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Evolving Leadership – The 10 E´s of a Conscious CEO

Have you heard of the 7S-Model? It is a heuristic, practical rule of thumb that says what is necessary for the success of a company or a specific task. The 7 S are: Structure, Strategy, Systems, Skills, Staff, Style and Shared Values. But, let’s not go into it too deep today. Most of you will have heard of it. The five consultants and writers to develop it were working at McKinsey and the model is basic in all economic theory. And here’s today’s news: We can get rid of it now.

While the classic CEO may be well-versed in McKinsey’s 7S model, there’s a new set of qualities crucial for the modern, conscious leader: I call it “the 10 Es”. These are not replacements for the classic traits but rather enhancements, interwoven with a higher level of consciousness and worldview. They are not complete but lead to the desired results based on research and our professional experience at VERTICAL from our collective experience of over 500 transformational projects all over Europe.

Balancing Classic and Conscious Leadership Traits

The journey from classic to conscious leadership, rooted in the Human Potential Movement, must finally avoid the current common and typical “greenish” or “teal” pitfall of sidelining traditional entrepreneurial and management qualities like performance, results, perseverance, individual accountability, and decisiveness. Sustainable evolution in leadership involves transcending and including these qualities,enriching them with greater consciousness, wisdom, and compassion. This is about a synthesis of the best of both worlds – a McKinsey-plus approach, if you will.

The 10 Es: A Holistic open ended Framework for Future CEOs

Journey through the “E” – a strategic progression from foundational concepts to the zenith of conscious leadership. This is what you will be:

  1. Chief Expanding Officer: Focus on expanding consciousness through practices like self-inquiry and collective learning. Courageously approach fears, shadows, and tensions to understand and navigate through them, rather than avoiding these challenges.
  2. Chief Embodiment Officer: Demonstrate leadership by example. Exhibit a healthy and transformative presence, aligning appearance, sound, narrative, and action to model the change you envision.
  3. Chief Emotion Officer: Cultivate the ability to recognize, understand, and regulate your emotions. Foster deep relationships through compassion and openness, creating a strong sense of belonging and co-creation within your team.
  4. Chief Ecosystem Officer: Move beyond ego-centric leadership to foster a coherent, high-performing team and organization. Recognize the importance of being part of a larger ecosystem, understanding its interconnectedness and impact.
  5. Chief Empowering Officer: Empower your teams and individuals by unlocking their potential and fostering a culture of radical ownership, autonomy, and responsibility.
  6. Chief Enabling Officer: Create environments and systems that support peak performance and innovation, ensuring that your organization remains at the forefront of progress.
  7. Chief Embracing Officer: Embrace complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. Master the art of navigating and integrating polarities, leading with a vision that spans from the immediate present to a future encompassing seven generations.
  8. Chief Evolution Officer: Guide your organization’s continuous evolution by providing active challenges, clear development goals, and a supportive environment for measurable experiments and exploration.
  9. Chief Enlightenment Officer: Promote communities of practice focused on self-awareness, belonging, flow performance, and mastery, steering the organization with insight and clarity.
  10. Chief Execution 2.0 Officer: Ensure effective strategy execution with a new focus on results and performance. Utilize the power of flow states, where exceptional results are achieved in harmony with personal growth and well-being. Not against it. So there is a lot to learn and open up to as an evolving CEO or any top leader. Just try it out with some playfulness, flow and fun. HINT: Maybe you dedicate each month to a CEO-quality and practice it in real business life. You will see an increasing followership, connection and trust around you.

Embracing a New Era of Conscious Leadership

As we step into 2024, Conscious CEOs are not just leading businesses; they are igniting a movement in impact and performance. This journey is about evolving into a more authentic self, free from the limitations of a rigid ego and external pressures. With a daily commitment of just 30 minutes, leaders can embark on a transformative path that leads to both personal and professional growth.

This evolution in leadership is a step towards creating a lasting legacy, balancing profits with a broader purpose that impacts present and future generations. It’s a journey of inspiration, courage, and continuous growth – not just a change, but an evolution of your truest self.

Wishing you a year of growth and a new epoch of heightened consciousness – because after all, it’s about evolving into ‘YOU, JUST EVOLVED.’

With inspirational and tough love,


Strengthening and Raising Consciousness Like a Muscle

…let’s start by understanding what this means in daily life

In the last article, we spoke about the Conscious Leader. About the CEOs as pioneers, navigators and bridge builders into the next paradigm – a new stage of evolution we have to reach now. Let me say it again: The CEO’s level of consciousness sets the limit for the company’s potential. Let’s raise it together!

Before delving further, establishing a mutual understanding of “consciousness” is essential. German leaders often relegate anything related to “Bewusstheit/Bewusstsein” to the realm of esotericism, significantly restricting their potential for growth. Therefore, I encourage my German fellows to approach this concept with an open and conscious mindset. It won’t hurt. Basically it can be said: Consciousness is like an ’empty space’ – our capacity to perceive, comprehend, and make sense of the world. It’s about expanding this space to embrace more of the world, enhancing our physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and practical aspects, including leadership.

Expanding consciousness vertically allows us to see the world with finer granularity and a broader bandwidth. Horizontally, it enhances our connectivity and responsibility, enabling action across different time horizons.

Playing the CEO Game Beyond 3D

Raising consciousness is like upgrading from a small black-and-white TV to a vibrant, multi-level, multiplayer game. In this game, you’re not just a participant but a co-creator, reshaping the narrative as you grow and expand your understanding of the game’s levels and time zones.

The Rise of the Conscious CEO

What again makes a CEO ‘conscious’? It’s not just about being aware; it’s about expanding the scope of what one can perceive, understand, and influence. Consciousness here is akin to an ‘empty space’ – the capacity to hold, see, and make sense of a broader world, to form a coherent worldview, and to act effectively within it. This concept moves beyond the narrow focus of profits and efficiency, encompassing a broader range of influences and impacts. Also beyond simple “Mindfulness”. Which’s often “cognitive head focus”  often leads to inability to act and underutilize the embodiment and togetherness of a strong team or community.

In practice for a CEO being more conscious is like knowing his/her biases and triggers, having a leading personality not being a strong ego,  holding the tension of profit and purpose easily, do his or her work during the week till 7pm, being able to make current business decisions to be profitable AND creating a new business model at the same time. Can connect deeply to his peers to become a TEAM on the Board not a sum of Powerplay EGOs fight for themselves at all costs. Can regulate emotion in him/herself and others and let others grow through transformational presence with empathy and radical candor because of the sake being a profitable human and life centric company. I think you get the conscious idea beyond the classic approach.

It’s Training, Not Therapy: Strengthening and Raising Consciousness Like a Muscle

So how to raise conscioussness starting from being “classic”? The good news is: consciousness can be trained and strengthened, akin to a muscle. You do not need Therapy. This understanding unlocks new possibilities for growth and self-improvement in the rational business world.

Harnessing Neuroplasticity’s Power

At the core of this transformation lies the neuroplasticity, the brain’s incredible capacity to reorganize and adapt. This isn’t just about our conscious thoughts; it encompasses every aspect of our being – body, heart, soul, mind, and actions. Each new experience brings these levels to life, making them tangible and moldable.

Embracing New Experiences and Emotions

Every new experience is an intricate dance of emotions, more than just feelings – they are energy in motion, rich with critical information. Engaging with these experiences aligns our emotional energy, ‘in-forming’ our brains and nervous system with a dynamic impulse, and strengthening our neural connections.

Creating Pathways for Growth

So transformation starts with novel behaviors and habits. As we embrace new behaviors, we forge new neural pathways, conduits for innovative information and ideas. These pathways, nurtured over time through practice, blossom into new competencies, eventually leading to mastery. Not just talking about it or do Powerpoint presentation. Be it, then you become it.

A Journey of Courageous Exploration

This expansion of consciousness is a journey of training, not therapy. It’s about bravely exploring the unknown territories of our minds, confronting the shadows and fears hidden away. In doing so, we learn to navigate both the familiar terrains and the uncharted areas of our minds with equal ease.

This journey isn’t just about achieving personal mastery; it redefines leadership itself. It shapes leaders who are adept at business management and skilled in understanding the complexities of the human mind and emotions.

Now knowing how to raise consciousness we can now take a deeper look in which directions a CEO should wake up, grow up and finally show up to on their transformational growth journey.

To be continued.

The rise of the conscious CEO

An new era in leadership has arrived

Even after a tough year 2023, I am convinced that companies can be a force for good. Although the old saying “The Business of Business is Business” holds some truth, we are increasingly seeing personal, social, and ecological considerations becoming integral to business practices. Business and capitalism itself is evolving more towards a “Good Business”. Still. Despite any backlashes the evolution of the universe towards more complexity, connection and consciousness cannot be stopped anyway.

The role of CEOs as pioneers, navigators and bridge builders into the next paradigm is crucial in this evolution. AND as we often see the CEO’s level of consciousness sets the limit for their company’s potential. So let’s raise it together

Let’s delve into what it means to be a conscious CEO, a role that transcends gender and can also be applied to your life. Ask yourself: Are you self-authoring your life or are you still unconsciously chasing external demands and running on historical business, cultural and family scripts.

