Sophia Leadership
Unleashing the power of feminine wisdom.


 

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Heather Plett is a writer, speaker, teacher, dreamer, wanderer, and mandala-maker. She is passionate about creativity, spirituality, community, and leadership. She dreams of a world in which we all (women AND men) learn to trust our feminine wisdom and let it impact the way we live, lead, and interact with each other and the earth.
This was her website for several years. The power of feminine wisdom should be visible on the internet.
Content is from the site's 2011 archived pages.

 

In a circle, nobody stands alone.

We are all in this journey together and we need each other. Especially when the journey is a challenging one, where we experience resistance and fear (like the Sophia Leadership journey can be) we need to offer support, courage, and accountability to each other.

During my most challenging places in my own leadership journey, I longed to have a circle of like-minded people who would gather around me and help illuminate the path for me. It is for that younger version of me, who spent more than one lunch break crying alone in a dark corner of the public library when I was especially lost and alone, that I will be creating Sophia circles and helping you create your own.

These will be circles that will gather both in person and online. The first circle I will form will be an in-person circle that will meet in downtown Winnipeg (where I live). If you are interested in learning more, contact me at heather(@)heatherplett(dot)com.

After that, I will explore online options and will put together a kit to help people who want to establish their own circles where they live.

I feel I must offer a special shout-out to Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea (whose work on “Calling the Circle” and recent Listening Well Workshop have been so instrumental for me) for helping me dream Sophia Circles into being.

For inspiration on what a circle can do for you, I highly recommend Christina and Ann’s book, The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair.

About Sophia Leadership

Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. It’s a feminine word that is full of spirituality, compassion, creativity, and intuition.

Sophia Leadership is about ALL of us (women and men) learning to trust our feminine wisdom more and letting it change us and change the world.

The feminist revolution opened doors for women – doors that lead us into the houses of power. We became leaders and politicians and educators and business owners. For that I am eternally grateful.

The post-feminist movement helped women tap into our sources of power – our spirituality, our creativity, and our intuition. We learned to make the connection between our heads, hearts, and bodies. For that I am eternally grateful.

But now it’s time for the next step in the women’s movement. Now it’s time to merge what we learned in both the feminist and post-feminist eras and make some BIG changes.

It’s time to step forward and claim equal ownership to those houses of power. Instead of just moving in and accepting status quo, It’s time to start rearranging the furniture.

It’s time for a new revolution. A SOPHIA REVOLUTION.

I’m not talking about women taking over and pushing men out of the way. No, that would only shift the problems of the world, not fix them. What I’m talking about is feminine wisdom and energy moving in with masculine wisdom and energy and transforming us ALL in the process.

We all (women and men) have access to both masculine energy (animus, from Jungian psychology – rational, direct, practical, assertive qualities) and feminine energy (anima – creative, intuitive, feeling, visionary qualities). Throughout much of history, we have relied on masculine energy to dictate how we form our governments and our organizational structures, how we make global decisions, how we regulate things like business, trade and justice, and how we lead.

When either masculine OR feminine energy becomes the dominant paradigm and doesn’t make space for the other, the result is corruption and, ultimately, failure.

What we need is yin and yang – both masculine and feminine co-existing in balance in a circle. In ourselves and in the world.

In our recent history, unfortunately, feminine energy has been marginalized – not only in women but also in men.

Women who managed to work their way into leadership positions often did so because they had learned to assimilate to the only models that were available to them. To overcome the glass ceiling, women had to learn to think like men and leave their feminine wisdom – their spirituality, creativity, and intuition – at home.

Men whose feminine energy was strong were taught not to trust it. “Effeminate” became a derogatory word. We became more comfortable with men holding guns than holding hands.

The need for a new paradigm has become urgent. The time for change has come.

We can’t wait any longer.

For the sake of our earth suffering under the weight of too much greed and neglect, for the sake of the many young girls dying premature deaths or being sold into slavery, and for the sake of the young men dying in unnecessary conflicts, we need to find a new way to live, a new way to lead.

That’s what Sophia Leadership is all about.

It’s about letting our spirituality impact the way we make decisions.

It’s about honouring our earth and all that she provides for us.

It’s about trusting our intuition and letting that offer balance to our rational minds.

It’s about sitting with ambiguity and not rushing to fix things before enough wisdom has gathered.

It’s about sharing our stories with each other and letting them transform us.

It’s about coming together in circles and sharing power with those who are powerless.

It’s about using art and dance and poetry to transform the world.

It’s about trusting artists to be leaders and leaders to be artists.

It’s about recognizing that all of us – whether we are presidents or stay at home moms – have the capacity (and – dare I say – responsibility) to be leaders right where we are.

It’s not about women taking over leadership.

It’s about all of us learning to honour the pieces that make us whole. It’s about balance.

It’s about healing.

 

An aside: A group of my friends are really into the philosophy of Sophia Leadership. We all happen to be in the arts in one way or another and live in a vibrant Brooklyn neighborhood where recycling, being "green", trying to live a balanced, holistic life, are all important. The other day, practical necessity prompted me to query my friends about who are the best neighborhood carpet cleaners in NYC. A family heirloom carpet had the misfortune of being rudely introduced to a bottle of red wine that had decided to fall off our dining room table when my kids thought it would be great fun to play toss with several of their larger stuffed animals. Egor, the elephant didn't make it over the table. He collided with the wine bottle I had just set on the table and the result was one large stain, a very chagrined adult, and two abashed children. I obviously wanted the stain to be removed, but the rug cleaning company needed to be knowledgeable about antique oriental rugs. And I did not want a rug cleaning company that used harsh chemicals. Was this too much to ask? Fortunately a friend recommended My Home Carpet & Uphoslstery Care NYC. It's a mouthful to say. But they are 100% organic, applying organic, non chemical solutions by “Green Seal”. They also specialize in antique carpet cleaning and repair, and when a representative came to look at the carpet they assured me the stain could be removed. Two weeks late, I was one happy customer. At the next "circle" get-to-gather of my friends, the carpet cleaning company's name was passed among us. Often times word of mouth is the best way to find the best .......

