Reinventing Leadership Development
Gallup research shows that, worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. The statistic is shocking and means more than three-quarters of employees are wasting their time, energy, and their organisation’s resources. How can we mobilize the creativity and collective intelligence in our organisations to turn this around?
For a challenge this massive, we need more than yesterday’s mindsets and leadership development approaches.
The crisis of employee engagement, like any of our global crises, cannot be solved by today’s dominant modes of thinking. “The next cycle is the one of an integral, holistic consciousness that enables the integration of the inner and outer technologies and sciences, deep intuition and systems thinking, spirituality and precision of inquiry.” We need to develop competences in each. The sooner the better.
Think of it as scaling a mountain. As we ascend, we leave useless, old stuff beside the path, stuff that burdens and blinkers us. The climb is worth it, though. When we get to the top, we gain an eagle-eye perspective. We now enjoy a broader view. We see realities that were previously hidden from us. And we see how everything is interconnected. As our insight deepens, so does our compassion and inner coherence.
As we scale the mountain, we renew ourselves personally and professionally, and step more fully into our potential. Looking back, we wonder how we ever believed in the myth of controlling people, predicting the future, or escaping the consequences of an unhealthy life. And we know that we couldn’t have made this journey alone. Not this quickly and not this smoothly.
Our sherpa guides or mentors have been here before. They know how to guide us through the shortcuts and rocky terrain. That’s because they have honed the capacity to sense, think, and relate from a more expansive sense of self. They also help us unlearn unproductive habits and drop them beside the path.
As a mentor who guides leaders in next-stage organisations, I can share with you a few things I have learned so far. Some of it comes from the three breakthroughs that Frederic Laloux discovered while researching and writing his book. Their implications are far-reaching, practical, and powerful. Not only can we reinvent our organisations, but also ourselves, and the way we develop as leaders. Let’s look into how.
You may be tempted to start by wondering where your organisation could evolve to next or how it could reach its creative potential. However, that is step two. Step one is discovering that breakthrough in your own self.
This is not about deciding what you’ll be when you grow up. And it’s not about pushing forward with your head or will. To get clarity about your evolutionary purpose, it is best to bypass the analytical mind for a little while. Instead, ask the question “who is the world inviting you to be, in service of creating a future that we all want?” and listen to the answer that comes from your heart. Or ask simply where are your deepest talents and highest aspirations meeting a need in your world, one that you feel passionately called to address.
Take time to re-read either of those questions that speak to you. Sit with it for a moment. Even better, move away from the computer, take your question to a quiet corner or take it for a walk. Turn your attention to your breath. Know that there is a creative impulse within you, and it wants to manifest through you. But it can only reveal its secret when you become silent or still enough to hear its whisper.
A more psychological way to access your inner wisdom is to access your intuition and ask: what kind of work gives me the greatest joy? What is the need/tension in my world that is crying loudest for my help? Where the answers to those questions dovetail, that’s where you will find your evolutionary purpose. At least, for now.
I ask myself these questions at least once a year, on my birthday, keeping them fresh, vibrant and dynamic. I use them as a North Star on my journey.
Leading by example is par for the course in self-managed organisations. As Laloux says, “an organisation cannot evolve beyond its leadership’s stage of development.” This makes your personal development more than personal. You need to embody the qualities you want to inspire in others. And you need to operate from a deeper knowledge of both yourself and the work environment than what is required in a traditional workplace.
This involves gaining a high level of knowledge about your organisation’s operating conditions and the various roles and accountabilities that dovetail with yours. Only then can you use your creative potential to the fullest and contribute to the whole.
It gets personal. As a leader, your self-management includes the capacity to recognize your needs, values, and moods, and the skills to manage the latter. That calls for moment-to-moment awareness of what is arising from within, as well as the tensions and opportunities for individual action arising from the workplace. Only then can you, as an individual along with groups of individuals, develop skills and practices that allow everyone to work together harmoniously under any conditions, even in the most challenging situations.
Developing quiet-mind muscles, in addition to the active-mind muscles you already have, is crucial. This involves stilling yourself enough to gather information through mindful attention, sensing, and feeling. This is about being present, receptive, and simply being.
You can try this right now. As you read the rest of this blog, simultaneously keep some of your attention on your breath. It is as if you are attending the words in one hand, and your breath in the other, and you are aware of both. This is not an easy practice because the mind tends to jump to either the sentence or the breath instead of remaining alert to both. With practice, you can become better at it.