In our complex world, traditional business approaches fall short. Environmental crises, technological disruptions, and social inequalities require leadership that extends beyond profit and short-term gains. This is where the conscious CEO becomes indispensable.

The Limitations of Traditional CEO Approaches

Classic Executive CEOs, who excel in areas like Strategy, Governance, and Profit & Loss, are now facing challenges unfamiliar to them. Their focus on external, measurable business aspects is inadequate in addressing the nuanced demands of modern society and the environment. This approach often leads to separation, anxiety, burnout, and ignores many personal, social, and planetary costs. Or simply stated “Burned CEOs burn their people and the planet” (thanks Snorre Paulsen Vikingsen for this quote).  To outgrow this problem we need a mindset upgrade and a new leadership operating system (L.OS) that integrates all perspectives more holistically, becoming more effective with fewer costs in all dimensions.

Why “Classic CEOs” only operate on 25% of their full capacity (and how to navigate Leadership’s Full Spectrum)

The Untapped Consciousness Potential of Leadership

In the dynamic realm of modern leadership, a deep, integrative approach is not just beneficial; it’s essential. Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants framework ( offers a profound perspective, dividing the world of leadership into four distinct realms along the axes of inner/outer and individual/collective. Yet, many leaders, particularly in the traditional corporate sphere, are tapping into only a quarter of their potential by focusing solely on one of these quadrants. It is like running on 1 out 4 cylinders of the “conscious leadership motor”.

The Traditional CEO’s Limited Scope

Classic Executive CEOs tend to cast their light predominantly on the external quadrant: Strategy, Governance, Organization, Processes, Technology, Products, Profit & Loss, and short-term gains. This singular focus, while crucial, only harnesses a quarter of what effective leadership encompasses, leaving vast areas of potential influence in the dark.

The unease within the “We Space”

However, they often find themselves out of their comfort zone in the “We Space” (inner collective) — the domain of organizational culture, with its hidden rules and rituals that famously ‘eat strategy for breakfast.’ This discomfort arises because these elements, being less tangible, are harder to measure and quantify. This is already foggy if not dark to many leaders.

Stuck in old roles and behavior

When it comes to individual roles and behaviors (external individual), many traditional CEOs struggle. Letting go of outdated habits and roles becomes a challenge when one is accustomed to leading with command and control. They have yet to learn the art of leading with flow, trust, and empathy while still ensuring goal achievement. The idea of showing up fully embodied as a transformational leader, ‘walking the talk’, remains elusive if there is no clear path and way to shift roles and behaviors while running the ship on full speed.

The Neglected Inner Self

The journey becomes even more challenging when it comes to the most crucial quadrant: the inner individual. This sphere concerns their inner self, self-consciousness, mindset, fears, emotions, and their own construction of ‘ego’. Often, there isn’t enough time for self-reflection, or some CEOs, fearing what they might discover within themselves, relegate this quadrant to the ‘esoteric’ realm, claiming pragmatism and lack of time. Yet, in many cases, it is the existing ego, with its attachments and fears, that becomes the obstacle to overcome. This task is simple in concept but challenging in practice.

In essence, the classic CEO operates at only a quarter of their full potential because there is the light shining, significantly limiting their ability to unleash full impact and peak performance in their role modeling, leadership, and organizational influence. Given the perceived power of the leadership position in an organization, it must be recognized that:

The Consciousness of the CEO is the limit of the organization

If they do not embrace the growth potential and address the root causes present in the other three quadrants, the company risks stagnating in mediocrity. Failing to break out of the ongoing polycrisis into a new paradigm of business, it becomes trapped in a cycle of repeating history with the same mindsets, systems, and cost cutting styles. This cycle leads to a loss of attraction, relevance, and worthiness, ultimately leading to the organization’s decline.

Without embracing the complete spectrum of the four quadrants, organizations risk remaining in mediocrity, unable to break free into new paradigms of business and innovation. It is time to shine a light on the other 75% of the Leadership Potential.

(To be continued.)

10 How to build trust: Why it will be our greatest asset.

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new time!

You are now at a point on your journey to real transformation that you want to
show yourself to the world. To go out and act – that is the next task. We have
emerged from the earlier stages of the transformative journey, cleansed and
clarified. We are back now – this is the “Showing Up” I spoke of in the last
article. It is the return to community – the family, the circle of friends, the
department, the company. Those who have learned so intensively and now bring
profound, new insights with them want to take that out into the world.

Many now ask, “But how?” And I then like to talk about one thing first: trust.
The basis for everything that follows now is that people trust you.

How do you create that?

How to build trust – that becomes our first big question. Where there is no trust,
there will be no real productivity, no ideas, no top performance. If you don’t feel
trust, you stay in ego mode, you only have the alternative “Fight” or “Flight”,
fight or flight. The so-called sympathetic nervous system is activated, amygdala
sends, the alarm system of our brain. Thus, people remain in isolation and in
competition with each other.

But at present, the situation in the world often seems isolated and uncertain to us
anyway. In our community, we want to create something completely different, a
trusting relationship in which people can flourish and perform together.

Why psychological safety is our secret weapon

Psychological safety is a term that has become increasingly popular in recent
years. It was coined by Harvard business professor Amy Edmondson. She has
worked extensively with companies, including a two-year study at Google that
looked at what makes the most successful teams stand out. Edmondson says it’s
“a belief shared by team members that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-
taking” – that’s psychological safety. And that trust is the foundation for
transformation and development.

That’s why you will create a Trusted Space in your world, a Safe Space where
people can show up – without fear. But I also call this “BRAVE SPACES”.
Places where we feel safe to open up, to give and take feedback, to learn to
make confident decisions under pressure and uncertainty without fear of being
reprimanded. That takes courage, too. That’s why I say “brave”.

And those who dare to do this can achieve what is known as Authentic Relating

  • also a term from modern organizational psychology – the undisguised, honest,
    good relationship with one another. We listen, we are open and do not
    immediately classify everything in friend-foe schemes, we perceive each other
    as whole people. We trust each other and our superiors in the meeting room.

We are leaders who want to produce followers, not as subordinates, but in the
sense of other like-minded people who also share our idea of good, organic
transformation and carry it into the world. This can only be done with trust.

We are experiencing a time when many no longer feel trust in their social
leaders, especially not in politics. Some respond by retreating, becoming
contrarians, preppers, believing in a conspiracy of the powerful. Others look for
an enemy, take sides in contemporary conflicts, demonize the other, or simply
blanket “them up there.” This is binary simplicity, the path of the simple
solution. It can never be the right one in a complex world.

We are establishing a new way of talking to each other

In the High Trust Teams, which you can create as a counterbalance, people
listen to each other, even if it hurts. Criticism is possible, is presented fairly, is
accepted and used for the greater good. Different points of view are allowed to
coexist. As a role model, you can listen, give feedback, be a role model and thus
keep the team together and inspire it.

Today I would like to give you three tools that can help you do this.

The most important tools for creating psychological safety are

Mirroring: Repeat in your own words what someone says. “It sounds like….
What I heard you say is…”

Positive projection: Try to think in a positive direction. “It makes sense to me
that…” or “I imagine you feel/want/need…”

Revealing: Show others how it can work, also share your own inner state, your
feelings, ideas…. Like this: “When I hear you, I feel…” or “I understand you
because I…”

If you look at just one, these tools might feel unfamiliar or strange. But used
together, as a matter of course, they can easily lead difficult conversations to a
better outcome. Because with tools like these, we begin to build rapport by
sharing what we understand, what resonates with us, rationally and emotionally.

I’ll also give you a formula for how to build trust.

Let’s take another look at this from your perspective: How do I become a trusted
leader? I see four criteria for this, which are also four beliefs that guide us
humans when we want to assess others. In a positive, fruitful relationship, they
sound like this:

  1. “I believe that you mean well by me.”
    The ego is strong and always interferes, as we have already discussed in
    previous articles. In this day and age, it is very easy for people to focus entirely
    on themselves. Empathy and empathy seem to cost too much time and energy.
    But they are worth it: I can only place my trust in someone who I think has good
    intentions towards me.
  2. “I believe that you do what you say.”
    We humans have a seventh sense for whether someone is credible or not.
    Authenticity is the key to this. I also say “walk the talk” – we should practice
    what we preach. I can only trust someone who I think will do what they say.
  3. “I believe that you know what you are talking about.”
    We often fall victim to “experts” who only have superficial knowledge and pass
    on knowledge that they don’t actually have. But I can only trust someone who I
    think has real expertise and is therefore credible.
  4. “I believe that you are committed to the big picture.”
    In our society, we are trained at an early age to be lone fighters. The elbow
    society and career paradigms of the industrialization of the last century are
    deeply rooted in our economy. Anyone who really wants to get ahead in the
    new, cooperative world we stand for is also interested in the well-being of the
    team and not just their own advancement.

Take a look at the so-called “trust equation” in our graphic. The Harvard
economist David H. Maister came up with it. In his bestseller “The Trusted
Advisor” (with Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford), he says that this trust
equation is the “cornerstone” of any good practice. It is a beautiful expression of
everything we have talked about today. Credibility, competence, authenticity
and empathy are your assets in building trust, but the team becomes the
denominator of this equation – you need to have the success of the big picture in
mind to maximize trust.

