Episode 2: Alchemy

In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring the principle of abundance and how cultivating a belief in an abundant universe can impact your leadership and the results you experience in your organization.

Leadership Development Focus: Alchemy

You may be asking what alchemy has to do with leadership development?’  We offer you the opportunity to consider skillfulness with alchemy as important in your leadership development.  Thank you for making use of this opportunity. Our intention is to support you in developing your leadership.

At first, alchemy might conjure up an image of something that is magical, something that seems out of place with what you perceive to be ‘leadership’.  You are invited to suspend judgment, go a little deeper in your exploration of what alchemy is and how it might apply to leadership.

The most common definition of alchemy is about turning base metals such as lead into gold. Is it possible for you to picture that when you are engaged in leadership, you might be taking something similar to base metals and turning these base metals into the gold of exceptional outcomes?

There is a second definition of alchemy that is useful in considering the importance of working with alchemy as a leadership skill.  Alchemy is defined as transforming paradoxically different things into one whole, even though they don’t appear that they can combine.

Does this seem to be something that you face in leadership fairly often? Leadership often requires synthesizing many parts that appear paradoxical into one whole, into something greater…that is useful. In leadership circles, we sometimes say ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’.  If we were true to Gestalt psychology, we would say ‘the whole is other than the sum of the parts’.  Whichever of these two phrases makes the most sense to you is sufficient to make the point about the importance of developing skillfulness with alchemy in your leadership. With alchemical skillfulness in leadership, you can see combinations and possibilities that others may not be able to consider.

How Do You Develop Your Capacity for Working With Alchemy?

The basic capacity that is needed is the capacity to be able to shift with ease from a fixed perspective, or one part of a polarity…to accepting additional perspectives. Let us focus on the word ‘ease’. You might start examining a situation or even coming to a quick solution with a fixed perspective.  You might find yourself in one aspect of the polarity when you start; especially if you are feeling stressed or have placed the responsibility on yourself as a leader to find a solution.  Now imagine yourself being more effective in your leadership by stopping yourself and with ease reminding yourself and including additional perspectives that may be at polar opposites from your own. You can learn to develop greater ease with being ready to take in additional perspectives by saying to yourself “I want to shift into a broader perspective; I want to do this with ease.” At first, this requires conscious discipline. It evolves into coming naturally.  You can develop the ability to contain within yourself agreement with polar opposites…both existing simultaneously.

From this capacity, you can make skillful use of alchemy in leadership. This is a key underpinning of leadership for thriving in an environment of constant change. What does it really take to thrive in change…the best word to describe it is skillfulness with alchemy. For instance, chaos and order are perceived as polar opposites. Developing the capacity for alchemy gives us the capacity to work with chaos and order simultaneously, not sequentially. Through skillfulness with alchemy, you can grow your capacity to be comfortable to dance with chaos and order as they appear in the organization.


In our leadership development work, we use anchoring as a tool so that the leadership development focus is anchored in what you are dealing with, and is not left hanging as an abstract concept.  To anchor the importance of alchemy in your leadership development, take note of current polar opposites, the paradoxes that you have to contend with right now in your leadership work. By anchoring into a business predicament that you are currently facing, developing the capacity for skillfulness with alchemy will make more sense to you.

Capacity Building Exercises

  1. Daily, make it a practice to carry out a 15-minute exercise of noticing. The task is simple. For 15 minutes, simply notice what you are noticing. You may want to write it down, walk and notice, sit and notice, be out of doors or indoors for your noticing, and you may focus your noticing on your internal world or your external world. Whatever way you do your noticing is up to you. Just stay with it…daily.
  2. Weekly, do something you have never done before. Be prepared to be surprised. Get your habitual patterns out of the way and make room for something different. Yes, every week.
  3. When holding a meeting, get away from the typical meeting configuration of using tables, or rows of chairs.  Replace this with a sitting configuration of people in a circle. As you lead the meeting, stay conscious to “As I sit in the circle, my seat in the circle represents only one perspective. During the meeting, I accept my perspective and I commit to myself to be open and receptive to other perspectives from other ‘seats’ in the circle.” This is a great practice to develop conscious awareness of other perspectives, of polar opposites, and of the various perspectives that make up the whole.  You actually use the circle to teach yourself and discipline yourself to accepting the various perspectives. At first, it may feel difficult. Eventually, as your capacity and skillfulness of handling polar opposites simultaneously increases, you will find it quite natural.
  4. Imagine having capacity and skillfulness with alchemy. How will you engage this capacity in your leadership?

If it makes sense to you, add growing your capacity with alchemy into your personal leadership development plan.


About the Developing Leadership Series

We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.

In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.

In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles.  We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Find more episodes below and subscribe to receive future episodes by email.

Rachel Bolton
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We specialize in developing leaders, teams, and organizations for the new leadership paradigm of "leading so people will lead". In this series, our Dalar team of Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership.
Rachel Bolton
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