David Clutterbuck’s and Peter Hawkins’s Best Reads of 2021

David Clutterbuck and I both enjoy an eclectic mix of books and have enjoyed many wonderful titles this year. Here are our top 10 reads across a number of topics.

As always, we have both enjoyed an eclectic mix of new titles this past year. Here are our top 10 reads.

First, three books about how we think and make decisions

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author brings together the teachings of her Native American heritage, her life as a single Mother of two girls and being a professor of Botany to gently help us see the world more ecologically and indigenously.

Think Again, by Adam Grant & Noise, by Daniel Kahneman and colleagues. Two tours de force by giants in the field of human cognition, taking different perspectives on how and why individual and collective decision-making is so often flawed.

Thinking the Unthinkable by Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon. Explores how and why we tend to avoid dealing with difficult issues and what to do about it.

Next two books on systems and systemic thinking

Coaching Systemically by Paul Lawrence – explores systemic thinking from multiple perspectives.

Upheaval by Jared Diamond draws on case studies of how nations coped with crisis to draw conclusions about how organisations and societies can learn to adapt and thrive.

Two on aspects of awareness

The Body in Coaching and Training by Mark Walsh – a useful overview for anyone working with Gestalt, ontology, or mindfulness; or wanting to use themselves more in their coaching practice.

Supersenses by Emma Young. If you thought there were just five or six senses, you’d be wrong. Young identifies and explores 32 human senses. I found it broadened my mindfulness dramatically to experience consciously such a wide range of sensory inputs.

One general title on coaching

WeCoach by Passmore et al – the biggest collection yet of coaching tools and techniques in one volume.

One on teams

Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff – “being human is a team sport”. Rushkoff argues cogently that the impact of much technology has been to undermine our instinct for collective endeavour. He helps us in ’Understanding humanity as one big, interconnected team.’

And three intriguing outliers

The Handshake by Ella Al-Shamahi. The handshake is something we take for granted, but the meaning and impact of handshaking varies dramatically from culture to culture. A gripping read (yes pun intended!)

Becoming Mandela by Trevor Waldock.  Trevor moved from being a UK coach to developing young community leaders across Africa.  These are letters to his sons and a great guide in how to be an Elder, rather than a Leader.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings (Netflix founder and CEO and Erin Meyer Instead Professor.  Not an exemplar for others necessary to follow but many provocative ideas for how to run a company like an elite sports team.

And also this year we both enjoyed reading new updated editions of each other’s books on Team Coaching:

Coaching the team at work. (Second edition, 2020) by David Clutterbuck

Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership (fourth edition, 2021) by Peter Hawkins

What books have you enjoyed reading this year and can recommend to be added to our 2022 reading list?



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Discovering Eldership by Peter Hawkins

Preface to “Becoming Mandela” by Trevor Waldock

In early 1999 I was travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town by plane and was privileged to find myself sitting next to Alfred Baphethuxolo Nzo, who was Foreign Minister in Mandela’s first Cabinet, from when Mandela was first elected President in 1994.  We talked of the recent history of South Africa and the changes that were coming about. He told me how he would stand down as a Minister and a politician at the forthcoming election. But soon Mr Nzo turned the conversation to families.  He proudly showed me pictures of his children and grandchildren.  I said: “well once you are retired you will have more time to spend with your grandchildren.”  He looked at me sternly and said: “Life is different in our culture; we do not retire. Once you step down as a leader, you become an Elder. An Elder has their own responsibilities. One of which is to hold the Leadership to account. The leaders have to answer to the Elders for what they do, and we must support and nurture them.”

Immediately I felt a sadness and a lack within my own life and that of my culture.  The personal lack I had explored many times in psychotherapy, in workshops with Robert Bly, and with my spiritual teachers.  I had searched out and been blessed to have some great Mentors.  But the cultural lack of Eldership in our Politics, Professions and Communities was a new awareness that I would pursue. So, when I first met Trevor in 2003, I discovered a shared quest and was enriched by the conversations we had prior to him writing his book “To Plant a Walnut Tree” and was honoured that Trevor included a number of the stories from our conversation.