 

About Heather

My name is Heather Plett, and I am your host at Sophia Leadership. I welcome you to this circle and invite you to explore, share, learn, and be challenged.

If you want to learn more about who I am and how I might be able to work with you, please visit my website.

If you want to learn more about the journey that brought me to Sophia Leadership, keep reading…

My Journey to Sophia

More than a dozen years ago, I accepted my first formal leadership role almost against my better judgement. I had had no ambitions of becoming a leader, and yet a mentor who saw something in me I didn’t yet see in myself hired me into a director position in the federal government, catapulting me past the intermediate steps of supervisor and mid-level manager.

Needless to say, I was in a little over my head, and yet I took to it like a duck to water. Thankfully, I had a small, enthusiastic and engaged team, and a supportive cheerleader as a boss, so it wasn’t hard to swim at the start.

In those early days, though I wasn’t always confident, I trusted my instinct, creativity, adaptability, and heart to show me the path. At the same time as I was learning to be a manager, I was learning to be a mom and the parallels were remarkable. Leadership is leadership whether it happens at the kitchen table or the board room table.

Early Lessons

Toward the end of my first year, I had one of those awakening moments that taught me that my instinctual path was not necessarily the accepted path to leadership.

We had just wrapped up a difficult two day regional management meeting. We were all exhausted and emotionally drained from having to make tough budget decisions that included cutting some of our staff and programs. As I looked around the room at the worn out faces, I knew instinctively that, as a team, we needed some kind of emotional closure and even healing. I felt I had to speak up before we all left the room.

“I see the heaviness in people’s faces, and I know how much this has drained us all,” I said. “I wonder if it would be a good idea for each of us to share a little about what we’re feeling right now before we leave.”

In an instant, I could see that I had spoken something that wasn’t accepted in this room. Resistance was written on many of the faces. A patronizing attitude was written on others.

One of the more seasoned managers, who was also a mentor and friend to me, turned and said, in essence, “Feelings have nothing to do with management.”

I’m sure I turned bright red as the shame crept up my neck and onto my face. I had made a “newbie” mistake. Clearly I still had a lot to learn about being a manager. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

I didn’t realize until several years later how much I had internalized the messages I picked up at that moment. “Even if you have an intuitive sense about what’s needed, you should never trust it. Just keep your mouth shut,” is what I heard.  And “A manager should never, at any cost, express her feelings or invite others to express theirs.”

Adapting to the Status Quo

I’m a quick study, so I soon learned to adapt to the accepted model of leadership. But you can only bury your authentic self for so long before it starts crying to be released. In my next management role, I was in a science environment where I was often the only one sitting around the boardroom table without a science-related PhD attached to my name. (I was a professional communicator – the person who helped the scientists speak in plain language to the public.)

In that place, my heart started breaking in a major way. These were not bad people I was working with, but it was the kind of place where they’d hired mostly good scientists to be managers without equipping them to be good leaders. Few people had a clue how to address the poor morale or increasingly toxic environment, and many of them were too busy to notice. Although I noticed, I felt powerless to change it.

Around that time, I started searching for something – anything – that would point to another way. I was desperate for some hope.

It was then that I discovered the work of Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea, Margaret Wheatley, and David Irvine. Reading their books and websites felt like someone had lit a candle in the dark for me. There really WAS a different way to be a leader – one that recognized the power of circles, stories, intuition, spirituality, and authenticity.

Not long afterward, I met Bob Chartier, a visionary man working to transform leadership within the federal government through story, compassion, and connection. At a leadership conference in Quebec City, I cried on Bob’s shoulder and thanked him for offering me a lifeline.

Re-learning authenticity

The next leadership role I stepped into took me away from the government and into non-profit. I was in love. This was a place where I could more fully bring my authentic self, my passions, and my heart.  One of the greatest gifts of this new job was the opportunity to travel around the world meeting people who were demonstrating incredible leadership abilities in the middle of very difficult circumstances – like the young woman in Ethiopia transforming a remote desert village with her commitment to a water diversion project, or a young man in India who has dedicated his life to rescuing young girls from sex slavery.

Gradually (but slowly), I began to grow back into the kind of leader I’d intuitively been in the early days. I wish I could say I was always successful in that journey, but I wasn’t. Even in a mostly supportive environment, there was resistance against anyone who messed with the status quo. Old paradigms die hard. I wasn’t always strong enough to stand up for the change I knew was needed.

A couple of years ago, I started feeling the beginnings of a new calling, First there was the team retreat where I decided to step forward with courage and deliberately break the “rules” I’d internalized early in my leadership career.

There were undeniable deep dysfunctions in my team and I had to admit my own failings in changing the status quo. I knew I had to do something radical.

In an extremely vulnerable moment, I shared my feelings about what was going on and the way that we as a team were not supporting each other or creating a safe space for innovation and growth. I admitted that I didn’t know the next step and that I was even prepared for them to tell me that the next step would be for the team to get a new leader.

I was terrified, and didn’t know if I’d made a big mistake, but I knew that I was at the end of my rope and this was my last hope.

