Presencing Vs Absencing : Creation Vs Destruction — The Leadership Challenge

There is fair amount of PRESENCING in the world; the sensing and actualizing of our highest future potential. But there is much more ABSENCING also happening on the planet right now.

In the world of Absencing the three enemies of Voice of Judgement, Voice of Cynicism and Voice of Fear show up as:

IGNORANCE

HATE

FEAR

IGNORANCE: The closing of the mind. (Stuck in One Truth).

HATE: The closing of the heart (Stuck in One Us Vs. Them)

FEAR: The closing of the will ( Stuck in One Will)

What happens to a social system that operates on these principles?

It creates an architecture of separation by building walls. It facilitates a disconnect (denying, de-sensing) form the world around us, from the world that is emerging (absencing), which results in blaming others (an inability to reflect) and destruction ( of trust, relationships, nature and self).

This cycle of absencing is depicted in the upper half of the picture above.

The cycle of Presencing shown in the lower half is based on:

CURIOSITY : The opening of the mind.

COMPASSION: The opening of the heart

CURIOSITY: The opening of the will.

Social systems that operate on these principles enact architectures of connection that tear down the walls of separation.

SOCIAL FIELDS:

The cycle of absencing and the cycle of presencing denote different social fields. The cycle of absencing represents a field of destruction and social coldness. The cycle of presencing represents a field of co-creation and social warmth.

Each field tends to be self -reinforcing. E.g.: Once you are inside a cycle of absencing, inside a social dynamic of destruction, it is very hard to escape it.

The job of the leadership team is to keep moving the system from the default pull of absencing to the world of presencing.

The future of the organization and the world depends on it.

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

3 Enemies of Leadership Transformation

Why is the deeper territory of deep listening, the road less traveled. Because it required some intentional inner work to illuminate the blind spot, our interior condition.

Connecting to our source of creativity at the bottom of the U required crossing the 3 gates, or thresholds.

The 3 enemies the 3 inner voices of resistance are :

  1. Voice of Judgment
  2. Voice of Cynicism
  3. Voice of Fear

Voice of Judgment blocks the gate to the Open Mind. Every creativity technique starts with this instruction: Suspend your voice of judgment. It is the critical starting point because without it we shut down the creative power of the open mind.

Voice of Cynicism blocks the gate to the Open Heart. This is the source of all our emotional acts of distancing. What is at stake when we begin to access the open heart? We must be willing to put ourselves in a position of true openness and vulnerability towards another, which is the opposite of distancing.

Voice of Fear blocks the gate to the Open Will. It seeks to prevent us from letting to of what we have and who we are. It can show up as a fear of losing things. Or a fear of being ostracized. Or a fear of death. And yet dealing with that voice of fear is at the heart of leadership today: to hold the space for letting go of the old and for letting come, or welcoming the new.

The root of the word ‘leadership’ means ‘to die’.

Sometimes when you need to let go,it feels exactly like that: dying.

A subtle inner threshold must be crossed before something new can show up, before the ‘field of the future’ can begin to manifest.

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

Inner Knowing & Leadership

The 3 instruments of inner knowing are:

  1. Open Mind
  2. Open Heart
  3. Open Will

An open mind is the capacity to suspend old habits of judgment – to see with fresh eyes.

An open heart is the capacity to empathize and to look at a situations through the eyes of somebody else.

An open will is the capacity to ‘let go’ of the old and ‘let come’ the new.

LISTENING:

Listening is probably the most underrated Leadershp Skill.

At the heart of most leadership failures, leaders are often unable to connect with and make sense of the ‘VUCA’ world around them ; i.e. a world defined by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Listening is not only important for leadership. If you are not a good listener, there is no way you can develop real mastery in any discipline.

Shifting your mode of listening is life-changing. Shifting how you listen, the way you pay attention, sounds like a really small change. But here is the thing: Changing how you listen mean that you change you experience relationships and the World. And if you change that, you change, well EVERYTHING.

To become a better listener, you first need to understand the four types of listening.

The four types of listening reflect the underlying principles of the opening of the mind, heart and will.

DOWNLOADING:

At this level, listening is limited to reconfirming what we already know. Nothing new penetrates our bubble.

FACTUAL LISTENING:

We let the data talk to us and notice dis-confirming information. Doing this requires opening the mind – i.e. the capacity to suspend our habits of judgement.

EMPATHIC LISTENING:

We see the situation through the eyes of another. Doing this requires opening the heart; using our feelings and our heart as an organ of tuning in to another person’s view.

GENERATIVE LISTENING:

We listen for the highest future possibility to show up while holding a space for something new to be born.

When you listen on level 1, ‘downloading’, your attention is not focused on what the other person says but on your own inner commentary. e.g. You may be planning what you will say next.

