Leadership is sometimes characterised as a lonely path. In my experience, the opposite is true.

One thing which makes the new paradigm of leadership distinct is the fact that it thrives not on competition, and success despite others, but in collaboration and connection. Success with and through others.

As leaders, we need to be able to tune into the vision only we can see. We’re uniquely placed to capture distinct possibilities for the future, and use them to inspire and motivate others into action.

But we do that most effectively when we’re held and supported by a “web” of people offering us key points of connection and reflection.

Whether it’s the collaborators helping us expand and shape our vision, coaches and mentors calling us to think bigger and implement more rigorously, or the mentees we’re supporting to develop their own leadership. Feeling connected to others, end experiencing that full spectrum of giving and receiving support, is conscious.

Masculine and feminine power, in action

This kind of power draws on a more feminine energy, and I believe it’s gradually balancing the masculine power which has dominated societies for centuries. But it’s important to note that it’s not necessarily tied to the gender of the person leading.

There are plenty of women leaders drawing on the masculine tradition, just as there are male leaders daring to embrace a more balanced form of leadership.

However, for a number of reasons I’ve found that many women tend to find that it’s through accessing this ”Soft Power” that they are best able not only to be effective, but to thrive while doing so. And that’s certainly true for me.

My recent experience of conscious network design

I’m especially mindful of the importance of connection right now, because 3 months ago I was feeling the exact opposite.

I might not have realised what I was missing out on, if I hadn’t been invited to an extraordinary event on Richard Branson’s Necker Island, in the company of world-class leaders and change-makers. Like Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team; President Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president who successfully negotiated and end to the decades-long conflict between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government; and Martin Luther King III, human rights advocate and son of Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights leader.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In fact, I almost talked myself out of going, so loudly did my imposter syndrome swing into action. But boy, am I glad I did.

Whilst there, I became aware that in my personal life, I simply wasn’t experiencing deep connection with other people on a routine basis. I realised that I have a natural tendency to play solo. In the past, I’ve relied on my profound connection to Source – the universe, nature, the vision that pulls me forwards – for my connection needs, rather than other people.

I’d never seen that as a problem until I experienced really great connections in a new environment. But that extraordinary setting, I experienced a depth of connection, and a feeling of such motivation to deepen and grow my work, that I became vividly aware of what I was missing.

(This is one reason why it’s so important for us to get out of our routines and invest in retreats and events where we can meet other people on similar journeys to us. I see it in the women who attend our live events, and I experienced it once more myself on Necker. It elevates our sense of what’s possible and provides us with a level of support and encouragement that’s priceless).

What you can do to build powerful connection

On my return, I swung into action.

  • Having identified there was an issue in my life – an area where I wasn’t feeling as connected and supported as I needed to be – I started by asking a powerful question. Why? To help me figure this out, I hired a new coach. They helped me identify what was at the root of this problem, and gave me the impetus to solve it creatively and proactively.
  • I took steps to rectify it. For me that looked like reaching out to some of the leaders I’d met to start a Mastermind group. We’ve connected, shared and inspired each other, and the richness of connection this has brought has been incredible. I’m beyond grateful to them (if you’re reading this, you know who you are!)
  • I asked myself where else I needed to pay attention to my networks. The tool I used for this is one we use at One of many, on our retreats and as part of our leadership training. It’s called Conscious Network design, and it involves giving careful attention to who you do and don’t have in your wider network.

Leaders need powerful networks

We’re pulled to make a difference. And in order to make a difference, we need a really strong leadership platform on which to stand. Your network can step in to support you when there’s some kind of emergency, but it can also lift, challenge and inspire you to have an even greatr network.

The paradox of creating a conscious network is this: We need to foster it the most and invest it in the most when we don’t think we need it. Don’t wait until you’re experiencing the absence of the support you need to consciously invest in the people you need for you to thrive

And remember – just as important as the people supporting you, are those who you are supporting in turn. How could you be helping others to amplify their impact – and how much bigger a difference could you be making in the world?