Two-Eyed Seeing for Inclusive Leadership

Hands are lined up along a tree trunk.

Etuaptmumk means Two-Eyed Seeing. The term was shared by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall and refers to the ability to see the world through both Indigenous and Western perspectives simultaneously, acknowledging the strengths and insights of both knowledge systems.

At its core, Two-Eyed Seeing emphasizes the importance of integrating Indigenous ways of knowing with Western scientific methods to address complex challenges and create more holistic solutions. It recognizes that each perspective offers unique insights and approaches that can complement each other when combined thoughtfully.

Two-Eyed Seeing encourages inclusive workplaces

In practice, Two-Eyed Seeing encourages collaboration and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, fostering partnerships that draw on the strengths of both knowledge systems. This approach is applied across various fields, including education, environmental stewardship, healthcare, and community development (see Institute for Integrative Science & Health for more information).

It involves creating spaces for dialogue, knowledge sharing, and learning from each other’s perspectives to promote cultural understanding, reconciliation, and sustainable development. This has applicability in all workplaces. By embracing Two-Eyed Seeing, individuals and organizations can work towards more inclusive and equitable outcomes that honour Indigenous ways of knowing while also leveraging the advancements of Western science and technology.

At Edified Projects, we practice Two-Eyed Seeing as a core tenet of our work. And we routinely coach organizations on implementing the concept in practice as a means of fostering a more inclusive workplace and culture. We believe that Etuaptmumk is a skill that senior leaders in any organization or community should work to develop. 

Nine principles of Two-Eyed Seeing for leaders

Here are nine principles of Two-Eyed Seeing that leaders can apply in their leadership practice:

1. Respect and value diverse perspectives: Embrace diversity in all its forms, including cultural, social, and professional differences. Recognize that each perspective (for example, Indigenous and non-Indigenous) has something valuable to contribute.

2. Seek out multiple viewpoints: Actively seek out different perspectives and opinions on key issues. Engage with knowledge holders, community members, clients, and team members from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

3. Embrace uncertainty: Acknowledge that not all questions have easy answers and that ambiguity can be a source of creativity and innovation.

4. Practice humility: Recognize that no single worldview has all the answers and be open to learning from others. Two-Eyed Seeing avoids a clash of perspectives or the assimilation of views. Instead, it is the practice of co-learning and drawing on the strengths of multiple perspectives to advance solutions and understanding.

5. Foster collaboration: Create opportunities for people with different backgrounds and expertise to come together and collaborate on solutions.

6. Promote inclusivity: Create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

7. Embrace change: Be willing to adapt and advance your thinking based on new information and insights. This is how knowledge evolves. And how big transformations can happen.

8. Lead with compassion: Show empathy and understanding towards others, recognizing the challenges they face and the contributions they make.

9. Commit to lifelong learning: Be open to new ideas and perspectives and continue to educate yourself on different ways of knowing and being.

By embracing the principles of Two-Eyed Seeing, senior leaders can cultivate a more inclusive and sustainable leadership approach that honours the unique strengths of multiple worldviews. This holistic approach can help drive innovation, creativity, and positive change in your organization and foster an organizational culture that benefits all employees.

Image by Shane Rounce on Unsplash