Since that time, I have been a great admirer of the way that Trevor has continued to pursue this quest in a very committed and active way, developing leadership programmes for young leaders in communities across Africa.  He develops leadership in others, not by knowing better, but by constantly discovering through collaborative inquiry with the young people, what is needed in their communities, and what needs affirming in them, so they can step up and respond.

Just recently I watched a video from Trevor’s work, of a young black female community leader in Africa, saying: “Please stop talking about us as tomorrow’s leader’s, our societies cannot wait that long.  In Africa, we are today’s leaders.”

As I write this, I have just been watching the speeches of the young people’s gathering in Spain, prior to COP26 Climate Conference that will be held in Glasgow October 2021. Impressive young leaders from around the world, who are desperately trying to hold the politicians of the world to account for the lack of turning their rhetoric into committed action and for the horrific legacy they, and we, are leaving for their generation to contend with.  I despaired as I then listened to the patronising empty rhetoric of the older politician’s responses.  Where, I thought, are we Elders who have a role to play, not in adding more words, but in helping the powerful leaders really listen, emotionally feel and take on board what the young leaders are telling them.  We need to help the political leaders have the humility to ask young people for their help. Where are the Elders who are needed to facilitate a true generative dialogue between the generations and between the rich, early industrialised, nations that have caused the bulk of the greenhouse gasses, directly or indirectly, and the economically poorer countries who disproportionally will suffer the consequences. There are some, but far too few.

Sadly, Mr Nzo died later in the year I met him, so was not able to fulfil the Eldership role he spoke of. However, as Trevor shows, Nelson Mandela did live long enough to show us how it is possible to move from Leadership to Eldership.  You become an Elder when you give up on personal ambition and attachment to specific outcomes, but can do what is necessary to be done, without seeking reward or recognition.  When you can respond to life’s challenges non-reactively, drawing on wisdom, not knowledge or expertise. I have written about Eldership in a number of my books and other writings, but still daily struggle to give up leadership and respond as an Elder.

My best teachers have been my grandchildren.  There is a lovely Welsh saying: “Pure love arrives with the first grandchild.”  This is because the deep love that you had for your own children, comes around again, but this time you are not so psychologically entangled.  You can love them for who they are and are becoming, without expectations, or the same anxieties, fears and replication of your own previous family patterns.

As I write this the first Autumn leaves are being blown by the wind and rain, past my window and I am grateful that several weeks ago we managed to get the hay into our barns just in time.  Also grateful for the many fruits and vegetables from our garden which is sitting in the covered area outside our kitchen.  I remember the harvest festivals I have attended over the years, when we sang with thanks for what we had received from the rich earth and nature around us.  I am reminded of a recent conversation with colleagues with whom I am editing a book on how coaching can make its contribution to the climate emergency and how we discussed how important practices of gratitude are.  I found myself saying: “But we must not stop at gratitude, appreciating the enormous amount we receive by grace from the wider ecology every moment of everyday. At harvest festivals (which could be celebrated daily) in all the different religions and indigenous ceremonies that I know of, after we have given thanks, we move into offering.”  As Robin Wall Kimmerer, writes in her beautiful and wise book “Braiding Sweetgrass” (2020: p115): “Cultures of gratitude must also be cultures of reciprocity.” And she beautiful describes First Nation Americans’ ceremonies where everyone puts into the collective collection what they do not need and takes out what is necessary for them.

When I was young, I thought privilege was something you strived for and earnt and that it bought you freedom.  Only now in my seventies I can look back and realise I was always, and will always, be privileged and that the more privilege you have, the more it brings you, not freedom, but responsibility.  I now believe this is what Mr Nzo was trying to teach me. To still be alive with our health, our faculties and a family, is to be greatly privileged. With that privilege comes greater responsibility.

Thank you, Trevor, for being a role-model and sharing your wisdom and inquiries and active experiments into how we become responsible Elders and Ancestors.