To my surprise and delight, my vulnerability shifted the tone in the room. Where there was guardedness, there was now softness. Where there was resistance, there was openness to a new way of relating to each other. As a team, we had been transformed by vulnerability.

Transformation is a hard thing to sustain, and, unfortunately, we started slipping into some old habits a few months after that. But we had, at the very least, been given a new language and a little glimpse into how we could be as a team. There was definitely growth.

Sophia Leadership Emerges

In the two years since that time, I have searched for every bit of wisdom I could find on leading with more vulnerability and authenticity. I read many books, some of which I rejected, and some of which I embraced.  I looked for supportive communities of like-minded people, and when I had trouble finding them, I tried to create my own. I started having regular lunches and coffee chats with mentors and friends going through similar journeys.

About six months ago, a conversation at an amazing gathering of authentic leaders gifted me with an epiphany. I realized that one of the greatest gaps in our understanding of leadership is that we have not learned to sufficiently incorporate feminine wisdom (intuition, creativity, spirituality, and holistic thinking) into our leadership models. Even though the feminist revolution got women access to the houses of power, it did not sufficiently offer us the opportunity to rearrange the furniture.

As Michael Jones (who I met at that same gathering) says in his book Artful Leadership, most of our leadership models are based on sports and warfare. These are models that fit with a primarily masculine way of interpreting the world.

Since that day, I have been on a quest to explore how feminine wisdom could transform our leadership models. That quest lead to the birth of Sophia Leadership and this website. It also lead to me quitting my job and committing myself to work that centres around the desire to help individuals and organizations unleash their feminine wisdom in their leadership and organizational structures.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this field, but I am an explorer and a learner, and if you’ll allow me, I would be happy to serve as a guide and companion on this journey we are all on.

Yin and Yang – Masculine and Feminine

Incidentally, there’s an addendum to the opening story that I feel I must share. Remember the manager who said “feelings have nothing to do with management”? Well, despite his words, and despite the fact that he could come across as fairly gruff sometimes, he showed me a very different side of himself about six months later when I gave birth to my stillborn son Matthew. Because he’d also had a stillborn child many years earlier, he knew how to reach out to me in a more compassionate way than many other people who didn’t have a clue what to say.

I share this to make the following point – feminine wisdom is not the exclusive property of women. We all – women AND men – know how to be compassionate, gentle, intuitive, creative, and spiritual. We also all know how to access our masculine wisdom – that which is rational, direct, practical, and assertive.  The problem is, in our leadership models, we have marginalized the feminine and over-emphasized the masculine.

When this man told me that feelings have nothing to do with management, there’s a good chance he was saying that out of a deep place of hurt, having experienced a time in his own life when he was taught to marginalize something that came intuitively to him. I like to think he was just trying to spare me the same hurt until I was strong enough to challenge it.

My mission is to help other emerging leaders – whether at the kitchen table or boardroom table – to be strong enough to stand with me in challenging the status quo.

 




Work with me

If you are a dreamer, a thinker, a doer, an emerging leader, and/or a wisdom-seeker, I want to work with you.

If you dream of making the world a better place, I want to work with you. 

My purpose in life is to serve as a catalyst for creativity, community, and change.

I want to help your stories, wisdom, and courage to emerge. I want to mentor you into your leadership calling. I want to help you plan your next staff retreat or learning event.

Here’s what I do:

1. I guide people through a mandala discovery process that helps them break through blocks, find new focus for their lives, and emerge into the leaders they feel called to be.

I have developed a unique process that combines mandala-making with intuitive journalling. This process has been gradually emerging for me over many years of journal writing, creative process, leadership mentoring, and art-making. I use the process when I teach creativity, writing and personal development workshops.

In our conversation, I take you through a “labyrinth for the heart”. Asking intuitive questions, I help you get closer to your personal truth. Based on our conversation, I develop a mandala process specially for you that will help you unearth truths you didn’t know were hidden from your consciousness.

It’s your centre, and I want to help you find it.

 

2. I gather people in circles where I host meaningful conversations. In those circles, I help them find their creativity, leadership & writing skills.

I love gathering people in a circle to share stories, deepen connections, and discover new ways to grow.

I would like to work with you in planning meaningful retreats for your staff, community organization, faith community, or women’s group. I can help you create a rich and beautiful container for deep conversations. I can facilitate your fearless dreaming and your world-changing intention-setting. I can help you deepen your growth and expand your creativity.

I also lead workshops, coach individuals and groups, teach writing, leadership, and creativity courses, and speak at conferences, retreats, and other special events. I specialize in teaching people to live more fearlessly, trust their feminine wisdom, and serve with integrity and hope.

 

3. I coach effective leaders.

leadership mentor

I help you dig deeply into your capacity, your dreams, and even your failings so that you will emerge stronger and more sure of your place in the world. I mentor you as you learn to dance in the power of your feminine wisdom. I teach you to lead even if you are reluctant to call yourself a leader but know that you want to make a difference in the world.

I’m not just talking about the kind of leadership modelled by people like Martin Luther King Jr. who knew how to inspire millions of people with his words and energy. I’m talking about the kind of leadership modelled by people like Rosa Parks, who didn’t necessarily recognize the long term impact of her actions and probably never thought of herself as a leader.  She just knew it was time for a black woman to have a seat on the bus.

I’ll help you take your seat on the bus.



 

Mandalas

Is there a restlessness in you that you can’t quite define? Are you feeling stuck and don’t know what your next step should be? 

Are you trying to process a complex situation or change? Are you having trouble trying to figure out what you need or want, or what direction you need to take next?

