Can humans transform when faced with existential threats?

Humans have faced dark times before: Black Death, war, the 1918 flu pandemic, nuclear destruction and probably more.  So far the threats have been small enough and we have survived and learned enough for us to continue to thrive.

This time we have decided to really ramp up the pressure and test ourselves.  We are damaging our climate, destroying plants and animals at an alarming rate and clogging up natural systems with plastics and radiation reducing their ability to self regulate.  At the same time as these combined threats reach a critical point, in many parts of the world we are distracting ourselves from this existential threat with political psychodrama.

Is the political psychodrama a coincidence or is it some sort of coping mechanism to help some of us deal with the existential angst?  There is no doubt that there can be relative comfort in creating a drama to avoid making meaningful changes to our lives.  Maybe the psychodrama is a sort of mass displacement activity?  A sort of mass deck chair rearrangement.

However, there is also a great deal of evidence of our ability to transform ourselves in the face of crisis, both individually and collectively.  Many of our favourite stories and myths revolve around personal or group transformation.  We love the good triumphing over evil narrative.  The Black Death lead to the end of serfdom, the forces of liberalism eventually won over totalitarianism, at least in the west, after WW2 and humans eventually showed the wisdom to de-escalate the Cold War.  None of these recoveries were inevitable.

What seems to make the difference, very often is our choice of leadership.  In times of abundance we can afford to indulge a casual attitude to choosing leadership, such as heredity.  In a crisis we tend to be more intentional, but we can go one of two ways, we can choose leaders who are wise and honest about the challenge or we can choose leaders who let us off the hook by indulging in conspiracy theories and allowing blame to drive the agenda.  It is this choice that very often determines the outcome.

Populism is very specifically about avoiding the reality of the situation and creating a narrative that distracts from the real issues by blaming some other group.

Whenever we indulge the impulse to blame others we lose our ability to solve the problem.

Whenever we ignore the real problem the situation gets worse.

The real problems we are facing today are:

1 – The climate crisis

2 – The ways technology is changing society

3 – The ageing population in the global North

All of these problems require collective effort, where people, organisations and countries come together to agree real solutions and take combined action.

However, much of our airtime now is swamped with narratives about migrants, nationalism and our apparently very poor choice of leaders.

It is vital that we start electing, selecting, promoting and above all listening to leaders who avoid blaming others, appreciate the value of experts, seek to work collaboratively with others and (interestingly) are capable of having healthy relationships.

At Holos, we see our role in this being to use our skills to coach, train and develop leaders and teams to work towards sustained success for everybody.  Our vision is Universal Authentic Leadership – where every leader in politics, business, education and healthcare prioritises purpose over status and seeks to be the very best version of themselves as much of the time as possible, whilst at the same time supporting those around them to be the best version of themselves.

We believe that authentic leadership is a crucial response to the Post-Conventional world, to dealing with the challenges and the existential crisis we have created for ourselves.  It is the only form of leadership that will enable conventional businesses to flourish in the post conventional world and is equally applicable in all other forms of organisation.

We are looking for coaches and facilitators to collaborate with us in this project and we are convening two events to explore and discuss the tools, techniques and approaches we can use.

The first is called Post Conventional Facilitation for the Disrupted Age, it is a course for experienced coaches and facilitators to learn the techniques that we have found to be essential in working with teams and organisations facing the Post Conventional Disruption.  Find out more by following the link above.

The second is the Holos Faculty Conference which is for coaches, facilitators and other change agents and will explore the theme of Post Conventional and Beyond.  Find out more here.

We very much look forward to working with you.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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Neil Crofts

+447803 774239







About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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2 Responses to Can humans transform when faced with existential threats?

  1. Paul Wielgus says:

    Hi Neil,
    The underlying cause of the climate crisis is simple human greed and the belief in the illusion of growth and denial of limits to growth as a planetary reality.
    A direct consequence of this is the widening gap of inequality and indecent social injustice
    The time has come to abandon business as usual and the institutions that prop this up.
    This time we really are talking a shift of paradigm proportions.
    Do all the people you are working with really comprehend the enormity of this at all levels personal to organisational to universal?
    Hope you are well?
    Much love

    • Neil Crofts says:

      No – I don’t think any of us do. There is an interesting challenge to the limits of growth point. Growth based on finite resources is indeed finite, Growth based on unlimited resources such as renewable energy and more particularly human creativity – not so much. Regardless we need the right kind of leadership to guide us out of this mess – it is unlikely to happen on its own. It is up to people like us to enable those leaders. Come to the conference and help us to understand how 🙂

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