Leadership driven by love: a conversation with Catherine Bachy
Catherine Bachy is a Seattle based life coach, facilitator and artist who uses a unique, creative approach to pull her clients “out of the weeds” of life and into their greater vision for their lives and businesses. We sat down with her to learn more about her journey to conscious leadership and her vision for the “greatest transformational shift in human history”, which she feels will be lead by a radically progressive kind of leadership.
Could you give us an introduction to what you do in your coaching and facilitation practice?
I think sometimes all of us in our world can get caught up in the day to day, in the weeds, so to speak, of just getting things done and checking things off our list. It’s important to rise above that and get a view of where we’re headed. Asking the question: Is what we’re doing right now going to help us to reach our goals and our vision for how we want to contribute in the world?
What I find is using visual arts, literally drawing and doodling, as well as other ways to engage creatively in conversation, helps people see the bigger picture. I use them as tools to get people outside their habitual thinking patterns and engage the other side of the brain. It’s so important to have that vision for where we want to go, otherwise it’s a lot of nitty-gritty detail without a lot of purpose.
Is that something that you do with both individuals and organizations?
I work a lot with entrepreneurs and people who are solo in their enterprise. They are often people who have a lot of ideas and need help honing them, figuring out where they fit and getting strategic. Entrepreneurs often want to do everything all at once and I’m someone who can guide them through a process of really seeing what it is they want to create and the steps they can take to get there.
I also work with groups who have big visions for what they want to do, organizations that have individual teams that are very entrepreneurial in their approach. Again my role is how to get them clear on their vision and in agreement so that they’re all heading in the same direction. We work with prioritizing and strategically establishing what steps they’ll take to achieve their purpose as an organization.
How did you come in to discover you were a leader yourself and how did you come to work with other leaders?
In some ways I feel like I accidentally stumbled upon it in my life. I never set out to call myself a leader, I set out to live the life that was driven by love and what was dearest to my heart.
I’ve always felt different. I came from an immigrant family in the United States, which gave me a perspective of “the other”. The push, especially when we’re adolescents is to conform; we don’t want to stick out and lose our friends or social acceptance. So I felt in many ways I was swimming upstream against that push to conform. I had to choose, was I going to allow the norm to define who I am? How could I hold onto my perspective and not let it get washed over?
This continued in my adult life, in my journey around my sexual identity and whom I love and ended up marrying and building a family with. Again, that was not the norm. So I think my leadership is driven from my heart and what I’m not willing to give up. It’s driven by what I am willing to take a stand for, even though it has been difficult. It has felt dangerous at times, particularly being gay and coming out in the 80’s.
Often when I work with groups, I talk about Rosa Parks in the United States and her role in the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks, in the time that she lived, was probably someone who didn’t feel like she really had authority. And yet, she had influence. She found a way to have incredible impact by making a choice, she didn’t sit at the back of the bus, but instead she sat at the front of the bus. That one action that she took was pivotal in the Civil Rights movement and she did it in a place where she had influence, riding the bus every day.
When I work with people, I often remind them of that story to emphasize that leadership is not just a fancy title. Sometimes in an organization we feel like we don’t have authority compared to others, but in fact, we all have influence. And we can all be leaders in our place of influence.
This isn’t easy, especially when I think about someone like Rosa Parks and even my own fight in terms of equality for same sex couples. We are able to do this by finding our tribe and allies and cultivating those relationships with people who have our backs. Rosa Parks had a community that supported her; she didn’t just say one-day say, “hey today I’m going to sit at the front of the bus”. There was a lot of behind the scenes support and training of her as a leader that happened before that day she decided to sit at the front of the bus.
This is the other part of leadership that’s important to me: we can’t do it alone. As much as I am a lone wolf and want to think that that’s true, I know that I’m always more powerful when I act with others then when I act alone.
What events or moments have evolved your relationship to becoming a leader to an authentic or conscious leader?
There was a moment in time most recently when I took an important public leadership stand to have influence on Laws in our society. That was when my daughter and my wife (who at the time I was not able to call my wife) and I went to the state capital here in Washington and testified on behalf of same sex marriage or marriage equality.
That didn’t happen overnight, it happened because I was part of a community. I had taken a stand on behalf of others and worked in organizations that had a social justice mission, so I was known in my community and asked if I would do this. This was a moment of moving from the heart and being aware that I was speaking not only for myself but also on behalf of others, which was really powerful.
I will always remember that moment when the three of us sat in front of this panel of legislators. There was this wall of them in front of us and it felt like we were at this little table at their feet. We sat there and we had three minutes to speak and we spoke from the heart of our story. We used our story as our leadership story.
What was most powerful for me was that my seven-year-old daughter decided to speak. We had left it completely optional for her and she had one thing in her mind that she would say if she felt that she could. And she spoke. Again, this was a tremendous position of leading from influence rather than authority, leading from conviction and from the heart and of Lawfulness beyond the human made laws. In that moment I realized the ripple effect of my own leadership and how it connects to my role as a parent, as a member of a community and as a member of society
The other place, for me, in my own leadership development, is to continue to develop my own leadership presence. I do that through my work in the martial arts, it’s my behind-the-scenes practice for how I show up as a leader for situations in which I might not have a lot of advanced notice or preparation. This means developing my personal conscious awareness of how I show up in my body, which extends to how I’m showing up emotionally and spiritually.
If you think about that expression “I’ve got your back”, for me, I think about, “who’s at my back?” And there are all my teachers, mentors and training in multiple disciplines.
My practice has been to build my strength over time so that when I’m in that moment of stress or conflict that I know I have that conscious awareness with me. So all the training, training, training, training that we do is so important. Bruce Lee talks about, “in moments of duress we rise to our highest level of training.” If we have a little bit of training, that’s where we go, if we have a lot, then we can pull on that. So it’s building that unconscious competency so that it’s automatic, which can only come from training. Building personal discipline: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical level.
On your website you say that that you think “the world is poised for the greatest transformational shift in human history” What is your vision for leadership in the future? Is leadership part of that transformational shift?
I think we are at a real crossroads and it could go either way. And yet, the more that we press on conscious leadership and the multiple facets of our genius as individuals, the greater potential we have. Leadership development is about developing conscious awareness and having to push on our evolution as individual humans.
The pace of change in the world is so rapid and our physical beings haven’t caught up to it. Our bodies are still designed to assess threat and protect us, the fight, flight or freeze modality still really dominates our physical responses to things. So physically, our evolution has not yet caught up to the rapid pace of change that we live in. The way we can bridge that gap is by developing the whole system of leadership presence: the physical, the emotional, the spiritual and the intellectual. We can’t just think our way into the future; it’s got to be the whole person, in a multi-dimensional kind of way.
Leadership development is really about developing that multiplicity of who we are as individuals. So I think we are poised for greatness! And we just have got to do the work to get there! (laughs)
Find out more about Catherine and her coaching practice here.