Perhaps something new wants to be born but you’re unclear about what it is. Maybe you’ve found yourself on the edge of a new journey and you’re afraid to step onto the path. Perhaps a relationship is changing and you don’t know what that change might mean for you. Or maybe an old story is clinging to you and you’re trying to loosen its grip on you.

Whatever that restlessness is, mandala-making can help you find a path through it.  

I can help you develop your own unique mandala process.

What is a mandala and why make them?

ldquo;Mandala” is the ancient sanskrit word for circle and it symbolizes wholeness. It’s pretty simple, really – anything that shows up in circular form – whether it’s art, dance, or a slice of kiwi fruit – can be considered a mandala. I love the fact that they are so universal and can be found everywhere. In every part of the world, mandalas show up in the art work, nature, and cultural and spiritual history of a place.

Mandalas have been used in various spiritual traditions (especially eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism) for spiritual teaching and meditative purposes. They have also been used for therapeutic purposes by psychoanalysts, most notably Carl Jung.

Mandalas combine spirituality, meditation, therapy, creative process, and play in one holistic circle. They help us slow our minds, process our complex thoughts, and shift out of our logical left-brains into our intuitive right brains.

They also have a strong feminine aspect to them, with connections to the womb and the birthing process, as well as to nature and Mother Earth. They ground and centre us and bring us back to the heart of who we are.

As my friend Christine says, mandalas are like “one dimensional labyrinths in which we take ourselves for a walk.”

What do I bring to mandala-making?

I have developed a unique process that combines mandala-making with intuitive journalling. This process has been gradually emerging for me over many years of journal writing, creative process and art-making. I use the process when I teach creativity, writing and personal development workshops. My first mandala poem was published in a poetry journal twenty five years ago and I’ve been exploring it as a tool for my personal development ever since.

Unlike some of the more regimented mandalas that rely on specific symbols, follow certain rules and are closely associated with specific traditions, my mandala process is intuitive and unique to each person who does it with me. I give you guidelines and support, but I never give you rules.

To learn more about why I make mandalas and what I get out of them, readthis post.

Who could benefit from this mandala process?

- anyone seeking clarity in their life

- anyone birthing new ideas into the world

- anyone trying to find simplicity in the midst of complexity

- coaches looking for creative processes to add to their toolboxes

- teachers and leaders who want to invite creativity and fresh energy into their classrooms or communities

Here’s some feedback from clients who’ve already done mandala sessions with me:

“In just a few minutes Heather invited me to a level of both creativity and deep thought that was invaluable. My brain is working on overdrive almost all of the time, so to be invited into an experience that provided me insights while NOT working so hard at it? Gift beyond compare.” - Ronna Detrick

“I love how accessible and simple mandala-work is, and I love that Heather is offering this as part of her work now. Heather is a wonderfully skilled and creative meaning-maker. If you’ve got something bothering you that you haven’t been able to “figure out” with your left-brain thinking, sign up for one of Heather’s mandala sessions and let her show you how you can access the creativity of your right-brain thinking and intuition to change your perspective or move forward.” - Cath Duncan (read more about Cath’s session on her blog, Remembering for Good.)

“I was one of the lucky few to win a trial session from Heather as she fine-tuned her
mandala sessions.  The initial phone work was instrumental in getting me unstuck, and the followup mandala work surfaced some new truths and complexity for me.  I would recommend this process to anyone starting on a new path, wanting to dive deeper into an issue, or seeking clarity about a confusing issue.”  - Sandra Whisler, non-profit manager and artist

“This has been a great experience and what Heather offers others through the process is amazing. After completing my mandalas, I feel a lot more confident about what I have to offer the world.” - Shirley Keeton

How can you do mandala work with me?

1. Mandala Sessions

A mandala session includes:

- one call with me (approx. 30-45 minutes) that includes a narrative coaching conversation and guidance on your individualized mandala process

- a worksheet with guidelines for the mandala process I recommend for you

- follow-up emails once your mandala has been completed. (Though it’s not required, I will encourage you to share your completed mandala with me along with any new insights you’ve gained from it.)

Optional

- a follow-up call to unpack whatever emerged during your mandala process

2. Mandala Discovery

In Mandala Discovery, you’ll get:

- six mandala lessons – beautifully designed worksheets that will walk you through a new mandala process each week

- six story circle calls – I’ll guide you in a group narrative coaching process and you’ll share your stories and learn from others. I’ll also provide further guidance on the weekly mandala process. (All classes will be recorded.)

- access to a private Facebook group to communicate with other members of the story circle

Optional:

- the availability of a discounted rate of a one-on-one mandala session

BONUS - the first 10 registrants will receive a unique handmade mandala journal that I will design with your name on it

The first session of Mandala Discovery will start on March 23rd. Calls will be 90 minutes long and will be held on Fridays at 11:00 CST. Recordings of all calls will be made available.

3. In-person community-building workshops

I have developed mandala workshops that can be used for communities, organizations, churches, etc. Participants in the workshops make their own mandalas, share their stories, and then weave those stories into a large collective mandala. Contact me to discuss how this might fit your community gathering, staff retreat, or learning event.