Try this the next time you talk with someone. Pay attention to your breath or heartbeat while fully absorbing what you hear from the other person. Notice how this changes the quality of your presence.
Quiet-mind skills include self-reflection, sense-making, and perspective-taking. They help you nurture the unfolding leadership qualities in yourself and in each member of the organisation. I sense another blog about them in the making…
Imagine dropping your professional mask and bringing the whole of who you are to work. This is what happens in next-stage organisations. You are free to show up in an authentic way without hiding your vulnerability. You are in touch with your emotions and able to express even the so-called “negative” ones, without harming others. Like you, they value genuine relationships and have no need to to play “games” or to “play nice.”
Another aspect of wholeness is about developing a portfolio of the roles you energize, both personally and professionally. Which of your talents come out to play in each role? How do your roles strengthen each other? Which of your roles can generate the larges ripple effects on others’ roles, and then impact the whole. In this way you learn to optimize your contribution and impact on the whole organisation.
This also applies to the totality of your lifework roles, which I illustrated here. So, reinventing leadership development has to also address the ways in which you, as a leader, can optimise the investment of your attention/energy in multiple contexts.
These are some of the wholeness competencies you may want to develop: conflict resolution; intuition; imagination; generative listening; celebrating accomplishments; and managing the distribution of your energy across a portfolio of your roles. Most important is caring for the wellbeing of all aspects of your diversity, and aligning these parts functionally into a working whole.
If you want to go deeper in the individual dimension of wholeness, read the blog of my colleague Celine McKeown “What does Wholeness mean in the context of Teal Organising?”.
Wholeness, at the focus of reinventing leadership development, provides an invitation to pay conscious attention to making every decision from the biggest context that can put your arms around. I.e., one that is personally meaningful to you. For some leaders, it will be the well-being of the organisation’s members and other stakeholders. For others it may be the evolutionary purpose of the enterprise. Yet for others it will be evolution itself. It’s all good, really. But attention training will be needed till attending to the largest whole becomes your second nature.
If you are an intentional learner, and wish to accelerate your evolutionary journey, here are some tips:
- Read the Reinventing Organizations book, watch the video, and browse the wiki.
- Join a meet-up group or a community of practice or an online network, focused on next-stage, or self-managing, or Teal organisations, under any other name, and explore with them how to discover next “next stage” in one’s own life.
- Subscribe to and get involved with Enlivening Edge, the online magazine of next-stage organisations.
This approach to reinventing leadership development is not for everyone, but it can be introduced on top of more traditional leadership development effort, especially for those who want to move beyond what it offers.
Your highest-leverage action to build capacity for organisational reinvention is to become a “next-stage” mentor. Evolutionary mentoring, as introduced here, is foundational to reinventing leadership development, and it is always cross-mentoring that transforms both the mentor and the mentee. That’s why it’s one of my greatest joys.
Along with my colleague Jackie Thoms, I will be offering a workshop during the Integral European Conference May 4-8, on how to mentor leaders of “next-stage,” or what Laloux calls, “Teal” organisations.
This is work in progress, evolving through the generative conversations with our clients and colleagues. If you want to join the conversation, please comment or ask your questions below.
We, at Future Considerations, are working with our clients to help accelerate their journey to the next level of potential. Our Teal mentoring service is an emergent process that starts with a free, in-depth, generative interview. The communication channels we use include: face-to-face meetings, video calls, email, and a dedicated private collaboration spaces. For more details, please get in contact
George Pór is an evolutionary thinker, Teal mentor, and advisor to culture change and system transition in organisations. He is a Fellow of Future Considerations and founder of “Enlivening Edge: News from Next-Stage Organizations” and the Teal Practice Group (London). George is the publisher of the Blog of Collective Intelligence, and an independent scholar. His former academic posts included INSEAD, London School of Economics and UC Berkeley.
An earlier version of the Evolutionary purpose, Self-management, and Wholeness sections of this blog first appeared in issue #3 (September 2015) of Enlivening Edge.
 “Integral Mindfulness, Collective Intelligence, and Collective Sentience: signposts to the later phases of our evolutionary journey,” by George Pór https://medium.com/collective-sentience/integral-mindfulness-collective-intelligence-and-collective-sentience-6494387126db