I am convinced that we unconsciously scan our fellow human beings in these
four fields anyway and create a trust score, so to speak, on the basis of which
we then place a lot or little trust in the person. That is why it is invaluable if you
can become aware of this process.

Then you can become a real force of the new era and set an example for the
transformation that our world needs now. Become a trusted leader!


09 Showing Up! How you show yourself to the world

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new time!

We have climbed the mountain. We have experienced the extasis, renewed our thinking, and we have gone on the way back where we put together everything we have learned into a new worldview. But what comes next? Many people ask me this: what happens now – what do we do with what we have experienced?

The question is crucial. Your transformation takes place in three stages, we call them, as you now already know: Waking Up, Growing Up and Showing Up. Now comes the third, perhaps most important, which we haven’t talked about yet. It is also the answer: Now comes the Showing Up. Your performance. You show yourself to the world and bring the new.

Therein lies a great task. After all, a lot has happened. I’ll say it again: we have set out and moved to higher states (Waking Up), we have gone into the shadows and renewed ourselves (Growing Up), but now it’s a matter of bringing something to the world as well (Showing Up).

A leader does not stay in the forest: Why you want to show yourself

Now you have to show yourself. Many have inhibitions at first. Some refuse to take this step, consciously or unconsciously. Some go to the retreat again and again, always want to reach the summit with the beautiful and special experiences – but it doesn’t work that way. Others ruminate on and on, ponder their real and their apparent problems, but do nothing – it doesn’t work out that way either.  

We have experienced the catharsis, the purification, we now have an inner North Star that will guide us from now on. Now the hero must come back from his journey and bring the elixir. You are this hero! A leader does not stay in the forest.   

In fact, it is the central idea of Transformational Leaders to go their way. To come back to the world strengthened and purified. And there, the next big task will be to build a community.  You go in as a Role Model, but you still have to do. You can’t teach the others the lessons you’ve found. You have to walk the path yourself. That’s why they say: be the message – not the messenger. That means: Don’t tell the others that they also have to do their inner work and how. But show them by your example what good comes out of it.

Now you are faced with tasks such as: Building trust. Learning to listen. Building communitas. Maybe take care of new ways of meeting. For other ways of dealing with each other. You can do that now, by your example. And you are less afraid now. The fear – of losing authority, for example – has proven to be unfounded, an obstacle that stood between you and those close to you. No matter whether in the company, in the department, in the neighborhood, in the family, among friends. Or even: with yourself. Many people always forget themselves, do not take care of themselves, this will not happen to you in the future.

How to deal wisely with the ego

Since it is already about our self, I would like to say a few words about the ego. In the spiritual scene and also with the colorful psycho and management coaches on Instagram, you always hear the phrase: “Overcome your ego”.  I mean, that doesn’t work at all. And it’s not about that. You don’t have to do away with your ego, it’s part of us. It will always speak up. Be aware of that – then you’ve already done a lot of the work. You will have a permeable, deeply connected ego. When it speaks up with its fears, with a desire for recognition, or feels attacked – then you can absorb this information, use it, and are no longer at its mercy.

Because today you have a new relationship with your heart, your body, you can feel more and allow more. Before, you were just stressed when things got difficult. Body, Heart, Mind and Action, that’s what we call the four anchors of leadership.

There is a second question that I sometimes get asked. It is simply: What for? What am I doing all this for? To this we can first answer ex negativo: At least not for the boat, the Rolex, the big house or whatever other status symbols you can think of. But for a larger context.

Do it for your conscious being, which you enjoy connected with others and develop further. Do it for the new way of seeing yourself and others. For the surprises that are yet to come when you step into the world like this.

What makes the step outward easier for you

By the way, if you belong to those, who are a little bit attracted to status symbols, to stay with this example: Where does that come from? Look consciously at such inner values. They should not be hidden scripts that secretly control you, that have simply been given to you by parents or society and now continue to have an effect. But you should be able to work with them consciously today. Look at them, don’t deny them, keep some, throw others overboard.

Your last obstacle: Are you afraid to step outside? Then build yourself a support system. You need like-minded people to make it. No one masters everything alone, no one goes through the world as Rambo anymore (nor as Wonderwoman). Find mentors. A circle of like-minded people. Meet regularly so that you don’t fall back into the old patterns.

You want to show yourself without the former facade, you’ve taken off the armor, but you will combine strength and vulnerability. In a professional role. Then you can build your communitas. You can serve the community. This is what distinguishes leaders from hermits! We do it for another, for a better world.


08 Letting go: How to turn failure into personal profit

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new time!

There are those moments when everything goes wrong and nothing seems to work anymore. We Germans are collectively experiencing just such a moment. The renowned London magazine The Economist just wrote on its cover, “Is Germany the sick man of Europe again?”

The economy is stuck, the forecasts are gloomy, the country has lost optimism. Germany’s schools are getting their worst scores in years, with only 27 percent of Germans trusting their education system – the Ifo Institute found out this week. The German women were knocked out of the World Cup in the preliminary round, and the German track and field athletes achieved nothing at all at their World Cup – for the first time there was not a single medal. The trains are late and our government is an embarrassment. We haven’t been this weak in a long time.

Sometimes everything seems to go wrong, and then the “Burning Man” festival sinks into the mud. Once groundbreaking – now a disaster – it’s not just us Germans who can do that.

Now the good news: It’s great when fate throws us into such situations. Because there is a lesson in them that we need to understand anyway.

It’s about the question of  how you react when the crisis grabs you. Do you go on as before and hope for the best? Maybe you can get away with that on a medium level. But is it enough? Do you even ignore the storms and thunderstorms out there and refuse to see the problem? Then you are exposing yourself to the danger of going down with the old order.

Or you are ready to give yourself a jolt now and set out into the unknown – that also means to possibly seize your big chance.

For this I have a piece of advice: Give up!

But do it right. Let go completely. Let go of the old and look at what is now. Take the Latin word seriously: resignation. It already contains the new, it is the re-signing. Re-signation also means to make a new deal with yourself. To make a new contract and to travel on a new basis.

I give you four questions as a mantra:

What dies?

What is growing?

What do I consciously let go?

What do I conquer?

They help you to look ahead. It is a good thing if you dare to do it! Everything else would still be holding on to the old. I know that the departure can be frought with fear and uncertainty. We all feel that way at such moments. Letting go hurts. Maybe you need a safe framework for this transition. A retreat, a trustworthy companion, where you can show yourself completely undisguised.

In this context I like to remind you of the lobster – as a metaphor for us in such life situations. A lobster has to shed its shell again and again. He is then vulnerable, actually in extreme danger.  He is vulnerable and totally unprotected without a shell, but must shed it or there will be no growth in his life. In the European and American lobster, it has been observed that during molting, other conspecifics stay near the defenseless lobster to defend it in case of emergency. They are social animals. So are we. Weaknesses are part of life for those who want to create real transformation.

If you go the retreat route, that is, retreat before the big change, there are some techniques that bring more empathy and self-care. Body exercises, bio-feedback, Breathwork – you make yourself more aware, you open up, you can better recognize old patterns and let them go. There are many answers in the body, this is a basic insight for us in the Transformative Class. If you approach the challenges in this way, it might turn out to be easier.

Keep in mind what part of the journey you are at. Think about your position in the triangle of Waking Up – Growing Up – Showing Up. I see it as a journey, a hike over a mountain, so to speak. The situation we are in now is: I’m coming down from the mountain, now practicing “sensemaking”. I’m putting things into a new context. This always involves the question: What do I have to let go of, what remains on the mountain? Some things will have to go in order to make room for the new. That’s why I call this point of our transformative journey the catharsis – the cleansing.

Transcend and Include, is a phrase from the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber. Transcend, and then include again. Detach first, and then recombine the elements. I mean: If you want something new, you will also recognize something new. Here is an example from personal development: When young people grow up, they see at some point that there is more besides their parents. Other opinions, other attitudes, other authorities. They then also have to let go and they differentiate the world anew. At first, this usually happens in rejection of the old. They want to do everything differently. Possibly they develop rejection – for some time. Later, they will see their parents again through new eyes, accept their origins again and accept what is good about the parents. But in a new, adult way.

The big danger we see a lot of right now is persisting in total rejection. The woke scene essentially works like this. Everything old is demonized. I recently read an article in a lifestyle magazine where even the great comedian Loriot was condemned as a petit-bourgeois racist (which of course he never was). This is how you overshoot the mark and smash everything, this is how you fall completely into a binary principle: making your own worldview absolute. This is not our way. The “Big Mind” – our great goal of a renewed and expanded mindset – always holds both sides, can endure contradictions, can form an unbiased picture of the world. Old structures can then still be broken up – but with appreciation of the other, not with hatred.

The other danger is clinging to the old, which actually has to go. Why is Germany the “growth laggard” in Europe? We are clinging to the old world. We no longer allow ourselves to be surprised, no longer try something new with an open mind. We believe that complexity can be regulated with even more standards. So far, we don’t want to see the thinking error. We still have to learn to let go. This is not about devaluing everything. It went well for a long time, and has its value, but those days are over.

This is also true for every single person, even when we look at ourselves: It’s good the way I used to be. We can also value that, and should not discredit it. We are always the representation of our culture, our ancestors, the past of the social system. It is not bad to have belonged to it. But it’s good to realize that something doesn’t fit anymore. That we need to recode individual connections. That’s how we become a post-cathartic leader.

