People and organisations thrive through conscious leadership


Blog - Gail Reichert's current thinking and reading

I can't help myself. I'm just naturally curious, to the point of distraction. So to give myself a purpose and focus for my curiosity I've started this page. When I come across something that I think you might be interested in, something that's particularly relevant to people in organisations responsible for developing authentic leaders, I'll post it here. 

Revisit this page often, because it's where I'll put links and summaries of latest research that interests me - specifically about consciousness, neuroscience and authentic leadership. It will keep changing as new stuff comes along.

I hope this stimulates your curiosity - enjoy!


Are you Kiwi - rare, specialised, edgy?

As we prepare for the homecoming of yachting's America’s Cup, I’m reflecting on how much I love Professor Mark Orams' statement - "Nobody can out-Kiwi a Kiwi". We're rare, specialised, and live at the edge. We excel far above expectations in many arenas, not just sport. Surrounded by water, all Kiwis are here from somewhere else. So is this sailing thing in our DNA? Did we bring it with us across the seas? Is that what gave us the edge sailing in Bermuda?

When I hear stories being bandied around now - stories about dodgy foils, lack of money, being sent to Coventry by other teams - I wonder what made this bunch of crazy Kiwis achieve the almost impossible; winning against all odds, against teams that were better resourced, better paid and better supported. What gave these Kiwis the heart and soul to keep intentionally and wholeheartedly going for the goal?

What is ‘Kiwi’?

I believe it's more than being rare, different, remote and surrounded by water that gives Kiwis the leading edge in this sailing game. There's an indefinable sense of belonging to a special tribe. There's a sense that it's not about the money, it's about the cause. I listened carefully to the language of the helmsmen over the last few days of the racing. There were subtle differences, too many to list all, but here are a couple of examples I noticed.

  • While Jimmy Spithill talked about 'the boys', Peter Burling talked about 'the team'. One is metaphorically placed above the team in the role of commander; the other is an integral part of the team, a group of performers acting as one.
  • When asked about who makes the final decisions, Spithill and one other were definitively 'it' for Team USA while 'the team' were it for the Kiwis. One is relying on the intellectual and emotional grunt of two people; the other sourcing wisdom from the whole to make the best decision.

These are subtle differences, but at the end of the day these are big differences when it comes to human potential and human performance, and here's why.

  "... they were in it for their country and their tribe first and foremost. That's a heart and gut game."

Head, heart and guts in the game

I believe the Kiwi team had more than 'skin in the game', they had every part of themselves in the game - head, heart, guts. This wasn't just a head game for them, and it definitely wasn’t for the money - they were in it for their country and their tribe first and foremost. That's a heart and gut game. Contrast that with Oracle Team USA - being in it for an owner? Yeh, nah!

Heart connection opens up the brain to see more

Neuroscience informs us what happens when the heart is in the game. Recently I've learnt that belonging to a tribe, being connected and believed in, generates neurochemicals that open up networks in the brain, particularly networks in the prefrontal cortex where imagination and innovation occur. These same neurochemicals open up our actual vision, enabling us to see further and wider. How could this translate in sailing? Being able to read the water, wind and tide more accurately is the first thing that springs to mind. I realise technology makes a big contribution here, but at the end of the day it's a human who makes those split-second decisions at the helm. Bound together by 'Kiwi' the Emirates Team New Zealand sailors may well have literally seen things on and off the water that Team USA didn't, simply because of the neurochemicals generated by belongingness.

   "... we'll never have our most innovative ideas, or make our best decisions if our heart's not in it." 

Stress kills innovation

Neuroscience also tells us that lack of synchronicity between heart and brain that arises when we are under stress and causes the production of hormones that literally draw blood away from our brain ready for fight or flight. That's why we'll never have our most innovative ideas, or make our best decisions if our heart's not in it - when we're stressed. In fact it's impossible to make best decisions when cortisol and adrenaline are dominating our system.

Two basic human needs being met

The heart connection is vital for another reason - humans have two basic needs once our survival needs are met - the need to connect and the need to express ourselves arise. To put it another way, first we need to be part of a larger 'we'; and second, we need to have a voice that is heard and valued within the 'we'. Judith E Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, labels these needs as "the I within the We".

My reading of the Emirates Team New Zealand culture is that they have the ‘I within the We’. Every team member was believed in and trusted by every other team member. And within that team, people had a voice – they were able to express their views and be heard.

   "kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka’ - a kumara never calls itself sweet" 

So how do we do ‘Kiwi’?

