Feature Article: Sustainable Results/Achievements Through Resilience and Leadership

Lisette Schuitemaker and Alain Volz

The challenge for leadership development is to safeguard both talent development and economic growth by:

  • Changing work patterns and the relationship between learning, creating and producing;
  • Steering in equal measure towards structural, cultural and personal resilience; and
  • Using the natural ability of people that comes from their inner motivation.

Alain VolzLisette “The Dutch indicate that their country is confronted with a both-and challenge: to create both economic growth and more solidary [sic] society, aimed more clearly at quality of life, modest and respectful of authority.” What does this mean for business and for leadership development?

Just as the new cabinet needs to find ways to make economic growth and solidarity go hand in hand in society, business as part of society will need to deal with this issue, too. The challenge for leadership development is to both support the growth of talent and safeguard the economic return of this growth.

The Need for Resilience

Gary Hamel, who Peter Senge has called the most influential consultant in management strategy, makes a strong case for resilience in organizations. Resilience means staying competitive and healthy under constant pressure of renewal and change. He distinguishes three processes in organizations: producing, learning and creating.

  • Producing he defines as execution: all that is being done in an organization that has a direct connection to its product or service.
  • Learning occurs when the people who form the company increase their skills and expertise.
  • Creating has to do with renewal: innovation of products or services, opening up of new markets or launching a new company logo.

On average the relationship between these three activities in organizations is around 70-15-15. Under pressure the tendency is to adjust the relationship to 80-10-10 or even more in the direction of producing. To remain economically relevant this should, however, need to go to a 40-30-30 relationship. This is a radical, but according to Hamel, necessary shift that offers those providing management development programs a new perspective: teaching managers to work in a different manner .

Activity Normal allocation
of time
Allocation of time
under pressure
Effective allocation
of time
Producing 70 80 40
Learning 15 10 30
Creating 15 10 30

Figure 1: Resilience of organizations and the division of work

Towards Synnervating Leadership

In fact, Hamel calls for what we call synnervating leadership. To synnervate means to bring each part to life into coherence. Synnervating Leadership aims for resilience in three areas:

  • Structural: resilience of the systems and structures in which we work and live; and
  • Cultural: resilience stemming from the ideas, values and norms we share; and
  • Personal: resilience based on individual, underlying motivations.


Figure 2: Resilience through synnervating leadership

Organizations pay a lot of attention to structural resilience. Solutions are being sought in more flexibility, flattening and rationalization. Cultural resilience is mostly given attention through competence management, identity and branding. Only these last years, with the call for leadership, has the attention for personal resilience been growing. In many organizations the outlines for synnervating leadership seem to be present. At the same time, much is still to be done.

Values, Management and Leadership

The worldview of the manager to a large extent determines the way direction and steering is being given in organizations. A manager is most effective, when he is able to adapt his ways to what people need in any given situation. What makes situational leadership difficult is that different people experience reality differently. How can we deal with this?

Spiral Dynamics helps get a better understanding. This development model is based on research of Clare W. Graves, Professor in Psychology at Union College in New York until 1978. Don Beck and Chris Cowan further developed Graves’ work into color codes that stand for successive value systems (see figure 3). A value system is a world view, an organic pattern that underlies expressions of culture, decision making and structure.

As such Spiral Dynamics is a clever way to draw a picture of complex reality that takes into account diversity and dynamics. It offers a clear perspective on:

  • How people think about things (instead of what they think),
  • Why people take decisions in different ways,
  • Why people react to incentives ( prikkels) differently,
  • Why and how values arise and spread, and
  • The nature of change.
Typical Motives Value System
Surviving by Instinct SurvivalSense
Connecting Based on Tradition KinSpirits
Act for Self-Preservation and (Self) Respect PowerGods
Safeguarding Security through Order and Loyalty TruthForce
Creating and Grabbing Opportunities for Success StriveDrive
Taking Care of Others Based on Equality and Harmony HumanBond
Finding Solutions through Knowledge
and Understanding of Complexity

Figure 3: Spiral Dynamics – motives and value systems

These value systems emerge in the course of our lives, during which time we develop clear preferences and aversions. Synnervating managers recognize the value systems in themselves, acknowledge the ones that are dominant in others and stimulate behavior that is conducive to team results and team spirit.

Leadership: Both Management and Development

Gradually we learn that the well-known mechanisms for planning and control fulfill a relevant, but also limited function. At the same time we are still discovering the new best practices. This yields a tension that, in their turn, invite us to fall back on well-known ways of doing things. Management development functions have the beautiful task to teach managers not to go down this route, but look for the new instead.

Society gets more and more complex and knowledge intensive. Organizations are more and more working communities with a network structure. Talent and the way in which people connect to each other are of paramount importance for corporate results. A successful manager is the one who has the overview from FlexFlow (see Figure 3), connects, is a servant leader and at the same time sets the course. This is something a synnervating manager does naturally. Management developers have the task of finding synnervating leadership in the organization, developing and supporting it. This starts with supporting managers to work in a connective fashion.