We can’t do it without resignation. We have to learn to resign well. We may have to cry, go through grief, endure pain. Without that, transformation is not possible. The Buddhists say: you die into life.

As long as you don’t do that, you keep repeating your old patterns. It doesn’t matter if it’s your job, your relationship, your circle of friends. If you don’t really face the transformation, you only change something on the outside. Then the partners and the jobs might be different. But the problems remain. It’s like in a Hollywood movie: The hero has a deep crisis, has to go through a deep valley, and comes out of it all the brighter, soaring to even greater heights.

The deep crisis is the point labeled “Fucking Up” in my diagram (see above). That is the failure. We will go through failure more than once. That’s just the way it is with new paths: You can’t make it work right away, after all, it’s new. We will only start to find security in the new reality through small experiments. We will take small steps. And then we will find a real way out to the top (symbolized by the orange line). This will be our Showing Up: We are there! As a new, bigger version of ourselves!

At the end, we can then discard the outdated operating system and install a new one, so to speak. You just have to ask yourself what is standing in your way. How many more defeats do you accept before you wake up? What are you fooling yourself into not knowing? The answers are there. All that is missing now is the decision. Let go!


07 Shadow work: How you create a real breakthrough and new development 

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new time!

In the previous text we talked about facing fears. Looking at fears. That was a first step to look at seemingly unpleasant things and discover their potential. Those who have tackled this can now go even a little further. Because if I really want a breakthrough into the heights, I have to go into the depths, into the metaphorical darkness:

Today I want to talk about what we call shadow work.

The shadow is the part of me that I don’t see. The Me I can’t see. Why is this important? It has to do with our development: We are born into the world and only become ourselves based on feedback, such as from our parents, and later school, peer group, etc. Our cultural imprint also educates. And what society perceives as good or evil inscribes itself deeply in us. As early as the age of five, children begin to make moral judgments. This is how we develop our personality. And our ego soon takes over the function of protecting this personality and keeping it stable.

Draw new strength from what is hidden!

There is a problem: True development lies exactly in this rest. In the dark, in those things you refuse to see. True development lies in everything of which we say: “That’s not me! I don’t do that!” Because these are the things that we have split off. Often these split-offs are rooted in very old experiences that we no longer want to have anything to do with.  Maybe they were unpleasant, sometimes even traumatic experiences. These are the things that we then later no longer want to see. We are convinced that we have to get rid of them. The sum of all these unpleasant experiences that we no longer want and often don’t even want to look at, this sum is called the shadow.

The concept was coined by Sigmund Freud’s most famous student, who soon went his very own way, the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. He called it the hidden side of the human psyche. The shadow is everything that opposes the self-image. (But already C. G. Jung said that it includes not only “evil” but also many things from which positive impulses for development can come).

Today I would put it this way: The shadow is the sum of all ignored, suppressed, unexplored parts of ourselves. And that is a lot. The shadow is huge. There is an individual part and a collective part. The collective part includes what affects all of us, such as when we say of ourselves in our culture that we are Christianized, modernized, Westernized. Then everything else that doesn’t fit in with that lies more or less in the shadows. That is the other, the foreign.

There is a collective shadow and an individual shadow. We can learn from both.

A collective shadow is also the separation from nature from which we suffer today. The human-centered worldview has distanced us further from nature – subdue the earth, it says already in Genesis, right on the first pages of the Bible. In our thinking, too, we have separated ourselves from nature. But this attitude is also unproductive. Today, when we feel  part of nature again, we reconnect – and can slowly dissolve an old collective shadow.

In terms of the individual, you could say: everything from our past that didn’t make us successful, that didn’t work, that has become part of the so-called shadow. But if you want to develop, the greatest potential lies exactly there. Everywhere where you say, “That’s not me, I don’t do that, that’s the others, I have nothing to do with that.” To look there now anyway, that is our work.

We have climbed the mountain. Now it’s time to dig deeper, into the shadows. To look once at what has been split off, also at the traumas, because they are frozen experiences that have overwhelmed us. We want to illuminate all of that now. Then we connect with it and integrate it and can grow, because we have a new, good connection with our blockages.

For conscious self-developers, shadow work is the deepest path with the greatest potential. The royal road to freeing oneself and becoming true self-authors.

There is no general recipe: your very personal experience counts.

How do you break free from the blocks I just mentioned? We want to get into a state where we say “I am” instead of saying “I am suppressing this”. In doing so, start from your own personal experience. The subject of shadows always has to do with personal experience. An example: Maybe you were often loud and creative as a child and lived out this side. And then you were often told, “Don’t do that, you can’t do that.” Your parents may have given you the following instructions: “Be quiet at the table. You have to straighten up and discipline yourself.” Always that “one” – many of us know that, unfortunately. What will happen? The child cannot defend itself, is dependent on the care of the parents. So it suppresses this part. Maybe it will be rewarded, become a popular personality that fits well into its environment. But this creative part is hidden in the cellar, so to speak. Now and then it comes out, in exuberance, but not with awareness and wisdom. It has wandered too deeply into the world of the shadow. You can no longer use it productively.

This is true even if you tend to idealize that side to some extent, as many of us do. Because one thing that often happens then is: you project this freedom (which you have forbidden yourself) outwards, and then you worship Steve Jobs, Elon Musik or Arnold Schwarzenegger. How they do what they want! How these people are always pushing their limits, always expanding themselves! Wow! But we actually worship in them the creativity that we have suppressed in ourselves. This is called Golden Shadow.

Both are a shadow. Whether we go into the devaluation of others or into the exaltation. Neither is productive. We have to try something else. Namely, we have to look at what is driving us out of the shadow. Look! Because:

The way into the darkness is the fastest way to the light.

If you look, the unconscious slowly comes to light. Then the bound, negative elements transform into useful energies. Then we can transform what blocks us and unfold. A guru leads his disciples from darkness to light – that is the ancient Indian original meaning of this word.

As a concrete exercise, I would like to give you the 3-2-1 technique of the American philosopher Ken Wilber. You will find simple instructions further down in the newsletter under “Practice”. But I will give you an overview now: In the “3-2-1 work” you make yourself aware in three steps what a negative emotion is really about. The three steps direct the view from the outside to the inside, each step is connected with pronouns: 3 – he/she, 2 – you, 1 – me. It sounds complicated, but it is quite simple, here is an example: We start with an observation in the outside world. (3) For example: “Colleague Tilman is late again!” First him, then we look at him: What triggers him? That makes me angry! (2) Now imagine you would address him, now it’s about the “you” level. Only imaginary, he will never know about it. Now the sentences sound like this: “You are always so damn unpunctual! It drives me crazy.” And finally, be the other and look at yourself as if from the outside (1) – look at your ego, from the perspective of the shadow. Maybe something will come up like, “I’d like to take that freedom someday, too. I used to get yelled at in school when I was late, and soon avoided it out of fear.”

That’s the 3-2-1 technique. We end up with something brand new to think about and work with.

Imagine your shadow leader!

In my seminars and workshops I encourage you to look very specifically into your personal and professional life: Which people annoy me or stress me out? Who do I avoid dealing with? Who are these people I spontaneously think of, but I am not like them as a leader! Write this down once. And then also write down the things you don’t like about yourself. Afterwards, visualize for yourself: What is actually the biggest conceivable shadow leader that I can imagine? A completely negative leader who embodies everything you despise. Imagine it!

Go on a fantasy journey in which you meet this character. Perhaps give it a name, picture it exactly. And then ask this inner image: Hey, Shadow Leader, who are you? What do you want from me, what can I learn from you?

When you do that, strong negative figures often emerge. Aggressive fathers, authoritarian mothers, former bosses who hurt you, unfashionable teachers who oppressed you. Once upon a time, they instilled fear or perhaps pressured us. Today, we break free of that and look at them neutrally for once.

So when we have imagined, we ask: What have you given me? Are there things that I envy? Where I could learn more? In which I suppress something in me?

That could be: The will to do things better. The energy, the decisiveness to just do it, to go ahead. The power to complain less, to show inner strength and clarity. True, this entered our lives in an unfortunate and encroaching way at the time. But today, looking back, we now connect with that energy and for the first time draw something positive from the once unpleasant experience. We make it useful for us!

In the final step, we can then go completely into this past for a moment and become this person who was so negative at that time. We connect with it and take with us, for example, a desire to move forward.

In this way, we can use and respect this old shadow, which used to be on the outside, as an inner force.

Today there is a lot of talk about the phenomenon of “trauma”, you only have to look at the current book publications and you will be able to confirm this. Trauma certainly includes violent, threatening life events in some people, which should of course be treated in therapy. But trauma also includes crises that affect us all. Non-fiction author and trauma therapist Thomas Hübl draws parallels between the concepts of shadow and trauma. After a trauma, a part also emerges to which we no longer have a connection, something split off. It is then also a matter of reintegrating what has been split off. In this way, a new distance is created, the experience can lose its horror and no longer dominate us. Finally, those affected by trauma feel and fear that the old experience could be there again when a (new) trigger comes into their lives.

But this does not have to be the case. Neither with trauma, nor with the shadow. Of course, not everything will dissolve ad hoc. Shadow work is a path. The sooner you take it, the better. The more you will discover and unlock completely new potentials. Potentials that you don’t see if you don’t look into the dark.


