Three Minutes to Midnight

A series of columns on our role in tackling the complicated economic, environmental and social challenges we face.
It will be a place to question, offer, share, explore, challenge, dissent, celebrate, reflect, learn and enjoy

Peter Hawkins knows a thing or two about coaching. And leadership. As professor of leadership at Henley Business School, emeritus chairman of the Bath Consultancy Group, training in coaching supervision and with 11 books and his own page on Amazon, he has ‘arrived’. And he is passionate about his grandchildren’s future.

“We need to see ourselves as part of a wider system, beyond coaching and mentoring”, he explains, “as part of a group of professions that are about shifting human consciousness, so that we, as a species, are fit to face the challenges of the 21st century.”

That’s a big role. Doesn’t that bring up the old debate of ‘whose agenda?’ But Peter is clear: “It’s a false duality…We should neither be on the coach’s agenda nor the individual client’s agenda.”

Peter has a different map of the world to many coaches. “I don’t work for clients,” he states. “We’re partners, both facing their stakeholder world.”

For Peter, ‘stakeholders’ means leaders (and their coaches and mentors) needing to meet the needs of investors and regulators, customers and employees, but reaching out, to suppliers and partners, the communities in which the organisation operates and the natural environment – the bigger system(s). “Together, these are your ecological niche,” he explains.

Peter quotes anthropologist, Gregory Bateson, and his view that the traditional ‘unit of flourishing’ was the individual, the team, the family, the organisation or even the nation. “But it never, ever is.” Because if the environment you are in, your ecological niche, is not healthy, you won’t be healthy. Flourishing comes from being co-creative and co-supportive, in your niche – the whole of it. Peter describes how as non-executive chairman of a couple of companies, he ensures that the annual reports cover the six stakeholder areas he describes, and in each case ask: “What have we received from them? And what have we contributed to them?”

It seems to us that this shifting from working for to working with, from face-to-face to side by side, can transform the impact of our coaching.

We ask Peter about his inner journey. He describes four aspects of his work and life that have always woven together: the academic, personal and therapeutic, spiritual and pragmatic. “How do we make rigorous, collaborative research that doesn’t just happen in universities? Entrepreneurship that doesn’t just happen in business? Deep personal enquiry that doesn’t just happen in the psychotherapy or coaching sessions? Spirituality something that doesn’t just happen in churches?”

Peter describes his last five years and the next five, exploring how to move from leadership to eldership. It strikes us he is a wise elder already.


Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton of The One Leadership Project are helping those leading their organisations to ‘Think Beyond’ and ‘Act as One’.


Alister Scott:

Neil Scotton:


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