Nature teaches us diversity is crucial in dealing effectively with change and complexity. The more different types of life there are, the greater the chance of survival of the eco-system as a whole. In organizations, too, acknowledging and using differences gains importance. This is logical, but in practice very hard to realize. The ego especially gets in the way.

There are differences between people. We are equal, but not the same. The first six value systems exclude the others. As long as someone believes their own worldview is the only right one, this person can only connect to others who hold the same view. That is why it is of paramount importance to transcend one’s own resistances for the good of the whole.

Behavior and the underlying value systems are not linear. In principle, everyone has access to each value system. Implicitly people act from different value systems in different situations. The point is to make them explicit so managers are able to recognize and acknowledge a broad repertoire of insight and behavior. The strong need of managers to understand complexity and to model it gives management developers a chance to be innovative.

To teach managers synnervating leadership, management developers will first have to be synnervating themselves. Potentially management developers have all that they need to make this move first. People in management development are especially versed in the field of human behavior and development. A strong orientation to success is needed. Sometimes management developers get in their own way. Steering toward return on investment in talent (RODI – return on development investment) is not a popular thing to do. In FlexFlow there is no more either/or but only both/and. This makes it easier to redefine the notion ‘return’. When a balance is being struck between short-term profit and long-term resilience, one can speak of sustainable results.

Becoming conscious of behavior is strongly anchored in the MD tradition and with the introduction of competence and performance management, this has found its way into the structures and systems of organizations. This is an excellent basis for the next step: consciousness and conscious action. This starts with the persons own intention to act from FlexFlow and then look for (external) partners who specialize in this.

Structure and systems in FlexFlow are transparent and temporary. Based on a permanent exchange of ideas, various organizational formats are used simultaneously. Management Development develops leadership within itself and within the organization. A leader transcends and reinforces the system by calling upon the leadership of others.

Working in a FlexFlow manner is closer than most people think. The younger generation, especially, have a natural tendency towards it. They bring together the newest insights and often make unexpected combinations that address the current situation best. Learning, creating and producing for them are almost one and the same.

Strengthening an organization requires transcending egocentric behavior, especially from managers. How? To start with, there needs to be a change from management development to leadership development and the implementation of conscious leadership.

Managers need different leadership skills in different value systems:

SurvivalSense SurvivalSense is surviving without looking too far ahead. A level of (self)organization
KinSpirits KinSpirits is based on conveying the values and rituals that maintain identity and origin. The manager ensures security by placing himself as a buffer between the team and the outer world.
PowerGods PowerGods is directed on the balance of power and respect. The manager translates emotion into group spirit and acts forcefully to safeguard the continuity and growth of the organization.
TruthForce TruthForce is characterized by solidity, reliability and obedience to the rules. The manager sticks dutifully to agreements made and uses hierarchy as a legitimate basis for authority.
StriveDrive StriveDrive knows a boundless faith in its own potential and a high drive for success. Scheming and strategic, the manager creates opportunities and ways to grow.
HumanBond HumanBond knows a humanitarian, open culture in which people listen to one another and offer space to diversity. The manager phrases a broadly supported policy on the basis of hearing all sides.
FlexFlow FlexFlow is choosing consciously for what is most effective in a given situation and what contributes most to the whole and the parts. The manager shifts perspectives fast and always brings parties back to the common higher goal.
Gary Hamel. The Quest for Resilience. MCE Conference: The future of work, Sevilla, May 2004.
Lisette Schuitemaker is a linguist by training, an entrepreneur by genetics, a healer by choice and a consciousness developer by calling. Within the Center for Human Emergence NL she has for the past year been a member of the board and lead-link of the Biceps group that holds the focus for the development of the ‘inner muscle’. In 2008, she intends to further explore feminine leadership and how she can better bring this into the mix of how we organise ourselves. Her leading motto is still the one she picked up from Andi & Jag of the Mayan Calendar Code: “we’re not in crisis…we’re in creation!”
Alain Volz is a synnervator and director of Atma, Authenticity, Talent & Management Advice. In 15 years of practice he combines his education in business administration and organizational psychology. His focus of attention is on talent development, leadership, organizational dynamics, change management and integral resilience. Alain works both for profit organizations as not for profit and governmental institutions. His major challenge is to support organizations in discovering and enabling talent to contribute to sustainable economic performance. In doing so he strives for realizing strategy by connecting people.
Within the Center for Human Emergence in the Netherlands (CHE-NL) Alain has been a member of the board in 2007. He is founder of the CHE school of Synnervation and member of the International association for Organisational and social Development (IOD). Alain has written several articles and books on competence management, organizational development and leadership. He is Bureau Chief and Associate Editor in the Netherlands for the Integral Leadership Review (ILR). Contact: or