06 Facing Fears: Why we have to go through fear

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear Shapers of a new time!

After sensemaking, making sense of yourself, you want to move on. If you want to become a Transformative Leader, you have to grow beyond yourself.

But how? Where do you go from here?

There is a clear answer to this question: The unrealized potential always lies where we are still blocked. Where fears stand in the way, be they conscious or unconscious.

That is why we have to look where it hurts, go exactly there, work exactly with that part of ourselves. Much of what lies in the bright light of day, we have now already experienced and built into our thoughts and actions. The greatest potential for development now lies in the dark.

By that I mean the things we don’t like to look at. I don’t even mean the repressed parts of the psyche that Sigmund Freud talks about. But on the very everyday level there are many things that we hide or avoid. How often do we say, “That doesn’t suit me, I reject that, I don’t want that!” – But exactly those things you reject are mostly split-off parts of yourself, or old beliefs, which actually stand in your way.

You can use and transform fears. You don’t have to stand helplessly in front of them and you don’t have to hide them. Face your fears! That is the big task now.

I know that “fear” is a big word and some people may think something like, “I’m not afraid, I’m healthy, I’m functioning.” And yes, you hopefully don’t have a full-blown anxiety or panic disorder (the numbers of these disorders in society are unfortunately skyrocketing, current research suggests that a quarter of people experience an anxiety disorder at least once in their lifetime). But small fears, small avoidance behaviors, and ingrained strategies of simply not approaching this or that issue – most of us have all of these.

The role of fear is to keep us stable and safe, that’s its evolutionary job. In the brain, fear is associated with the amygdala, a small structure in the limbic system that regulates emotions. The amygdala is the brain’s smoke detector, so to speak. It lets me feel: I am safe in my environment. As long as it gives the green light, you are relaxed and feel good. What if it sounds the alarm? Fear! Then you have the choice between the notorious fear reactions, which run as if by themselves and leave us only the choice between freezing, flight, and fight (in everyday life mostly anger). At least, this is how the brain will feel if it does not consciously deal with the situation.

But conscious handling would be possible – you can achieve that by a little training. Because we are not in the jungle and not on the hunt. We are in the company, in the collective, in the project – and actually, in the modern world, when the amygdala speaks up, it only says this: “Attention! Here comes something new!”

That’s all it is, what makes us cringe, what scares us, what we would prefer to avoid: the new. The unfamiliar. However, this is exactly where your potential lies. You can use what is hidden there. You have to use it if you want to move forward.

Fear is like a seismograph that shows you where things are getting interesting.

We want to use and transform fear – as a motor for our development.

There is one area from which you can learn this particularly well. That is sport. Because top athletes have always been doing this. They have to go to their fear, to their limits. With them, the first goal is always to rise above themselves. With them, everyone starts small and then feels their way closer and closer to mastery – in sports, there’s no other way at all. You constantly expand your abilities. Step by step. Do it like a top athlete: You unlock new elements all the time. And then, at some point, you’re suddenly somewhere completely different, a whole level further, and can achieve unimagined things.

Our enemy on this path is fear. And our enemies on this path are also fear’s little brothers and sisters, the negative beliefs. These are beliefs that tacitly exist, that we no longer even question. Supposedly self-evident beliefs, such as, “I think if I don’t work 80 hours, I’m not a good performer.” Or, “I’m afraid if I only work 40 hours, I’ll be perceived as an underperformer.” These beliefs run deep. They seem almost impossible to defeat. That’s why Harvard professor and developmental psychologist Robert Kegan speaks of an “immunity to change” that many have unfortunately acquired. An immunity to change. But change is not a virus, it’s a good thing if we face it and manage it.

Kegan’s book about this has become famous in the USA, a much-cited bestseller in professional circles that has attracted a great deal of attention in modern top management. In Germany, on the other hand, it has not been noticed, the book has not even been translated. Yet this idea is very important for us: This immunity to change is so difficult to overcome because it often operates in the unconscious. That is, we don’t even realize how we are getting in our own way. We have to hack our own operating system in order to move forward.

Three things we should understand about this:

1. what the circuits of fear are in the brain.

2. what courage actually is.

3. what having a Growth Mindset means.

I have just mentioned the circuits of fear (1.). They are the evolutionary ancient reflex that gives us exactly three options: Play dead, flee, or fight. These mechanisms could be very useful, especially in the animal kingdom they can still be observed in experiments today. But we are not guinea pigs and wolves anymore. That’s why it’s about (2.) proving courage. And in my view, that simply means: breaking patterns. Separating ourselves from the seemingly security-providing mechanisms that have guided us for so long. And this is where (3.) the Growth Mindset comes into play. Ask yourself how your mindset, your mentality, is actually structured. Fixed? Or flexible? The mindset that accompanies you, even in business, is either based on fixed ideas (fixed mindset), or is it ready for change and expansion (growth mindset). We need the latter.

Think about your point on our great hike. You have ascended (waking up), you have found deep insights on the summit (exstasis). Now we descend again and connect what we have learned to our thinking so that it is firmly anchored there and we arrive at the bottom as new, grown persons (growing up).

It seems risky to now release all the new energy that was announced at the top. Because, as I said, that is the newness, and that is scary. What I have seen can scare me. What great changes have been announced there! That forces you to leave the old paths and to give up the old patterns. And that is not easy. The new insights are there now, but also the old inhibitions to implement all this.

There can be anxiety if you find that your job just doesn’t fit anymore. There can also be the fear that your relationship won’t last. The fear that you will have to give up security. All of this is all too understandable! Because the brain loves what it knows – even if it is stressful.

How do you give up security? You need to train yourself to be comfortable with uncertainty. Develop tolerance for ambiguity. What I mean:  the key is that you have to put your self-esteem inside, not get it from the outside.

All of the techniques already mentioned here will help with this.

The trick is to play with fear, to appreciate it. That doesn’t mean ignoring it! That would be an old mountaineering mistake. Stay awake! Notice the fear! Notice your limiting beliefs, feel what they are trying to protect you from.  Most of the time it is something you could just as well go through. Work on the borderline. Otherwise you will never rise higher. Welcome to the new! Now my change begins. Using Fear instead of fearing fear. This is the mindshift.

Today I give you five tips what you can do next on the way:

  • The Small Steps Technique. You won’t achieve everything right away – on the contrary, it can cause new anxiety if the goal is too far away. This is not necessary at all. A small success – five minutes of running, making a difficult phone call, reading the first two pages of that paper on your desk – is often enough. Because the progress is exponential after that. You have to get into the act, every day, and the rest will come naturally.
  • Breathing against stress. Look again at box breathing (about here). It is just one of the techniques to regulate your nervous system with breathing – but it is the simplest and most effective. Stress, the precursor to anxiety, often sets in without us realizing it. Get yourself to come down, to a level from which you can act thoughtfully and cool! This can work wonders before a big meeting or presentation.
  • Prepare. Use mental training. In competitive sports, some people can do the improved serve in tennis or the new shot in basketball without having been on the court much: Much of the training takes place in the mind. For example, before a big task that may be new or scary, you can talk yourself through the ideal sequence of events. (For a brief summary of how this has long been done in sports, see here).
  • Train. If you overcome your fear and dare to do something new, not everything will succeed immediately. That is normal. Try things out, practice trial-and-error, again and again. Build practice and improvement into your routine. In companies, we too often think that everyone has to be able to do everything already. This is neither useful nor necessary.
  • Get support. Remember: You are not alone! Managers in particular are often lone warriors. That’s because for a long time it was considered a weakness to ask for advice. We don’t think that way anymore. If you let yourself be helped, you become stronger and unleash your potential.

If you don’t go through fear, you don’t change. Then you remain stagnant. Then you may create some refinement in your business, but no real change. Only when you overcome your beliefs, you slowly become a different person. If you lift heavier and heavier weights, your body will change – the mind works the same way.


05 “Sensemaking”: Your technique for understanding the world

Dear Transformers, dear co-creators, dear shapers of a new age!

Be proud of yourself. In the past weeks you have accomplished a lot. You have gathered information. You have let go for a few moments in Ego Death of what so often holds you back, in your personal life as well as in your business, and now have a first inkling of how much potential you actually have.

But there is a new challenge.

You’ve climbed the mountain, you’ve stepped out of yourself, you’ve experienced a moment of “ecstasy.” Now it can seem sobering when you turn back to the world. How now to implement what you have learned? There is still a lot of chaos in the world, a lot of bitter disputes of opinions, a lot of egoism – just because you have changed does not mean that this is true for everyone.

We are now entering a new phase, now our Growing Up begins. Everything I called the Climbing the Mountain, discovering self-authorship, flow techniques, transcendence and ego death, that was our Showing Up. We prepared ourselves with flow, overcame ourselves, opened ourselves. Now begins the second of three stages: Growing Up. This is the integration after ekstasis.

It starts with a big challenge: you come back to high complexity. The post-truth society. This is our drama as we begin to radically change. It sometimes seems unsolvable.

But only at first glance.

In reality, it is not only solvable, but the path is mapped out. You will connect the new experiences and the world to a new meaning. You even have to! Because what happens if you don’t do that, if you don’t put your insights gathered from the summit into a context with the seemingly chaotic world? Then they stand by themselves and are of no use to you. Exciting ideas and experiences remain without context. Then you don’t grow, don’t integrate the new information, don’t form a new meaning.