 




Sophia Reads

I am a voracious reader, always on the look-out for new ideas that inspire, challenge, and encourage me. Below are a few of my favourite books. (In the interest of full disclosure, these are affiliate links, which means that if you buy any of the books after clicking the links, I get to buy MORE books! :-)

Leadership & Social Change

Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, by Margaret Wheatley & Deborah Frieze –  This book was exactly what I needed when it showed up. It’s a learning journey disguised as a book, in which the reader is invited to visit several different communities all over the world where people have decided to “walk out” of broken systems and “walk on” to more sustainable, collaborative, people-centred, environmentally friendly and justice-oriented ways of living. The book had a profound effect on me. I resonated with each and every one of the people who worked up the courage to follow their collective dreams, take big risks, and step into a new way of being. Though the authors didn’t use the word early in the book, I saw each of these people as edge-walkers (just like me, but with more courage to push the boundaries at the edge).

Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change, by Adam Kahane – After having the privilege of hearing Adam present his ideas at ALIA in 201o, I was intrigued enough to buy his book. It is fascinating and paradigm shifting. He says he used to think that love should replace power as the predominant paradigm for social change, but after years of facilitating change initiatives all over the world, he realized that only when power and love are in balance can real change take place. This is a significant book for anyone who wants to impact positive, sustainable social change.

The Authentic Leader: It’s About Presence, Not Position, by David Irvine – I was in a challenging place in my leadership role when a friend recommended this book to me. It was just what I needed. It changed the way I lead my team in a really significant way. Instead of trying too hard to appear competent and knowledgeable, I met with my team and laid my cards on the table. I told them what I was struggling with, admitted that I wasn’t sure I was the right person to lead them, and asked them to help me find a way out of the dysfunction we’d entered into. It had a transformative affect on me and my team. It also helped me to further explore my own authenticity in how I was living my life.

The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair (Bk Business), by Christina Baldwin & Ann Linnea – Oh how I love this book! When I had the pleasure of meeting Christina at a workshop recently, I told her that her books had served as candles in the dark places in my leadership journey. This is her most recent offering, together with her partner Ann. This is a transformative way of looking at leadership, where we come together in circles to collaborate, innovate, and offer wisdom and guidance. This book could have a profound impact on global leadership if we all took its guidance to heart.

Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination, by Michael Jones – I had the pleasure of meeting Michael and hearing him play piano and share his wisdom at a conference in the Spring of 2010. His wisdom shines through in his music, his talks, and this book. Michael has a deep understanding of how our artfulness and creativity can transform leadership if we only learn to trust it. I underlined a great number of things in this book, but this is one of my favourites for the way it balances masculine and feminine wisdom: “When a leader leads from their gifts, they will seek to temper power with beauty, accomplishment with humility, and action with reflection. In this way they may find the faith to engage their world with fresh eyes and ears each day.”

Perseverance, by Margaret Wheatley – I have long been a fan of Meg Wheatley, and in June 2010, I had the pleasure of attending a five day workshop she facilitated. Meg’s words have offered me hope many times when I’ve become discouraged about the accepted models of leadership that seem impossible to change. This book touches on exactly that kind of discouragement, and how we can continue to persevere when we believe there is a better way.

A Simpler Way, by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers – If you believe, as I do, that many of the organizational structures and leadership models we’ve become so accustomed to are out of date and not serving us well any more, then this is the book for you. It explores a different way of thinking about life and about how organizing might occur.

Sophia – Feminine Wisdom & Spirituality

The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul, by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – I was slightly hesitant to read a book on the feminine written by a man, but I had no need to worry. The author of this book shows a depth of understanding and a deep appreciation for the feminine and the mysteries and delight that lie there-in. He strongly believes that “the world needs the presence of women who are awake to their spiritual light, and who can work with the substance of life in order to heal and transform it.” If, like me, you dream about how feminine wisdom can change the world, I highly recommend this book.

Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World, by Jean Shinoda Bolen – I believe that the author of this book is a modern day prophet. She speaks with clarity and depth about the urgent need for more feminine wisdom in our world. She believes (as I do), that if women do not rise up and serve the earth, we will do irreparable damage in more ways than one. She calls all women to step forward and start saving trees, jobs, lives, and the status quo. Her message is critical for these times.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, by Sue Monk Kidd – This is a fascinating memoir of Sue Monk Kidd’s personal journey away from traditional patriarchal Christianity toward the feminine divine. It opened my eyes to some of the longings in my own heart, to find a new way of approaching the divine in a way that fit with who I was as a woman.

, by Lillian Calles Barger – This is one of the first books I read when I began my search for Sophia. It helps us understand the wisdom of Jesus in a fresh and feminine way, releasing us from some of the baggage of a patriarchal perspective.

Crossing to Avalon: A Woman’s Midlife Quest for the Sacred Feminineby Jean Shinoda Bolen – This is another memoir that tells the story of a woman’s quest to connect with the feminine divine. Bolen traveled to some of the historic places in Europe where the feminine divine has been honoured throughout history. Although each woman must take her own journey, it is refreshing and inspirational to read about what other women learned and wrestled with in their quests.

The Intuitive Body: Discovering the Wisdom of Conscious Embodiment and Aikido, by Wendy Palmer – In this book, Wendy Palmer, who’s been exploring the principles of aikido and mindfulness for thirty-five years, presents a model of conscious embodiment that intrigues and delights me. I had the pleasure of attending a couple of brief aikido sessions with Wendy at a conference in 2010 and I was inspired by her wisdom.

The Star in My Heart: Discovering Inner Wisdom, by Joyce Rupp – Though raised in a traditional Protestant home, I have long searched for a way of approaching the divine that feels more connected to who I am as a woman. This book offers an alternative in the concept of Sophia – the feminine wisdom of God/Goddess. Sophia emerges as a comforting presence in the process of examining our old beliefs, left-over hurts, self-acceptance, and connections with the earth.