As you cross the threshold from downloading to factual listening (from level 1 to level 2), your attention moves from listening to your inner voice to actually listening to the person in front of you. You open up to what is being said.

When you start to cross the threshold from factual to empathic listening (from level 2 to level 3), your place of listening shifts from you to the other person -i.e. your place of listening shifts from you to the other person -i.e. from your small vehicle(the intelligence of your heart). You step into the other person’s perspective. E.g.: You may think: ” oh, I may not agree, but I can see how she sees this situation.”

Finally, when you cross the threshold from empathic to generative listening (level 3 to level 4), your listening becomes a holding space for bringing something new into reality that wants to be born. You listen with openness to what is unknown and emerging.

The success of leadership and change management depends on the ability of the leader to observe his or her quality of listening and to adjust the quality of listening to what is needed in each situation.

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

Attending to and Co-Shaping the future that wants to emerge

The U Process:

DOWNLOADING:

At the beginning there is a spark of becoming aware that moves us beyond downloading -m beyond extending the patterns of the past. As long as we operate form downloading, the world is frozen by our old mental habits and past experiences;nothing new enters our minds. Same Old,Same Old.

SEEING:

The moment we suspend our habitual judgement we wake up with fresh eyes. We notice what is new and see the world as a set of objects that are exterior to us, the observers.

SENSING:

The moment we redirect our attention from objects to source, our perception widens and deepens. This shift bends the beam of observation back into the observer. The boundary between the observer and observed opens up.

PRESENCING:

Entering a moment of stillness, we let go of the old and connect to the surrounding sphere of future potential. The boundary between observer and observed collapses into a space for the future to emerge.

CRYSTALLIZING:

As we let come and crystallize vision and intention, the relationship between observer and observed starts to invert. Envisioning happens from the field of the future (rather than our ego).

PROTOTYPING:

As we enact prototypes we explore the future by doing. The relationship between observer and observed continues its inversion. Enacting happens from ‘being in dialogue with universe’ (rather than from our ego).

PERFORMING:

As we embody the new by evolving our practices and infrastructures, the relationship between observer and observed completes its inversion. The embodying happens from the context of the larger eco-system (rather than from the small ‘s’ institutional self).

In summary, the first key ideas of Theory U include the 3 movements i.e. observe, retreat, act and the more granular 7 processes of attending to and co-shaping the future that wants to emerge.

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

Theory U – Form follows Consciousness

Theory U focuses on how individuals, groups and organizations can sense and actualize their highest future potential.

I attend (this way), therefore it emerges(that way).

The quality of my listening co-shapes how the conversation unfolds. The quality of results in any social system is a function of the consciousness from which the people in that system operate. The idea can be expressed as form follows Consciousness.

The above 2 pictures depict the mindset shift at issue here: switching from seeing the system as something ‘out there’ to seeing the system from a perspective that includes one’s own self .

When that shift happens on an individual level, we call it mindfulness.

When the same shift happens in a group, we call is dialogue.

Dialogue is not people talking to each other. Dialogue is the capacity of the system to see itself. To see its own patterns. To see its own assumptions.

That capacity is, of course, also the essence of systems thinking: making the system see itself. Saying from the context of Theory U: Making a system sense and see itself.

When you deal with change management,then you know that the bulk of the job is moving people from a ‘silo view’ to a ‘systems view’; from ego-system awareness to an eco-system awareness.

We can reliably create the conditions that allow for that kind of shift in awareness to happen. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t mold it like a piece of metal by hammering on it from the outside. But you can create a set of inner and outer conditions that allows a group, an organization, or a system to make that move, to sense and see themselves form the emerging whole.

W. Brian Arthur of Sante Fe Institute said: The real power comes from recognizing patterns that are forming and fitting with them.

There are 2 levels of cogniton.

Most tend to be the standard cognitive kind that you can work with in your conscious mind.

But there is a deeper level – a ‘knowing’.

When one is put in a completely new situation and there is no problem to fix, then one would just wait and wait and let one’s experience build upto into something appropriate. In a sense, there is no decision making. What to do becomes obvious. You can’t rush it. Much of it depends on where you’re coming from and who you are as a person. This has lot of implications for management. What counts is where you’re coming from inside yourself.

Leaders need to deal with their blind spot and shift their attention to the inner place from which they operate.

2 Insights:

  1. There is a distinction between two types of cognition: normal (downloading of mental frames) Vs. a deep level of knowing.
  2. To activate the deeper level of knowing, one has to go through a 3 step process:
  • Observe, Observe, Observe: Connect to the places of most potential
  • Retreat and reflect: allow the inner knowing to emerge
  • Prototype: Act from what emerges in the NOW.

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