But that is the big task now: to form meaning.

We will have to comprehend more from now on, hold more information, even contradictory information. We are lost if we believe that the truth can be found somewhere outside. At least the daily news is always reliable, never has to be questioned? Wrong! At least this one party or that other grouping is always right? Also wrong. Our new thinking will never be like that. There is not even “the” science. That was one of the great errors of thinking in the Corona era, which may go down in history as a sad example of failed, false debate culture. How much dogmatism was justified at that time with the firm belief in “the” science – while it is part of the essence of science that it is never one-dimensional, that every thesis must always be put to the test, that everything must always be questioned.

We will question all sources, take all perspectives once, and scrutinize every medium. We are doomed to make our own sense!

The big task is: sense making. Sensemaking, as it is called in the very current US-American philosophy.

We have climbed a mountain and been to the top, enjoying the view. Now when we descend again, there is just as much to do as on the way there – because we now have to integrate what we have learned and build our new worldview. Building meaning means making connections. New connections. The etymology of “sense” is not entirely clear, but presumably the word comes from the Old High German word for “travel.” That fits our thinking! One who travels perceives quite a lot (the Latin sentire for feeling/perceiving is also a possible root of “sense”), and must connect this. Make connections. Exactly: form sense.

We want to be able to say again, “This makes sense to me.”

Philosopher Daniel Schmachtenberger says we need “agency and not despair.” Schmachtenberger is, in my view, a very important voice of cultural criticism and philosophy in the United States. He stays away from universities, giving his lectures on the Internet or at his own private institute in California. There is no Wikipedia entry about him. Yet even the makers of this year’s big Oscar winner, “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” recently called him their main inspiration.

Agency and not despair, that means: we want agency, we want to have an impact, we’re taking things back into our own hands now. (That is agency). This is the only way to avoid despair. Without good sensemaking we cannot even set out to act in the world and make a difference.

You will barely survive a day as a leader in today’s VUKA world if you take everything at face value. (VUKA = volatile, uncertain, complex and ambivalent.) So you have to make your sense. So when we descend, we ask ourselves: What have I experienced here now, what does my new world look like?

I would like to give you the tools for this today. I have a simple technique of three questions:

What is?

So what?

What now?

In the first step, you ask about things: What is? We only perceive here. We collect information and data, do not evaluate yet, look, let the world in. After that, you should ask yourself self-critically: Have I now absorbed enough? Have I become acquainted with a sufficient number of different perspectives? Have I opened myself to new topics?

Secondly, when this has happened, you form your hypotheses! This is what is behind the question: So what? It means: What does this tell me? What do I learn from it? How does this help me be more successful, move forward? To manage my department better, to master my tasks smarter, to have better control of my life? In short: Which problems can I solve better than before?

And not until the third step do we ask: What now? There you will act concretely. There (only) you ask yourself: What are the action steps?

And now the sentence “This makes sense to me” is justified, now you can build your actions on it. You can finally make sense to yourself and to others. Whoever incorporates these three steps of sensemaking into his daily actions, practices them in workshops, for example, and takes them with him into everyday life, will then listen openly and without prejudice, keep the inner space open for a long time, and then decide consciously and prudently. Alone or in a team.

From this new point of view, it also becomes much easier to hold together the contradictions in the company. Because let’s be honest: All those projects, and all of them at the same time, who’s supposed to keep track? So many voices in the company are talking at you, so many schools and directions want to point the way. There’s an answer to that, too: Don’t chase after every trend! Inner sovereignty means, as explained above, to perceive the world and first let it pass by. Let everything affect you, then act.

With this synthesis of the different information we form our sense without prejudice. We do not immediately divide everything into good and bad, right and wrong. First we listen and perceive. Only in this way do we eventually become the Big Mind that keeps track even in the chaotic world.

Whoever wants to master integration, seeing through and understanding, also needs training. Because it takes practice, and it takes meaningful practices of how to take in information.

As a practice this week, I recommend the so-called Dopamine Effort. (See below.) Pay attention to your dopamine circuit. Dopamine is the reward hormone in the brain. It’s released when we’ve done the 2000 meter swim, when the complex presentation went well, when the new product comes out. Earn it, integrate it! If you only enjoy, you lead your brain into a dead end. Unfortunately, as we all know, such wrong practices of quick enjoyment are also part of our culture: alcohol, internet porn, stimulating substances, quick confirmation through likes and clicks. I’m not passing moral judgment on them, but I am saying that they are all neurologically unfavorable. Your nervous system must remember that the gods put work before success.

This does not mean that we will only struggle from now on. On the contrary. Sensemaking will soon mean that things will get easier. Try it out! The path is worth it.


04 The EGO is the Enemy: Why Self-Transcendence is the Key to Your Transformation

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear Shapers of a new time!

You are on a good path. You are a transformational leader. But things keep getting stuck. There are unproductive arguments. Stress comes up.

What is the problem?

The ego gets in the way!

The ego is our inner program for security, survival in a rather hostile environment. It hates change, it doesn’t want to evolve, it just wants to stay the way it is. And it always invents new excuses not to have to move: I don’t have time for this! That’s just esoteric nonsense! They only want to make money from me! Everything went well until now, why change anything! And so on.

Those who listen to the ego will not rise above themselves. The transformative class, however, consists of those who rise above themselves.

But the path is rocky at the beginning. We’ve all had this problem: Those who set out quickly reach their limits first. There’s a wall. Somehow you can’t go any further. Many then ask themselves: How do I become a true transformational leader?

I say: The ego stands in our way.

This happens when we are still moving in the old mindset.

I would like to briefly explain how this happens. Let’s start at the beginning. What do we try first? Usually the obvious: Agile work techniques. New Work. These can be good improvements, good first steps. But they don’t change anything about the fundamental problem: The view of oneself and the world always remains the same. And because that’s the case, failure soon comes in small ways, then stress arises, then everything gets stuck.

Even if we already aspire to be a self-author, even if we are already getting fit in flow techniques, this can happen again and again.

This is because self-optimization techniques are always within the existing framework. They will not bring a real leap in consciousness. Self-optimization is the wrong way. I don’t use the word at all. It has become similarly problematic as the universally known self-actualization. It goes back to the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow. He said: When man has fulfilled his basic needs for things like food, security, partnership, recognition – then comes a new, greater desire. Then man also wants self-realization, then one becomes individual, develops his talent, his potential.

Unfortunately, many misunderstand this today as an egoistic circling around oneself. That’s not really what Maslow meant. That’s why current psychologists like Scott Kaufman are now taking his psychology a little further and saving it from the cliché. Their core is: We want to become greater than we were, we want to be surprised by what is still inside us. Today we call this path: self-transcendence.

(This is, so to speak, self-realization 2.0).

Self-transcendence is the tool to overcome the ego.

We need this decisive step out of the jungle. Only then can we really transcend the old – and only then can we find a way out of failure.

The real leap of consciousness happens only when I break the old frame, I like to call it: enlarging my “vessel”. The vessel is an image for all that I can grasp, the contradictions that I can endure, the world views of others that I can accept without bowing to them. In short, the wealth of information I can process. We want to increase it. I need to open up to the world, let it in, and consciously magnify myself. We then look at our blocks, our unconscious script that keeps trapping us. We see ourselves in connection with the world. From this higher state of consciousness, I can then work on myself and my view and connection to the world.

A Transformational Leader needs a practice to do this. We need a practice of overcoming ourselves. This could include, for example: Reflection time every day. Time out every quarter. A retreat every year.

My process of Waking Up, Showing Up and Growing Up is our macro technique. All we’ve talked about so far is Waking Up, Showing Up, and Growing Up. We’ve hit the ground running, we’ve strengthened our self-authorship (episode 02), we’ve discovered flow states to help us (episode 03). Now we want to rise above ourselves, make it to the top. That’s why we’re now talking about self-transcendence.

This is growing beyond ourselves on the path of Waking Up, on the path to Ecstasis. (In the ancient Greek, original sense: to step out of oneself).

Various ways to this goal are immediately open to us. One can try them out in a very safe setting. Bodywork can uncover subtle levels of states of consciousness. Micro- and macro-flow (see episode 03) connect us to the abilities that lie dormant within us. Dancing can also be an access point. These are all experiences of ego-death and oneness, being one with everything, then tangibly lead into something greater, a new self can emerge. Modern neuroscience has an explanation for this: we reset the so-called Default Mode Network in the brain once – then old thought patterns can be checked and replaced by new ones.

The Czech-American psychologist Stanislav Grof achieved transcendent states in his clients with breathing techniques. He called this “Psychedelic Breathwork.” The word psychedelic is made up of soul (psyche) and opening (delos). This means: the boundaries between the ego and the outside world become fluid for a few moments. You can experience yourself in a new way and go a little bit beyond what you thought was your fixed ego. Expand yourself.

You can find a very practical exercise below under the point “Practices”: The neurodynamic breathwork, which is so to say one step below very demanding techniques like holotropic or psychdedelic breath. But with this you can get to know how it feels to reset your brain a little bit and then elevate yourself to new levels.