Prayers to Sophia: Deepening Our Relationship With Holy Wisdom, by Joyce Rupp – This book is a companion to the above book, The Star in My Heart. In it, Rupp invites readers to experience the healing images of Sophia through prayers from her personal journal, accompanied by journaling suggestions for reflection. It’s a beautiful book to have close to your bed, for the gentle times between sleep and wakefulness.

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, by John O’Donohue – I love O’Donohue’s writing – both poetry and prose. In this book he explores, with eloquence, the role of beauty in the world. It will challenge and excite you to imagine how we can embrace new heights of passion and creativity, even in these uncertain times of global conflict and crisis.

Creativity

Soul Fire: Accessing Your Creativity, by Thomas Ryan – This is one of those books that arrived just at the right time for me. I was becoming restless in my career (even though I loved it) and that restlessness was turning into a burning desire to dig deeper into my creative energy and forge a new path. When I read this quote, I knew I’d found just the right book: “At the midstage of life, the impatience of our inner reserve begins to make itself felt in various ways: the sense that we have brought to our present work all that we can and it is time for a new challenge; a vague but pervasive feeling of discontent with the configuration of activities and relationships in our life; a growing desire to step out and allow a recurring fantasy to become a reality.” This book would benefit anyone who’s exploring their creativity and giftedness, but is especially poignant for those of us in the “over 40” club.

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron – This is one of those brilliant, life-changing books that has the potential to change you if you let it. The first time I read it, I started buying copies for friends. If you work through some of the exercises (morning pages, artist’s dates), you will unleash your creativity in new and exciting ways.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage), by Lewis Hyde – This book had a dramatic impact on me when I first read it. Hyde explores the many ways that gift-giving has a positive transformative affect on a society and the people in that society. It will open up your thinking and shift things in you if you let it.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield – A simple but profound book about how to get past resistance in your creative life. He tells it like it is and gives great practical advice. I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Pressfield here.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp – Twyla is a wise teacher in the ways of creativity. This is less about how to earn a visit from the creative muse and more about the hard work it takes to get the creative muse to stick around for the duration.

Six Thinking Hats, by Edward de Bono – This is a great book for exploring the ways different people think (represented by different colour hats. I’ve used this in teambuilding workshops where we’ve practiced trying on each other’s hats to learn more about what it feels like to think differently than we normally do. It’s a useful tool when you need to brainstorm, or you need a breakthrough when you’re stuck.

Giftedness/Self-discovery

Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus – This is one of my all-time favourite books. It’s a simple little picture book that I have read through many times since I received it as a grad present from one of my favourite teachers. It’s the story of two caterpillars looking to make their way in the world. One caterpillar discovers the beauty of surrender, and she soon learns that without the ugly, scary chrysalis stage, you can’t reach the sky. I’ve read it to my kids, and I’ve read it to grown-ups – everyone is touched by it. It has a treasured place on my bookshelf.

Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, by David Whyte – I absolutely loved this book. It’s another one of those books that arrived just at the right time – when I was contemplating my way forward in my career. I underlined this quote, because it so clearly described where I was at at the time: “Some have felt eager and engaged by their work for years and then walked into their office one fine morning to find their enthusiasm gone, their energies spent, their imaginations engaged in secret ways, elsewhere.” This is a great book to read if you want more clarity in your personal calling and giftedness and want to ensure you’re not just showing up at work for the pay cheque at the end of the week.

The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life, by Laurie Beth Jones – This book helped me explore my personal vision and mission statement, and was a big part of the journey that led to this website, to my career, and to the workshops and public speaking I do. It’s a simple little workbook that asks all the right questions and helps you gain greater clarity and understanding about what you have to offer the world.

Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, by Gregg Levoy – This is another one of those books that I just couldn’t read without a pen in my hand. Reading it helps you get to the heart of the longing deep inside you that calls you to what you are meant to be doing. It will teach you things about yourself you didn’t know were true.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Robinson – This quote from the back of the book encapsulates this book well… “There is a powerful driving force inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision, any dream, a reality. The Element captures that force with passion and insight.” This book will inspire you to dig a little deeper into the place in your heart where your passions and interests drive you to live by your authentic calling.

Writing

Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story, by Christina Baldwin – Christina’s deep belief in the power of story shines through in this book. Story moves us to love and hate and can motivate us to change the whole course of our lives. One of the most moving experiences in my life was a recent opportunity to learn from Christina in a recent story/circle workshop. She taught us how to sit in circle and create sacred space to share and learn from our stories. I am eternally grateful for the way that she shares her wisdom in this book.

Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, by Christina Baldwin – Another powerful book by Christina – this time about how journal writing can be a transformative spiritual practice.

Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice, by Laraine Herring – This is one of the most impactful books I have ever read about writing. It takes writing to a deeper place than most books – one that connects with your body and your soul. Read it, take it to heart, and let it change you.

>Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott – I love Anne Lamott and her thoughts on writing are unique, inspiring, authentic, and thought-provoking. In fact, when I think of an authentic writer, Anne Lamott is the first person that springs to mind.

Your Life as Story, by Tristine Rainer – A great book about writing personal essays and memoir.

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, by Natalie Goldberg – Years ago, my roommate Diana had a book she kept in the bathroom called “Writing Down the Bones”. I’d read it once in awhile, but never got around to trying the great writing exercises in it. Recently I picked up this newer book by Natalie Goldberg and I fell in love in a bookstore in Toronto where I scribbled the first exercise in my journal. It’s full of practical writing exercises to get your creative juices flowing.