I think there are key three things that keep us Kiwi:

  1. Don't skite: We have the innate ability to be on the level when we’re relating to others. We don’t stand on ceremony (unless it’s the haka), and don’t big note, grandstand or do ‘celebrity’. Whether it’s Peter Burling, Noelene Taurua, Steve Adams, Lorde or Dave Dobbyn, you’ll find them quietly claiming their dues but not skiting. A Maori belief, ‘kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka’ - a kumara never calls itself sweet – underpins that quality. Our deeds and our friends will speak for us. The influence of a collective over an individualistic culture is apparent.
  2. We know where we belong: There’s a strong sense of connection to one another. We’re such a small country, literally at the ends of the earth, which means we recognise we belong together. The ‘brothers in arms’ ethos is still in our living memory, and that belongingness is what bound the sailors one to another as they literally stood arms around each other on the platform. It’s what binds us together when we travel the world.
  3. It's not about the money: And the last thing sometimes works against us in the big, wide world – because it’s not about the money. The guys didn’t stick with ETNZ to the end for the money, because there was bugger all of that by all accounts. Sure, nice when it happens, but that’s not the reason for the effort and the energy. Those who were in it for the money are long gone. Good riddance I say! They did it for heart, they did it with guts and they had the smarts to create something spectacular from nothing. That’s Kiwi!

What are your thoughts about the 'Kiwi' factors? Rare, different, edgy? What have I missed?


1.     I can supply references for the neuroscience I’m talking about in the article. If you’re interested email or call me on 027 222 7318.

The America’s Cup win stimulated the artist in me – the drawing that heads this article is my own artwork, created July 2017. If you’d like to see other artwork at

#America'sCup #Kiwi #whatmakesakiwi #headheartguts

Conscious Capitalism - working for good - how does business help elevate humanity?

Posted 14 October 2014

Would you believe there are some businesses on this planet that, while not being 'social good' organisations, actually have at their core the  belief that the purpose of business is to elevate humanity?

Businesses that belong to an emerging organisation, Conscious Capitalism Inc, hold and demonstrate that belief.

At the heart of Conscious Capitalism there are four principles:

  1. Higher purpose - In the words of Darden School of Management Professor Ed Freeman, "We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).” Businesses that subscribe to the principles of Conscious Capitalism exist for a purpose that is far greater than merely making returns to owners or shareholders. They have a purpose that inspires, enthuses, energises and engenders love from stakeholders. You'll find resources in support of the principle of Higher purpose here.
  2. Stakeholder orientation - Conscious Businesses understand that they exist is an intertwined network of relationships in a business ecosystem. Employees, suppliers, consumers and customers, funders, the community and the environment all contribute to and rely on business success. A healthy, resilient business results from strong and engaged stakeholders in a life-sustaining ecosystem. You'll find resources in support of the principle of Stakeholder orientation here.
  3. Conscious leadership -  Conscious leaders know they are the custodians of the culture of the organisation, which in turn upholds the purpose and the stakeholder orientation fostering an upward spiral of co-creation. Conscious leaders focus on serving stakeholders, particularly supporting the people in the business so that they can achieve the purpose. Conscious leadership begins with the person's self-insight and is based upon a strong sense of self existing in relation to others - inspiring and fostering transformation. You'll find resources in support of the principle of Conscious Leadership here.
  4. Conscious culture - A Conscious Culture fosters love and care and builds trust between a company’s team members and its other stakeholders. Conscious Culture is an energising and unifying force, that truly brings a Conscious Business to life. You'll find resources in support of the principle of Conscious Culture here.

To get an understanding of the origins of the approach, you can watch a TEDx Talk by one of the founders of the Conscious Capitalism movement, Raj Sisodia here. His books, Firms of Endearment, and Conscious Capitalism hold the foundation knowledge of why this is is such an important movement, not only for organisations, but for humanit .

I'm excited about the principles - I've always found that 'sustainable business' didn't quite hit the mark for me. While being strongly supportive of organisations that follow sustainability principles, I believe this goes even deeper into the psyche of organisations. This in turn leads to better outcomes for all - people, profit and planet.

Conscious Capitalism in New Zealand is in the formative stage. I'm privileged to be a member of the Working Group that is establishing a New Zealand Chapter affiliated to Conscious Capitalism Inc. If you're interested in finding out more, click through to our LinkedIn Group. We have large events where you can learn more about the principles and practices of Conscious Capitalism, as well as smaller networking meet-ups where you can get to know like-minded people to explore thinking and challenge mindsets. 


