WHOLENESS is more than seeing a collection of parts


Sensing the whole and leading toward sustainability are closely connected.

Yet, when addressing sustainability issues, we are often trained to focus on fragments of reality, on our own narrow part of a larger story and on our specialized field of expertise. This selective perception brings into focus the difference between us and others.

We ask ourselves:

How do we move beyond selective perception?

Could we somehow connect our individual parts and achieve a sense of WHOLENESS?

Or is wholeness more than a sum of its parts?

Attending to these three elements heads us in the right direction: contextuality, contribution, and mutual support.

The first aspect of WHOLENESS is about contextuality and contextuality is about the gaining of  perspective. When we see things in a larger context we understand the coherence of a situation, we gain a fresh perspective and we come to new insights.

Once we see our action in a larger context we are often also able to commit to something larger than ourselves.

The second aspect of wholeness therefore speaks to contribution.

For example, Unilever Hindustan sends their most qualified employees to live one year in a rural village. Why does this investment count? Because it is an exposure to a large part of the world (their client base) and the issues of poverty they face. It encourages people to engage with business in a new way, and it hints to another aspect of WHOLENESS – meaning.

Many of today’s managers get lost in a world built on short-sighted quarterly reports- they lose their connection to meaning, to the larger potential of their contribution. Yet, the longing for meaning is an essential human capacity, and, if fulfilled, contributes to happiness.

The third aspect is mutual support. We are here to support each other to grow, to develop, to thrive, and sometimes to help each other survive in life. It is not about being equal; it is about each person’s, each stakeholder’s potential to contribute to sustainability. It is the realization that our contribution becomes successful only if other people’s contributions are also delivered with high quality.

Mutual support enhances each other’s strengths, and similarly, the Collective Leadership Compass works because the competences mutually reinforce each other when you pay attention to them.

Attending to WHOLENESS is therefore more than seeing a collection of parts. We can gradually understand that everything on our planet is interlinked – and relax into the complexity. More concretely, globalization invites us to re-define our relationship with the world, as we place our action for sustainability in a larger context. We thrive when we develop our perception beyond the limited scope of our personal worldview and become aware of the ever-larger context of our experiences.

Here are a few questions that help guide us toward mutual support:

  • When I consciously contribute to the world and others, what results do I observe over time?
  • How do we as team cultivate mutual support and what effect does it have?
  • What would be three examples of strengthening each other’s contribution in our collaboration initiative?

This blog post looks at the dimension of WHOLENESS  in the Collective Leadership Compass. For more information on the Art of Leading Collectively, checkout the inside the book and  reviews on amazon.com, or build compentance with us in order to take the compass into the daily challenges of navigating complex change.


Categories: Living the six capacities of Collective Leadership and Sensing the whole.

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