Spirituality

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles – This is a wonderful personal memoir about someone who came to faith and a sense of her calling in an unorthodox, unusual way. Sara Miles is inspiring, personal, and authentic and there is much to learn from her about how we can contribute to the beauty of the world by sharing our giftedness (even when it feels like we’re merely stumbling in the dark.)

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott – This is one of my favourite books of all time. Anne Lamott has such a unique, authentic way of telling her story that you can’t help but be intrigued and drawn to her.

The Seven Whispers: A Spiritual Practice for Times Like These, by Christina Baldwin – This is a simple little book that will help you find the spiritual practices that will sustain, encourage, and energize you. Christina is one of my favourite people on the planet and her wisdom and spiritual guidance holds great value in my life.

Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, A Book of Celtic Wisdom, by John O’Donohue – There is so much beauty in this book. O’Donohue speaks of a deep and mindful spirituality that resonates so clearly with my own experience. He speaks of the spirituality in friendship, silence, nature, etc., and he does so with  reverence and poetry.

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue – There are a few O’Donohue books on this list for a good reason – he is a beautiful, profound, and poetic writer and I love his words and his view on the world. This is a book of blessings that I often pull off my shelf when I’m looking for just the right words to offer someone stepping into a new career, going through a hard time, in need of courage, etc. I often read his blessings to my students when I teach classes, and every time I do I see the profound impact the words have on people. This is definitely worth having on your shelf.

Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality, by Thomas Ryan – If, like me, you were raised in a Christian environment, you will know that Christianity has a love/hate relationship with the human body. This book will liberate some of those old paradigms and set you on a path toward recovering a conviction of the goodness of our bodies and how God created us. Thomas Ryan is a priest and yoga instructor who deeply understand the connection between spirituality and the body.

Closer to the Light, by Melvin Morse – After hearing about my deeply spiritual and rather surreal experience around the birth of my stillborn son, Matthew, my friend Jo-Anne recommended this book to me. It is a collection of amazing stories of children who have near death experiences, written by a doctor who was sceptical at first, but then couldn’t deny the astonishing similarities between them. If you’ve wondered about an after-life, this is a compelling and intriguing read.

Justice/Global issues

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – I remember reading this book on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer practice and another mother turned her nose up and asked “Why would someone read something so depressing?” It’s true, this is not an easy read. It tells the brutal truth about the violence and injustice done to women all over the world. But it doesn’t end there – it offers hope too. The authors have seen all kinds of brutality, but they have also seen hope and justice. They tell stories that will change you and make you want to make the world a better place. Some of the stories still ring in my ear, urging me to commit my energy to serving women all over the world.

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, by Zainab Salbi – I first learned about the author of this book when I read Half the Sky. Zainab Salbi is now the founder and president of Women for Women International, but once she was a little girl growing up in the shadow of Saddam Hussein. If you want to understand the power an oppressor like Hussein can have on the people around them, read this book. It is profound, terrifying, and liberating all at the same time.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza – This is a stunning personal account of surviving the Rawandan genocide and emerging with remarkable faith and the ability to forgive. It will inspire you to dig deeper into your own personal strength to find ways that you can serve the cause of justice.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah – This personal account of growing up with the horrors of war and surviving the brutality and manipulation of being forced to serve as a boy soldier will shock and inspire you all at once.

Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide, by Brian McLaren – On those days when you’re faith is wobbly because you see too much damage being done to God’s beloved planet and people – often in the name of faith – this is the kind of book that will give you hope. Brian McLaren talks about the tough stuff (the destructive direction we are heading with over-consumption, conflict, and the evils that are being done to our planet), but then he offers a message of hope and transformation. I’ve met Brian McLaren several times and even had the chance to interview him in my day job.

Wisdom

Four-Word Self-Help: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives, by Patti Digh – This is a simple and beautiful little book that reminds us that we don’t need expensive self-help programs to transform us into something we’re not – we simply need trust in our own wisdom. It’s the perfect book to keep by your bedside when you need a little bit of comfort and understanding at the end of the day.

Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life, by Karen Maezen Miller -
There are way too many times in my life when I feel like I’m rushing through the “trivial” things – washing the dishes, getting through the mountain of laundry a family of five creates, rushing to the store to get groceries in order to throw some food on the table so the family can eat before the evening’s activities – all for the purpose of getting to the “important” things. In her beautiful, gentle book, Karen Maezen Miller reminds us that the trivial things ARE the important things. By sharing her personal story of “stepping away from the rat race” she encourages us to be mindful of everything we do, including the laundry. This was an important lesson for me to be reminded of as I entered a transitional stage of my life – stepping away from a high-pressured national leadership position and into a tiny, humble studio in my basement to become a self-employed writer/consultant.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, by Barry Schwartz – This is one of those books that often comes up in conversations for me. It has changed the way I communicate, the way I face major decisions, and the way I look at marketing. Schwartz believes that we are often paralyzed by the over-abundance of choices in modern society (think about the last time you had to choose a breakfast cereal from the 75 choices on the wall). For greater contentment, he suggests, we need a balance – just enough options, but not too many.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell – I’ve read several of Gladwell’s books, but this is still the one that sticks in my mind the most. It’s an interesting exploration of how trends emerge and how things go from just someone’s good idea to spreading like wildfire.