Self-development is elevation and expansion, and it is the Path to the true self. The real path to you.

We always talk in the context of a transformational leader.

When we were talking about flow, everything was still on the level of: How do I achieve more productivity within the existing framework? The idea here was indeed “take back control”, unleash your potentials – but that was all still within the existing game, in the same worldview, with the same mindset. But now we take it one big step further. Now comes a redefinition of all the rules. Now you have to look at yourself.

Before was: Play within the rules. Now comes: Play with the rules!

Before was: Slow Performance. Now comes: Go beyond yourself!

To inspire comes from the Latin inspirare, which actually means literally “to blow into something” – we use it in the sense of “to inspire”. In religious myths, from Kabbalah to Christianity, a divine entity “breathed life” into the world and people, that’s how it all began. So the linguistic usage is actually still now: If one  is inspired, spirit was breathed into him, he is “inspired”!

It is important: This happens emotionally. In the deep regions of the brain, not in the bright and clear mind.

That’s why we need techniques like dance or breathwork that speak directly to the emotions. They can be very different.

  • For some, the key lies in religious experiences
  • For some it is the sight of the Grand Canyon (or the Alps – it’s about the power of nature)
  • Or listening to Beethoven’s Third Symphony in a concert hall
  • Some experience it in a Tantra seminar, yoga or sports
  • And some in a techno club (and by the way, you don’t need drugs for that).

As different as they are, they have a few characteristics in common: Cou feel completely absorbed, you perceive more, you forget space and time, you leave your ego behind, you lose fear and inhibitions, you can accept yourself and others as they are.

From a religious perspective, one would have said in the past: You have seen God. With modern neuroscience, we now say: The so-called God Spot in the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, ACC for short, is activated. This lowers depressive feelings and, according to the latest research, is probably even helpful against dementia. Because this is how growth happens in the brain, the moving on to something greater.

This process is not linear. We always take a few steps forward, start again at the bottom in other areas, slowly rise again. We work on our Sensemaking and Showing-Up, and slowly go further and further. Please don’t start with the Himalayas! First it’s the little Teufelsberg in Berlin. Then it’s off to the Harz mountains. And so on. Step by step to ever higher summits.

By the way, the already mentioned Abraham Maslow speaks of two worlds in which we can operate. Either we stay in the world of deficieny or we enter the world of growth. The deficiency needs are something like: I am hungry – give me food. I feel lonely – give me love. I am anxious – give me security. These desires are existential and simple. The growth needs function quite differently. Those who feel them ask themselves: What can I do to find even more wholeness and serenity, and to develop my abilities ideally?

When you pass from one realm to the other, Maslow says, it’s like replacing a cloudy lens with a clear one. All of a sudden, you’re no longer driven by fear, apprehension, suspicion of others. It’s no longer constantly about the outside world having to give something. Instead, one becomes more serene, more accepting, discovering more affection for others.

That’s my practical advice for this week: take off your cloudy glasses as often as you can! Look at the world as a world of possibilities. From the standpoint of the higher self, not the fearful ego.


03 Growing beyond yourself: The power of “flow”

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new era!

In the last VERTICAL-X newsletter I talked about self-authorship. In other words, about the moment when we go from being a victim of circumstances to an actively shaping force. Once we’ve made that leap, we want to launch into our Waking Up, the first big stage of our transformative journey. This is helped by a superpower: flow.

Flow, also known as “being in the zone,” is a psychological state in which we are fully immersed in an activity and feel focused and energized. The phenomenon was first described in the 1950s by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He noted that people in this state experience a sense of deep satisfaction and joy. At that time, this was still considered a kind of mystery that only some people experience on a daily basis – musicians, painters, sports stars. Today, neuroscience is much further along: we can all experience flow and use it purposefully.

When we do, we overcome the rushing, the running behind, the struggle against crushing demands. We free ourselves through more flow. Then we grow beyond ourselves – completely without cramps and exaggerated effort.

Today, the elite soldiers of the USA or the Silicon Valley geniuses consciously work with this condition. It is not a miracle that falls from the sky, but a power that we can acquire. This can be done through concentration exercises, through small body techniques, or even through sound. (You can try this out right away – see below under “Practices”.) And a few rules are also important: Your tasks must not be too easy, otherwise you will get bored. And they must not be too hard, or your brain will react with fear. Finding the point exactly in between is the art. This is often forgotten in companies as well.

What we want to achieve is the so-called autotelic experience. These are activities that you perform for their own sake. We can achieve this in our jobs, because most of us sit at tasks that we are at least basically good at, perhaps even love, and in which we would like to achieve something.

For many, their inner stream of thoughts gets in the way. Often it is full of worries. The ego is constantly worrying. Is the market developing well? Am I needed? Do I have good ideas? Sometimes we think so much that we hardly get to the actual task. I advise you: Separate that from each other. You need time to think about yourself. But the time will come back later, if you don’t keep brooding during your job. Take half a day for yourself and you’ll be more productive the rest of the time. You’ll work beyond ego and focus on the matter at hand.

American author Steven Kotler has studied some more traps that get in the way of good flow. We call them the “flow blockers.” They are: Distraction, self-sabotage, lack of clarity, burnout, exhaustion, being overwhelmed, stress, wrong time management, wrong mindset, and the trouble with motivation.

I can’t go into detail here about all the flow blockers; that’s an intense but beautiful task for our workshops. However, I would like to mention two examples. First, the problem of lack of clarity: we don’t know how the day will go on, and we don’t know what the next half year will bring. That is just the way it is. But the danger now is that we brood. The prefrontal cortex becomes overactive – and that’s what prevents flow. Rather, set a long-term goal, pursue it passionately. Erroneous paths are okay because they are instructive, but above all: Do something! That releases norephedrine and dopamine in the brain, the two substances for flow.

And another example: Being overwhelmed. We tend to take on too many tasks. Many people know this from their jobs, especially in upper management. But overload creates stress, creates too much cortisol and adrenaline in the nervous system, and that also prevents flow. Analyze your life: What do you do? What of it is significant? Everything that is not important can go. Try to re-evaluate things: many are not urgent and hurried at all. Define your planned daily output. Then you know when it is fulfilled, when you have reached your goal.

All these structures help to get into the flow. First into the so-called micro-flow, the flow on a small scale: you become engrossed in a conversation with a colleague, are fully involved, completely concentrated. And then into the macro flow: time slows down, sometimes you forget yourself or see yourself from the outside, becoming one with the world. Then peak performance becomes possible and yet feels easy. But because the framework conditions have to be right first, I’ll mention the most important ones again:

  • Clear goals – these are crucial for you to feel what you have to do and how.
  • Clear and immediate feedback – this is the only way to know immediately whether things are going well or badly and what still needs to be adjusted.
  • The right challenge – ideal is the feeling that one’s own abilities are just sufficient to master the task.
  • No distractions – neither internal nor external. No one tapping, no Instagram distractions. This creates the confidence of being able to complete a task efficiently.

I would like to give you a very concrete tip on how you can start today: Try what we call Single-Focused Work. Do only one thing, but do it right. Buddhists tell the following parable about the Zen master Pai-Chang from the time of the Tang Dynasty: A disciple asks Pai-Chang, “Master, what is your way of living – what is the secret of your Zen?” The master replies, “When I am hungry, I eat, and when I am tired, I sleep.” – “But we all do that,” says the student. “What’s special about that?” Then the master replies, “When you eat, you have a thousand thoughts and are in the there and then, and when you sleep, you have many fears and desires in your dreams. But when I eat, I eat and nothing else. And when I sleep, I sleep and nothing else. This is the secret of my Zen.”

Today you could add: You look at your iPhone when you eat, you think about the Google calendar when you jog. The problem: you never become fully productive that way, you never get into the flow. Vladimir Horowitz thought of nothing else when he played his brilliant interpretations of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky in the concert hall. And Muhamad Ali was completely in the moment with his fights. Learn from the greats! Do just one thing, but do it right. If you want to scroll on your cell phone, set aside half an hour a day for it and do it all the way. And then go to your real tasks, and dedicate yourself to them with all your strength.


02 The first step: From adaptor to self-author

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new time!

Many of us want to play an active role in the great transformation. Want to make a positive difference in the world as a “self-author” – and do so out of inner conviction, equipped with an inner North Star, as an authentic leader of tomorrow.

The word “self-authorship” comes essentially from Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan, who has focused on adult self-development for over 40 years (Vertical- Adult Development).  By this he means the attitude: I take responsibility for myself, I rewrite my own story every day. I am the author of my life. This is a natural (but very advanced) leap of consciousness in human development and maturity, at the threshold of which many leaders and their teams find themselves.

This leap from “Achiever” to “self-authorship” is THE critical mindshift. Before, the outside ruled and orientation: I achieve the goals of others, I adapt to the external world. But after that, the inside guides us: “I orient myself to my own values, my inner North Star”.

This is also called the subject-object-shift: Before is my ego, my I, just as it is. (subject). But afterwards the state is completely different: I shape it as an object, it is an open becoming, a journey to more and more authenticity. This inner maturity, self-reflection and work on oneself are at all the basis for real decentralized ownership, for inner ownership of any roles and projects, for authentic leadership in change. And this is exactly what “agile” calls for everywhere today. But if someone has no inner support, it will be difficult for him or her to take on personal responsibility or to be a solid leader in change. Instead, they will always think: You decide for me, tell me what is right. Or: Authentic for me is what is cool right now and for what I get my “likes” in life. 