Authentic leadership - coaching with heart

Posted  27 February 2014


One leader's story - a team member who 'flips out' under stress

This week I was teaching coaching skills to a group of Team Leaders. I was doing a demo with a participant, coaching him on an issue he's grappling with - how to deal with a team member who 'flips out' when under stress. I noticed he was doing all his processing from his head. He'd come up with some great ideas for solving his issue, all of which included holding the 'flip out' team member accountable for his behaviour. He'd committed to action and on the surface was feeling good about his decision. Then I asked him "What do you r-e-a-l-l-y want to do?" 

He paused, shifted significantly in his chair, changed his orientation from one side to the other, looked down to his heart, processed for a moment or two, then said, "I really, really want this guy to succeed. He's got family and commitments, he's great at his work. I think he just doesn't realise how a couple of behaviours are impacting on his workmates." Then he looked up at me. 

"How much of that does he know?", I asked.

He smiled, raised his eyebrows knowingly, and said, "I've got to let him know I'm in it for him."

From there he intuitively knew what his role as leader was - to connect emotionally with his team member. For the leader to let the team member know his biggest concern was how his 'flip outs' were impacting his working life, his career prospects, and possibly even his life outside of work.

If the leader takes the 'I'm here for you' approach it's likely to be a far different outcome than if he'd stuck with his 'head-based' solution.

Working with the whole person

As a coach that interaction reinforced for me the importance of working with the whole person. If you consider the ‘flip out’ team member, he’s not generating those responses from his head, so logic and rationale are not going to serve him when it comes to making changes. Those fiery responses may be generated from his heart brain (values clash), his gut brain (fear of failure?) or simply from the fact that he’s starting each day in a stressed state. Whatever the cause, it’s probably still going to be a challenge for him to ‘cool it’. But if his leader connects with him emotionally there’s a far greater likelihood of him being able to change than if his leader heaps even more pressure on him.

And if I could suggest one place for the team member to start, it would be with paying attention to his breathing. Balanced or coherent breathing is one of the fastest ways of calming down an overheated autonomic nervous system - that part of our neurology over which we have no conscious control. 


If you’d like to know more about using a whole-person approach to coaching, give me a call. If you’d like to know how to use balanced or coherent breathing, click through to the Heartmath website for their Quick Coherence technique guide, which includes a free audio download. 

Conscious leadership and mBraining - superb example

Posted 5 February 2014.

I recently watched an interview with Walter Robb, Co CEO of Whole Foods Market, 'the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods with stores in the US and UK'. 

I was entranced not only with his authentic presence throughout the interview, but also with his lack of ego, his personal awareness/emotional intelligence, and his social motive. To loosely paraphrase one statement from the interview that illustrates this: "I have red blood cells. I need red blood cells to live, and so my body generates red blood cells. But that's not the purpose of my life." He was using this as a metaphor for making money in business. "Making money is not the purpose of the business. Supporting stakeholders (investors, team members, suppliers, customers) is the purpose of our business. And to do that we need to generate a profit. But it's not the purpose of our business." 

Walter also demonstrated awareness of his multiple brains. While not referring specifically to head, heart and gut, he did often refer to heart-based actions and decisions. From my perspective he demonstrated the highest expressions of deep compassion, courage and creativity in many of the things he said.

If you're interested in watching the interview, here's the link.


Mindfulness, meditation and the mainstream

Posted 29 January 2014.

Today's newsletter from IONS alerted me to this seeming phenomena - at the World Economic Forum in Davos there were multiple sessions about the benefits of mindfulness. In fact, there were apparently several sessions where these 'mainstream' women (one in seven attendees) and men could practice meditation. It spurred one attendee and leader in the mindfulness movement, MIT Lecturer Otto Scharmer, to suggest that mindfulness is approaching a tipping point. Now wouldn't that be great. 

In this link to The Huff Post publication 'The Third Metric' Otto Scharmer wrote:

After I hosted an evening session on mindfulness in Davos, the CEO of a private equity fund said to me: "This night was a turning point for me. I realized that as a leader and a human being I not only need to engage in training and practices that keep up my physical fitness, but I can also engage in training and practices that develop and keep up my quality of mindfulness. This has been my most important experience in Davos this year."

Ariana Huffington expanded further on the topic in the Chicago Tribune.

So do your leaders know of the benefits of mindfulness practices? Google, Twitter, various parts of the UN, The World Bank and many other organisations have recognised its importance in sustaining human vitality at work. This is a step change that could positively impact both the quality of decisions being made in organisations and the quality of life experienced by employees. 

Our mBraining 'foundational sequence' is a great starting point for increasing personal mindfulness and resilience, by integrating the three intelligences (head, heart and gut) to generate higher consciousness and wisdom.

Could you be more mindful? And how might life be for you and others if you were? Take a deep breath now, and consider that.