When I walked into the departure lounge at JFK last September, I finally got to hug Sas Petherick in the flesh. We were on our way to North Carolina to co-lead a retreat for coaches at Blue Star Ranch. Up until to that moment, Sas and I had only spent time together on Skype and through emails. So, it’s rare these days to finally meet someone in person whom you’ve only really known over the “interwebs” and discover that they’re actually who they say they are. The truth is, Sas is even more brilliant and beautiful in person. She is exactly who she says she is. And for me, leading the retreat with her was definitely a peak experience.
Sas is a provocative thinker — you throw a topic at her and guaranteed she’s read books on it–or studied it in University. As a coach she is deeply present, steadfast and *highly* effective. I know this because she heroically coached me through my own ‘mega dose’ of self doubt before launching my t-shirt company two years ago. Sas writes the way she speaks – truthfully, witty and with a down-to-earthness that is incredibly relatable.
We had so much fun leading that retreat we decided to get together again! We’ve spent the last few months re-jigging our program – weaving in new content and expanding what we know really works. And we are partnering again with Dr. Trish Ring and her remarkable team at Blue Star Ranch to bring you the Find Your Fire Leadership Immersive this September. More details below.
In the meantime, it’s my total pleasure to introduce you to Sas —that is, if you don’t already know and adore her…
Meet Sas Petherick:
1. Hi Sas! So much has changed in the world since we hugged goodbye at Blue Star Ranch last September! I am curious to know what these changes are bringing up for you around your own leadership?
It feels like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? I think that without social media, I would have felt quite bereft and alone, and much more afraid than I do. I am trying to hold the paradox of feeling both deeply horrified and profoundly hopeful.
I feel like I’ve been circling through the stages of grief since the Brexit vote and then the US inauguration. And as France, Germany and the Netherlands are preparing for their elections, we are seeing an increase in nationalism and the worrying rise of the Alt-right. It has felt quite surreal to suddenly find that my country, and to an extent the world, is completely at odds with my values.
I think we are all in shock at just how immediate and blatant the US President’s agenda has been.
But I am so hopeful at what is emerging from this malignancy, and this is the leadership that I want to contribute to. The biggest lessons I am learning are steeped in Intersectionality – I’m waking up again and again to the privileges I take for granted, and the systematic oppression of humans who don’t look like me.
It’s jarring and uncomfortable to realise that I have not been such a great ally of people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, those in poverty, those who are not able-bodied, simply by not seeing how different our world’s are. And once I started to form a multi-layered picture of marginalisation, I found it impossible to unsee it.
There is a depth to this model of leadership that I have not seen before.
It’s inherently personal because we start to notice where we are participating in the structures that marginalise others, how we are privileged over others, that we cannot take this personally. And it’s a collectively political act to recognise that as we rise out of 5,000 years of racist patriarchy the systems (judicial, political, economic, familial) can neither be dismantled nor re-imagined, alone.
All of this had meant I am now looking much more closely at how I show up – in my business, in my online presence, and in my marriage and friendships – I’m trying to be more mindful of where I have more questions than answers, and where it’s important for me to take a stand.
- One of the things I deeply respect and admire about you is how values-driven you are in your work. What core values are being amplified in your work the most right now?
Depth, playfulness, community, justice are the big values that I am leaning into right now.
I wholeheartedly believe that wounded people create a wounded world, so I am doing my own work.
And I am trying to be brave – to speak out even if that is unpopular, risks being misunderstood or invites my own discomfort. I’ve had some threats on social media and generally ‘dick-ish behaviour’ and this requires clear consistent boundaries.
We really do have to keep our sense of humour – it’s enormously empowering to ridicule that which wants us to be silent and afraid.
- How does the shadow side of you leadership manifest?
Oh I have a supremely well-developed Martyr.
Like most shadow aspects, I think this was born during childhood when I felt like no one else was capable of taking care of me. And it was honed to perfection in my 15 year career as a Management Consultant!
My default setting back then was ‘No Surprises. Ever’ which meant I was constantly alert to tiny and massive things going wrong, which meant that’s all I noticed, which meant I had no filter for what was an actual disaster (which incidentally, almost never happen). I never really felt safe.