Only those who rest in themselves, who have a genuine relationship with themselves, can let go of external structures and old authorities even in times of change and look for new, more meaningful ones. Because he is no longer attached to the outdated. (After all, one is hung up on others in organizational charts :-)) This is the basis for transformative leadership.

But the reality is often different: We are on autopilot, acting as stimulus-response machines.

Today we find ourselves far too often in stimuli (100 emails, SoMe, Netflix,…) and in tension (30 projects at the same time, eight zoom meetings per day, high goals). We are under pressure coming from the outside. Even in top management, we see ourselves as “Achievers” who have to reach goals set from the outside and can’t from the inside.

So our focus is only outward and our nervous system is activated in the so-called sympathetic fight mode (fight, flight, submission). The sympathetic strand of our nervous system activates us, it makes us awake and alert and gives us adrenaline. This enables us to ward off danger or to achieve something in the outside world (success, goals, survival).

Transformation doesn’t happen that way, of course.  Because our evolutionary nervous system allows openness, reflection only when we feel safe, have energy and take mental time for it. By the way, we really learn during sleep, when we rewire what we have experienced in deep or REM sleep, both physically and mentally. So we need more time for sleep (7-8 hours) or time for ourselves during the week, early and in the evening, on weekends, quarterly and annually, to work on ourselves and with ourselves and to develop real self-awareness.

It sounds trite, but it’s not. Because let’s face it, for most, the opposite is true: the world has me in its grip. I run after tasks and duties. I try hard to meet all the requirements. A study by Mercer, a management consulting firm, concluded that 81 percent of employees in the U.S. deal with burnout or similar mental health issues. Two-thirds said their ability to work has been impaired as a result.

If you want to develop your true strengths, you can’t run behind, you can’t always just get everything done, you can’t always be on your last legs. We want to surf at the front of the wave, not sink behind it.

The free space of “sovereignty”.

For this to succeed, we establish an inner system, a free space of sovereignty, which is switched between stimulus and reaction. Because this is exactly what is usually missing in everyday life. An external stimulus comes along, such as criticism or a bad mood from the boss, and we immediately have an internal reaction: anger. Anxiety. Sometimes anger. For example, a colleague in a conference dumps a task on me that is far too big. I involuntarily react immediately irritated, offended, either become loud or retreat inwardly. I later do the job reluctantly and uninspired. It all happens as if automatically, as if it’s not even fully conscious.

It isn’t – to make it really conscious, I need the inner space between stimulus and reaction. So that an autopilot reaction becomes a conscious response. Which I then also take responsibility for.

This space exists in the natural sequence of how external stimuli are processed in us. They are at the same time the levers for conscious development and self-authorship. I explain them in detail in the Transformation Code. In the brevity that is possible here,

  1. Perception: First, I can consciously perceive and sharpen all my senses. They are the access to life. If you feel and see little nothing, you can act per se only roughly template.
  2. The inner energy state: It makes a huge difference whether I have energy or am drained. Either I react to feedback sullen and closed or I can accept it well charged. Am I awake or tired, open or closed?
  3. The emotion, the feeling: Do I have access to it at all? Can I categorize external stimuli well? Can I clearly sense what feelings they trigger in me? Can I perhaps even consciously regulate myself in order to play effectively as a leader with the E-motion as “Energy in Motion”?
  4. The Mindset: A reaction e.g. to a woman in management also depends on my attitude (“equal”) and origin (culture, religion). And also on whether I know that the beliefs are rather self-made. And therefore also changeable. For me the most powerful key to personal growth, next to Bodywork.
  5. Thinking: Only after Mindset do conscious maps and models of thinking come into play. If I know them at all, I can play them out situationally at will. Do I know my own biases? It’s about the biases, the rules of thumb that I use to make quick decisions. (For example: digital is always better than analog, the majority is right, Germany is morally better and superior).
  6. Action: Can I then take clear and concentrated action or respond to the stimulus consciously without fear. Or, as a leader, exemplify my role model.
  7. Leadership: Only in seventh place in the space of sovereignty can I effectively give direction to the energy through leadership, by giving feedback, asking questions, enabling decisions, or telling a story of change.
  8. Impact: This is where the impact of me comes in. Not just on the job. Also through family, friends, colleagues, organization, society, and the world.

We can work on all eight points. These are the levers by which we can grow, we can unhinge the world. Thus, starting with inner work, we can expand the space of sovereignty step by step, giving more and more of our story its own meaning. We can make a difference in the world. It doesn’t start in the culture or leadership workshop, but with a self. In the body, through emotion, mindset into clear action. Only then can I think about leadership of others.

Sometimes people (mainly in Germany) misunderstand my idea and say to me, “It’s all just self-optimization.” Is that true? Are we all self-optimizers now? No! It’s not about becoming a better and better oiled cog in a big machine. Ask yourself: Are you working against your human nature or with it? Because we all work. The processes that torment us often enough are already running anyway. I only encourage you to take them in hand now and to control them consciously and to change them sensibly.

Ask yourself:

Is your mode still “Survive”? – Replace that with: Thrive!

Are you still a victim of the circumstances? – Become a self-author!

Do you feel like you’re dead inside? – Learn to be a live player!

Of course, all this does not happen overnight. The gods have put training before success. But if you set out on the path, you will be inspired from the very first day. The new connections in the brain are formed only gradually. But the old adage holds true: The journey is the destination. Because this path brings joy. Because when we overcome our own limitations, we are in the flow. We feel good and are completely in the moment and master the situation.

If you don’t know how to get started, I’m going to give you three pieces of advice. First, take back control of your calendar. Get rid of the unnecessary and set aside time for yourself – that always works, whether you’re a CEO or a young professional. I know this because we’ve tried it many times and had great success with it.  Second, use your breathing consciously. It is the first and most important technique of self-regulation. (See “Practices” below for two tricks with instructions.) Third, get your sleep in order. If you are tired, you will never move mountains. If you need help with this, book a training with us. But you can start immediately, today, right now.



01 Why the world is in deep crisis.

Why the world is in deep crisis. And what the first steps out could be.

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators of a new time,

the world often seems terrible at the moment. You only have to look at the news. Unrest, assassinations, violence, the war continues, Putin demonizes the West in his speeches. And every day something new is added that overwhelms us. We are in the middle of a polycrisis, a permacrisis – an age of very big problems. Today, simple solutions don’t help anymore, a new way of thinking is needed. That’s why we have the VERTICAL X Collective and the Transformation Code, the tools for everyone who really wants to build the bridge into a new era. Together we can make the leap! What this all means – and how it works – is what I will explain in this newsletter every 14 days starting today.

We are working on decoding the super-crisis, starting with ourselves, with micro-techniques, from breathing work to small modifications in our diet to better sleep. My first teachers on this path were the neuroscientists, biohackers and psychologists of the West Coast of the USA – Jamie Wheal, Andrew Huberman, Daniel Schmachtenberger, Ken Wilber, great, sometimes idiosyncratic figures in research and philosophy, each contributing puzzle pieces to the new path. Their partly groundbreaking insights are hardly noticed in the German-speaking world – we are just missing a revolution of thinking and self-techniques. I therefore see it as my task to integrate the most important of these ideas together with my philosophical background and my experience from 25 years of top management in Europe into something new. The result is the Transformation Code, which we can apply here and now. The recipe for change, understandable for all.

We will talk about all this intensively in the coming newsletters, on my site, at our meetings and workshops. At the beginning there should be an insight, which for me is the most important: We are historically at a crossroads, a “pivotal point” as it is called in economics, a key moment. Now is the time to decide what comes next: Breakdown or Breakthrough? Will everything collapse, or will we make the leap forward and upward, into the new era? That era will bring a gentler way of dealing with ourselves, with each other, and with nature. It will also bring profit again, but in a new, compatible way.

My maxim for the beginning is: Change yourself – then the world will change. But this is not a retreat into the subjective, into inwardness – on the contrary. The inner change has a direct effect on the world. First find order and peace within yourself, then radiate this into your immediate environment, then into your company, and finally into the world. This is the way we make a real difference with the Transformation Code. We work on the inside first, then the outside. My Transformation Code offers: 1. inspiration to rediscover yourself and your world. 2. guidance on what steps we will take to do so. And 3. home for those who want to dare, for the transformative class.

We are not here for the conspirators who see secret evil forces everywhere, and not for the purely spiritual who seek only enlightenment, only the next kick in their energetic astral world. We really want to roll up our sleeves and make a difference out there. We don’t demonize performance and profit – but we want good performance and meaningful profit. Only responsible individuals are capable of good leadership that ultimately serves the world. To this end, we want to change together, to transform, and here I am showing you ways in which we can continue, little by little, to make the world a better place. Even without believing that we can really make it better. Because let’s face it, on a planet that recently became home to 8 billion people, no one is going to initiate the great reversal alone. But we can make a difference. A real one.

And we do it together. Find the others! The other like-minded people, the ones who make up the Transformational Class, the community of those who want to do things differently. Because: Business as usual – that’s no longer possible. This realization is the first step, and we start from there. I will write about it here every 14 days.

Yours, Achim