Archive for June, 2008

A leader with no followers

Friday, June 20th, 2008

The first leg of my journey ‘at this side of the pond’, as George would say, has ended. It was an amazing journey.
Arriving here in Canada, in the province of Nova Scotia, with a size bigger than Belgium but only 1 million citizens, the first thing that catched my eyes was: space! Kilometers and kilometers you only see threes, threes, a lake, and threes again. Only now and then a few houses!

too late to clean up...

We gathered here at The Shire, a learning centre near Yarmouth, with some stewards of the Art of Hosting network. Purpose was to see how a next level, or a next step in governing/stewarding this self-organising web of practitioners could look like, could take form. It is a worldwide question how a self-organising web of people can be guided to the next step of its evolution, that is also in alignment with values as openness, open source, courage, leadership, constant learning etc. We can’t govern ‘old style’, not even ‘new style’. It needs to be ’emergent style’. It needs to be supportive of the growth, the evolution, the brilliance of the web and all the people in it! This style needs to be an expression of and add to the unfolding of being a learning-full and leader-full network. As someone said in the gathering: I want to be a leader with no followers.

Wouldn’t it be great when everyone was a leader in this way?

This theme is exactly the focus of the workshop I will participate in at the Shambhala Summer Institute in a few days.

I love this learning with others, this collective inquiry that leads us to emergent learning.

Turn to one another

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Recently I attended three lectures, basically about different models of change and leadership for these times, and they all three ended with a similar kind of message.

The first one was Otto Scharmer who gave a workshop in a conference in Wurzburg. This conference was one in the series ‘Fields of Conflict, fields of Wisdom’ and this year’s theme was “I am. You are”. I value Otto’s book on Presencing and Theory U, because they gave words and a bigger framework to a lot of my intuitive knowing. I asked Otto afterwards the question of how to make sure that after going through the eye of the needle people don’t fall back into their ‘normal’ way of doing things. Basically his answer had two advices: be clear on your intention (don’t loose out of sight what you want to accomplish) and the second is to have a circle of friends to keep you in the creative spot.


The most inspiring lecture and workshop on the conference was given by Nicanor Perlas, a Philippine who has been integrating social activism and spirituality. He presented the Lemniscate Model, which uses the language of the hero’s journey of Joseph Campbell, and integrates more the ongoing iterations of the process than the U-process. One of the last points he named was that “a real living relationship and dialogue is a powerful entry point to a new sense of activism”. He named it the real ‘letting go’ and stressed the importance of a ‘a real relationship’ to be able to ‘return’ into the world after the moments or days of illumination. He named a real relationship ‘a spiritual path’, through which we can learn to hold our fluid state when we are encountered with boundaries in our self, in the other or in the organizations we live and work in.

Then a few days later I was totally amazed by a lecture by Julio Olalla, a man born in Chili, living in the US, but still showing his Spanish roots in jokes and even dance!
Fascinating enough he used the same language from Joseph Campbell! (The same book named in twice in three days time, I understand it as a sign to search for the book, somewhere on my shelves, and read it with the eyes I have now). The main point of this lecture was that emotional learning is possible and needed. He gave beautiful descriptions of the core qualities of different emotions: sadness, gratitude, passion, trust, tenderness… and stressed the importance of working with the body. He then pointed out that for ‘leap’ learning we need to gather in a ‘sacred place’, which was named in former times “they sealed the temple”. In this space of care and trust the learning happens through speaking about your demons and emotions and when you are really listened to.

Real learning happens in real conversations, and conversations are as old as humanity.

Leadership in these complex times seems about providing a safe space where our humanness, in all its aspects, in its relational essence can thrive again. Whatever map we use, it seems to come down to “turn to one another”.