I knew that at any moment, something in my micromanaged, colour-coded plan would be subject to other humans. Who wouldn’t or couldn’t do it right or on time or as directed. And this provided irrefutable proof that in order for this ship to actually float, I had to do everything. With a dramatic and patronising eye-roll. It was a freakin’ exhausting way to live. No wonder I drank.
What I wasn’t aware of then, was how much this totally worked for me. Because I kind of loved being the martyr.
It was my emotional shield against any kind of vulnerability. It was my get out of jail free card that meant I never had to trust anyone. And it constantly fed my need for praise and recognition, because I was ‘The Safe Pair of Hands’ (management consultant speak for ‘3 months till total emotional burnout’). I am a slow learner so it wasn’t until after I inevitably broke down, that I was able to see how I was actively participating in every aspect of this life that felt so shitty and disappointing.
It took years of experimenting with vulnerability and trust, of being in the un-plannable unknown, of letting myself off the hook and letting good enough be good enough, to eventually dissolve the need for my emotional shield.
- We have both had quite profound experiences with our four-legged friends. What have horses taught you about who you are as a leader?
One experience really touched me: I met Kalle – a 16-hand Trakehner mare – in a muddy field in Warwickshire a few years ago. Kalle exuded a quiet leadership that is utterly truthful. It was startling to me just how rare that kind of power is and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in a human.
She taught me so much about communicating with my my own energy. In ‘joining up’ with her, I had to put my fears aside of doing it wrong, looking silly, being rejected and of her size and power.
But I had to let that all go and concentrate on ‘being’ really present. I was conscious of having my feet solid on the ground, my belly soft, allowing the process. It’s so different from the typical approach to leadership that is all about degrees of doing, controlling and being right. But a half-tonne horse does not do anything they don’t want to do!
After a few minutes Kalle’s jitters calmed, she closed her eyes and I felt her lean into me. It was blissful.
She taught me that my presence is everything: when I am emotionally ‘clear’ I step into a power that is quite sacred. I’ve thought of Kalle many times, particularly during in-person work, that my primary job is to create and hold a safe container. It takes some work to maintain a compassionate, judgement-free space, to let everyone feel seen and cared for.
- We share the belief that true leadership arises when we are unconditionally committed to our vision. What are you unconditionally committed to?
I am unconditionally committed to helping women cultivate self-belief. Because we have been told since we were babies that our wildness – our desires and emotions, our tears, blood and sweat – needed to be tamed and tidied away.
Most of us have been told at some point, that our opinions were not welcome: we have all been dismissed, ignored, spoken over. And we learnt how to avoid conflict, how to deny our emotions, how to dismiss our innate wisdom. Instead, we were taught to be nice, polite, good and to not question ‘authority’.
We feel the tension and danger of speaking out in our living rooms, at the school gate, in our workspace and on Facebook. To speak up means going against everything we know about keeping ourselves safe, it risks judgement and isolation and loss.
So my work is about helping women to unhook from the inherited beliefs and the societal structures that would keep us quiet, to develop resilience and grit in how they lead their own lives, and to come into wholeness where they experience themselves more fully.
Sas Petherick is unconditionally committed to your self-belief. She is a Coach for Thinking Humans and Mentor for Thoughtful Coaches and deftly guides her clients out of the mire of self-doubt. With a Master’s degree in Coaching & Mentoring, and as a Certified Dr Martha Beck Coach, Sas’ approach is heartfelt and effective, deeply intuitive and immediately applicable to your life.
Find out how to amplify your life with curiosity and kindness at: www.saspetherick.com.
We’d love for you to check out the Find Your Fire Leadership Immersive.
We’ve designed this experience to help you discover, deepen, and reflect on your natural leadership style, Find Your Fire is a sophisticated, experiential leadership immersive. Our methodology is rooted in research and is intended to help you uncover and dismantle your perceived limits so you can recognize and claim the unique alchemy of your leadership. We want you to deeply know yourself – your shadow and light – so you can lead with intention, aligned to your values and strengths.