Several times en route, Virginie – our irrepressible guide – dropped to her knees to show us fresh roe deer tracks; to trace the runnels created by burrowing voles; and to exclaim over a “crime scene” (a smear of rabbit fur: the tell-tale remains of a fox’s feast).
As we drank our coffee at the restaurant, Virginie pointed out a group of six or seven large birds across the valley, riding thermals above the ridge, effortlessly soaring skywards. She handed me her binoculars. “Milan Noir,” she said. “Black Kite.” I peered through the eyepieces, squinting against the bright sunlight, my eyes streaming. I could only hold them in focus for a few seconds at a time. As I watched, a sailplane suddenly slipped through a nearby cloud and joined the circling birds.
Later, around a fire in a clearing among Silver Firs and Norwegian Pines, we
exchanged stories of how we had come to find our work in the world; we delved into the power of stories to create meaning from our experience; and we considered the kind of language that might help to reframe sustainability narratives into ones that the corporate world can understand and start to live.
I came away with a sense of being hugely privileged to have met such a fascinating and diverse group of people and to have contributed to such a significant and worthwhile programme. I shall remember for a long time the image of the sailplane soaring with the kites as a symbol of the possibility of joyful participation with our fellow creatures in this extraordinary and magical world.