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power, by Brene Brown – When I first picked up this book, I thought “it’s not really that applicable – I don’t deal with a lot of shame”. But I picked it up anyway because it intrigued me. Boy was I wrong! Brown’s exploration of how shame keeps us from fully experiencing life and all its goodness is powerful, personal, and life-changing. Her suggestions for shame resilience will help you address things you didn’t even have names for.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan Heath – I first learned about this book when I attended a workshop put on by Chip Heath (they’re brothers) at a fundraising conference in Dallas. If you ever have a chance to see their presentation, I’d recommend it. These guys know how to make messages stick! I remember more of their presentation than most of the hoardes of presentations I’ve seen over the years. The book is equally memorable. They explore why so many urban legends stick in our mind when so much more useful information disappears

Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally, by Patti Digh – This book feels like a conversation with a trusted friend. Patti Digh is a master at living life with her heart and eyes wide open. Her wisdom, compassion, and generosity shine through the pages of this book. She’s also one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter.

Ordinary Sparkling Moments: Reflections on Success and Contentment, by Christine Mason Miller – There’s an interesting story about how I got my hands on this book here. I read most of it on the plane on the way home and it felt less like reading and more like savouring a tasty treat. Through the pages of her beautiful book, I felt like Christine had become a trusted friend on my journey.

 




Testimonials

“The words to describe Heather and what she offers simply don’t exist.  Words are based off what we already know – Heather offers insight into that which we have yet to discover. Brilliantly honest, she speaks not only to the practical but to the soul longing to be understood, to be heard. I have had the good fortune to share in her wisdom through her workbook, group phone calls, and one-on-one conversation.  Because of these, I feel not only understood – but have the support, information, and inspiration to move forward on my own journey with a fierce confidence and clarity.” – Lisa Wilson

“I interned for Heather straight out of University. To some, intern may mean coffee runs and photocopying. But that was certainly not the case working for Heather. She entrusted me with real projects and put faith and trust into my ability to accomplish those projects. I cannot express how empowering that was to a young person in her first real professional environment. When I think back on working with Heather, it’s not boss or manager that come to mind, but leader and mentor and friend. Heather’s gentle encouragement of me to spread my wings literally began charting my career in a direction I never planned or imagined. Today, I am a relatively new manager of people and I recently hired my first intern. I have literally aspired to be the same type of leader for this young person that Heather was for me. And that is perhaps the biggest compliment to Heather’s leadership.” – Gabriela Klimes

“Heather has been extremely inspirational and supportive of my journey as a young woman and a young leaderShe has pushed me further than anyone. She speaks from the heart and truly has a passion for assisting you on your own journey. I consider her an amazing role-model as well as an incredible friend.” - Qualla Parman

“Heather has added great value to the Public Relations and Marketing Management Diploma Program by not only educating her students about Public Relations fundamentals, but by encouraging us and giving us the tools to be great communicators. Her rapport building abilities allowed us to go beyond communicating – she gave us the ability to communicate effectively and to connect. Heather’s superior verbal and written communication skills were definite assets that helped to build our knowledge about Public Relations; however, I believe that her strength was in imparting integrity and honesty to her students.“ – Sarah Maranan, student

“Heather has conducted a number of leadership sessions on a wide variety of topics for groups I have led. She is creative, down to earth, enthusiastic, humble and knowledgeable about the highs and lows of organizational leadership all at the same time. She conducts each session with compassion and care, seeing each individual in their own right. She has the ability to challenge people with practical methods and helpful exercises while proving flexible in the presentation of material if need be. I  highly recommended Heather’s leadership experience, expertise and insights for your organization or the members of your group.” - Rob Visser, Prairie Leadership Development Network

“As a facilitator, you beautifully maintained that critical balance of encouraging and challenging us while allowing the natural process of the expression of our gifts to unfold. You are an excellent midwife!” - Jayne, Workshop participant

“Your research and presentations were so good! You’ve really started me percolating. You’ve drawn me back to the awesomeness of my God and shown me endless possibilities. Thank you so very, very much for giving us so much of yourself! I am so very grateful.” - Maureen, Creativity & Spirituality Workshop participant

“Heather is best when she is creating and helping others create. Unleashing the creative potential of others really gets her going.” - Michele, workshop participant

“I love this tool (How to Lead with your Paint Clothes on). It is the perfect combination of whimsy, imagination, creativity and real world application. Over the past 25 years I have managed hundreds of people and cross cultural teams. I wish I had How to Lead with Your Paint Clothes On earlier in my career. The concepts, themes and rich content helped me view my leadership, and management style in new and exciting ways. It gives leaders a clear strategy on how to model creativity and ultimately create a culture that makes innovation and innovative thinking an essential part of the work.” - Desiree Adaway

“Heather Plett never ceases to amaze and inspire me, and her most recent work, How to Lead with Your Paint Clothes On, took my respect for her to another level. Not only is this work insightful and articulate (as Heather’s work always is), but it also happens to be important and groundbreaking. Her exploration of feminine wisdom has informed this e-book, to be sure, as has the artist in her, and it also happens to just be good “business sense” in our changing and evolving world. Whether you lead within the context of a traditional company or are looking for new ways to lead yourself in your own endeavors, Heather’s e-book is filled to the brim with the sort of help many of us have been waiting for.”  - Christine Claire Reed

“Heather, on behalf of the Board, let me express my appreciation for taking Canadian Foodgrains Bank to a new level in terms of presentation to the public and public perception.  CFGB has become known across this country as the key agency that brings together Christian faith-based partners in food security issues.  The materials that you and staff have produced give significant added value to CFGB and to those of us who speak for CFGB in our own constituencies. I highlight, as a recent example, and as an example from last year, the ‘Fast for Change’ resource kit which I’ve used in sermons and other addresses.  The material is professional, personal and useful. Thank you for the energy you have given and the vision you’ve shown to taking the message of CFGB to the Canadian public.” - Donald Peters, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Canadian Foodgrains Bank

 


 

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