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Change & Leadership emerging thinking

We have “an obligation to conduct ourselves so that we leave to the future, the options or the capacity to be as well off as we are.”

Robert Solow, Nobel Prize Winning Economist

Our world is changing...

  • Increasing complexity & interdependency of people and task making means very few entities are distinct and stand alone

  • Growth of technology, immediacy and accessibility is affecting our expectations of ‘now’ and ‘when’

  • Growth of virtual working & connecting is impacting the quality of our social connection

  • The world is becoming both smaller through what we see on TV and the internet; and bigger in population (1bn in 1830; 7bn today; 9bn by 2050) leading to 'more' people wanting 'more'

  • Increasingly individualised, competitive and cynical creating a view of ‘how do I make sure it’s right for me?'

Leadership in this world now and for our future world needs a different set of practices for humanity to thrive.Our world is changing. Just over two years ago leading anthropologists, geologists and biologists proposed that we have entered a new geological epoch. Shifting from the stable 10,000 year Halocene towards the Anthropocene. An epoch which will be determined by our human imprint on our global environment. Since the 1800s when we started to access fossilised fuel and the great acceleration since the 1950s, both population and economy have exploded. The recent technological advances have made the world smaller and stripped away boundaries increasing our interdependence. The leadership of the past cannot solve the problems of today and tomorrow.

Organisations are naturally...

  • Static structures

  • Machines made of interlinking parts

  • Co-ordinated and organised top down

  • Sports teams beating the competition

  • Complex & ever changing

  • Adaptive and self-organising

  • A place of belonging and connecting

  • A place where social capitol exists


“The knowledge that organisations are not machines is old news, yet the struggle to let go of mechanistic structures and control practices continue. Why? ”


Organisations are naturally

Change is...

Static structures

Machines made of interlinking parts

Co-ordinated and organised top down

Sports teams beating the competition


  • Predictable and controllable

  • A result of cause & effect

  • An episode

  • A top-down process

  • Something you do to people

  • Replicable and repeatable

  • Hard

  • Continuous and inevitable

  • Emergent

  • Ripples from every known and unknown point

  • A creation between people

  • Often messy

  • Easy but not always what’s expected


“The future is not a linear projection of the past and the present. ”


"Some people have the idea that we create our own reality, but this notion is disrepectful to the universe. It doesn't honor the complexity of existence. We are neither making life happen, nor is life forcing us to do things. there is an exchange, an interaction."

Leslie Gray, The Good Red Road


Change is
Leadership practices

Leadership Practices ~ emerging thinking

Through study & reading of change literature new to me, plus reflection on past experience, I have come to reconsider what I believe in when I talk about leadership:


  • Leadership is a relational concept. For leadership to be present, there must be followership. 

  • Leadership is not a set of attributes held by an individual. Training individuals in leadership skills ignores the systemic question of how to create spaces that enables leadership to flourish in organizations.

  • Leadership is not about leaders developing self-awareness to access natural strengths and work on spots believing that with this and their charisma and energy that they can overcome any challenge the organisation throws at them. The system dynamic remains unchanged.

  • Leadership practices need to be distributed throughout the organisation not concentrated at the top in order for the edges of the business to self-organise.


It has led to me summarise 6 leadership practices to support the struggle away from mechanistic structures and processes towards the adaptive self-organising communities that organisations and individuals are naturally. These are ways of being, doing and communicating together.


@ Sept 2015

 01  Preparing not planning
  • Recognising uncertainty and why it exists​

  • Working with intention and preparation yet not fixing to one goal or outcome

  • Loosely holding attachment to outcomes

  • "Energetic availability and fluid responsiveness" (1)

  • Learning to live with mess


 02  Exploring & experimenting
  • Deepening awareness and connection with the present moment. Seeing the past and future through the lens of the present

  • Curiosity & dreaming

  • Continual flow of experimentation & "incremental disruptions" (2)

  • Improvisation & letting go of pre-thought

  • Developing awareness & experiments to experience how it impacts you and your actions

  • Meaning is derived from the total situation; seeing everything as potentially meaningful


 03  Creating conditions
  • Creating conditions of choice

  • Creating condition of support

  • Sharing generously and in service of the wider system

What resonates with you?
What builds and additions would you make?
I'd love to hear your response and comments and hear what's important to you. Please add them to the comments box:
 04  Connecting deeply
  • Knowing yourself, your values and beliefs and how they shape your view of the world

  • Allowing your vulnerability to be seen & understanding the 'shame' cycle

  • Appreciation for what is present now

  • Working with difference and allowing uniqueness to flourish

  • Aggregating opinion up, not diminishing it down


 05  Receptivity
  • Listening at a deep level and allowing what you hear to impact and change you

  • Changing the response to resistance~it's one of many muliple realities and as such is valuable information


 06  Responsibility
  • Understanding the multiple layers of responsibility as a top, middle, bottom, customer & human

  • Shifting from an individualistic & ego centric view to a community and world view

Inspired through my reading and experience of:

  • Gestalt theory, in particular Marie-Ann Chidiac & Sally Denham-Vaughan (1), Gary Yontef, Lynne Jacobs, Ed Nevis

  • Field theory, in particular Malcolm Parlett and his 5 principles of field theory

  • "Leading from the Emerging Future" - Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer

  • "Seeing Systems" - Barry Oshry

  • Perspective on ‘Resistance’ in "Why don’t you want what I want? How to win support for your ideas without hard sell, manipulation or power plays"  - Rick Maurer

  • "Eco-leadership in Leadership, A Critical Text" - Dr Simon Western

  • "Systemic Coaching and Constellations" - John Whittington

  • 8 guiding principles of jazz improvisation from "Say Yes to the Mess" - Frank Barrett (2)

  • Relational Leading and the work of the Taos Institute

  • EDx course - Sustainability, society and resilience

  • Steve Chapman - Improvisation training, Metanoia Institute

  • Delivering projects and experiencing what does and doesn’t work in leadership, change and organisations

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