Real role of Leadership: Building the Container – Holding the space for the future to emerge.

As Edgar Schein mentioned that there are really two types of people: those who understand process and those who don’t.

Understanding process means to understand the making of our social relationships.

If you want to change a stakeholder relationship from, say, dysfunctional to helpful, you cannot just order people to do it. You have to intervene further upstream in the process of social reality creation. You have to change the making of that relationship from one mode to another – for example, from reactive to co-creative.

Similarly, with respect to the the ‘source’ level of creativity. We can say that there are two types of people those who understand containers and those who don’t. Container means holding space for the learning, creativity, innovation and leadership to emerge.

Often CEO and leaders in various organizations fail to get that. They think they can create behavioural change just by making speeches and pushing some tools onto the organization. Tools are important,but they are also overrated because they are so visible. But what is usually underrated is all the stuff that is invisible to the eye-e.g.: the less visible elements of a good holding space: Intention, Attention and Subtle qualities of deep listening.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT TOOLS:

Much of the conventional language and toolkits around managing change turn out to be partially useful at best.

DRIVING CHANGE is a misnomer.

Just as a farmer cannot ‘drive’ a plant to grow faster, a leader or change maker in an organization or a community cannot force practical results. Instead attention must be focused on improving the quality of the soil.

What is the quality of the social soil?

It is the quality of relationships among the individuals, teams and institutions that give rise to collective behaviour and practical results.

The above write up is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

New Paradigm of Learning: Learning from the Future as It Emerges

Theory U: Leading From the Emerging Future - PDF

There are 2 different sources of learning.

  1. Learning by reflection on the past and
  2. Learning by Sensing and actualizing emerging future possibilities.

All traditional organizational learning methods operate with the same learning model: learning by reflecting on past experiences.

But we see that in real organizations, most leaders face challenges that cannot be responded to just by reflecting on the past. Sometimes past experiences are not particularly helpful. Sometimes they are the very obstacles that keep a team from looking at a situation with fresh eyes.

Learning from the past is necessary but not sufficient.

All disruptive challenges require us to go further. They require us to slow down, stop, sense the bigger driving forces of change, let go of the past and let come the future that wants to emerge.

What does it take to learn from the Emerging Future?

As human beings, we can connect to the emerging future. We can break the patterns of the past and create new patterns at scale.

We have the gift to engage with two very different qualities and streams of time.

One of them is the quality of the present moment that is basically an extension of the past. The present moment is shaped by what has been.

The second is a quality of the present moment that functions as a gateway to a field of future possibilities. The present moment is shaped by what is wanting to emerge. That quality of time, if connected to, operates from the highest future potential.

The word ‘presencing’ blends ‘sensing’ with ‘presence’. It means to sense and actualize one’s highest future potential.

Whenever we deal with disruption, it is this second stream of time that matters most. Because without that connection we tend to end up as victims rather than as co-shapers of disruption.

Theory U is an answer to the question: How can we connect to this second stream of time as individuals, organizations and as eco-systems?

This writeup is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer.

The Blind Spot of Leadership, Management and Social Change

The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener” – Bill O’Brien – CEO of Hanover Insurance.

What counts is not only what leaders to and how they do it but also their ‘interior condition’ – that is their inner source. Bill was pointing at a deeper dimensions (the source) from which our actions, communication and perceptions arise, and which allows us to sense and connect with a whole new set of future possibilities.

The quality of how we pay attention is a largely hidden dimension of our everyday social experience – whether it is in organizations, institutions or even our personal lives. As we conduct our daily business, we usually are well aware of what we do and how we do it- that is the process we use. But if we were asked where our actions cam from, most of us would be unable to provide a clear response.

Infront of the Blank Canvas

To understand this point better, consider the work of an artist. We can look at art from atleast 3 perspectives:

  1. We can focus on the thing that results from the creative process – say, a painting.
  2. We can focus on the artist’s process in creating the painting OR
  3. We can observe the artist at the moment when she is standing in front of a blank canvas.

In other words, we can look at the work of art after it has been created, during its creation, or before creation begins.

If we apply this analogy to leading change, we can look at the change maker’s work from 3 similar angles.

  • First, we can look at what leaders and change makers to.
  • Second, we can look at the how, the processes leaders use.

We have many books on the first aspect in many books and we have lot of management and leadership research on the second aspect too.

Yet, we have never systematically looked at the leader’s work from the blank canvas perspective.

The question that we have left unasked is: What sources are leaders and change makers actually operating from?

e.g.: What quality of listening, what quality of attention, do I bring to a situation – and how does that quality change the course of action, moment to moment?

Above writeup is based on Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer

3 Divides : One needs to wake up to

Can organisations help us go from ego to eco-system awareness?
  1. The Ecologoical Divide
  2. The Social Divide
  3. The Spiritual Divide

The Ecological Divide: Unprecedented environmental destruction – resulting in the loss of nature.

The Ecological divide can be summed up by a single number: 1.5. Currently our economy consumes the resources of 1.5 planets. We use 1.5 times the regeneration capacity of planet earth. And that is the global average. USA is consuming 5 planets

The Social Divide: Obscene levels of inequity and fragmentation-resulting in the loss of society-the social whole.

The social divide can be summed up by another number: 8. 8 billionaires own as much as half of mankind combined i.e. 3.8 billion people.

The Spiritual divide: Increasing levels of burnout and depression – resulting in the loss of meaning and the loss of Self.(Self = highest future potential).

The spiritual divide can be summed up by a number: 800K. More than 800K people commit suicide per year. That is more than the sum of people who are killed by war, murder and natural disasters combined. Every 40 seconds there is 1 suicide.

In essence, we are collectively creating results that (almost) no body wants. These results include the loss of nature, the loss of society, and the loss of SELF.

In the 19th Century, many countries saw the rise of the social divide and people have come aware of it. In the 20th Century, we see the rise of the ecological divide, specially in the last 30 years. In the 21st century, we are seeing the rise of the spiritual divide.

In other words, we live in a time when our planet, our societal whole, and the essence of our humanity are under attack.

So, where is the hope?

The biggest source of hope in our time is that more and more people, particularly the younger population, realize that the three divides are not three separate problems. They are essentially three different faces of one and the same root issue. What issue is that? The blind spot. The blind spot of leadership, management and social change.

The blind spot will be addressed in a separate article. Please check out…

Based on the Theory U by MIT Prof. Dr. Otto Scharmer