Leading Comments

Russ Volckmann


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The mission of this e-publication is to be a practical guide to the application of an integral perspective to the challenges of leadership in business and life and to the effective relationship between executive/business coaches and their clients. My vision includes that this will be a place where others, as well as myself, can continue to develop and share ideas about Integral Leadership and integral coaching.

> Russ Volckmann


This article has had a lot of play on the internet. I hope this summary is useful.

W. Brian Arthur, et al, “ Illuminating the Blind Spot: Leadership in the Context of Emerging Worlds

From the McKinsey-Society for Organizational Learning Leadership Project, 1999-2000 comes this su8mmary of 20 propositions based on conversations and interviews among Arthur, Jonathan Day, Joseph Jaworski, Michael Jung, Ikujiro Nonaka, C. Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge. Others who participated included Ron Heifetz, Robert Kegan and Rupert Sheldrake. What follows is a distillation of themes.

The Challenge:
We Live, Lead, and Work in an Era of Clashing Forces: The pace of change today is different from the past. It is faster and the paths are less predictable.
The New Leadership Challenge is to Sense and Actualize Emerging Opportunities: The role of leader is also changing with positioning them as part of a generative force to reshape the world.
For Leaders, What is’Real’ Has Changed: Softer variables such as intention, meaning making and relationships are being included with hard variables in value creation.
Operational Excellence Requires Accounting for Complexity and Evolution: There is a challenge in coordinating increasingly complex performance systems.
The Quality of Awareness Determines Performance: “In order to do well in high-tech-driven environments, leaders will have to develop a new cognitive capacity that involves paying attention to the intangible sources of knowledge and knowing.”
La Plus Ca Change, Plus C’est La Meme Chose: Despite the need, there is little evidence that leadership is changing in most organizations and companies. Knowledge needs to be developed from action through being mindful of the deep sources of behavior, profound innovation and change.
An Overarching Theory:
Experience Must Inform Strategy and Leadership: Our inability to see the full process of social reality formation is an important blind spot; Learning to understand this is critical for leadership and strategy development.
Social and Managerial Realities Arise for the Same Deep “Source”: An integrative view must include cognition science, action science and philosophy in developing a phenomenology of distributed leadership that describes the behavioral level, patterns of relationships and source–the place from which a system operates. The Self is the Eye of the Needle: “The point of a distributed leadership phenomenology is to conceive of social and managerial reality creation from the perspective of the actor–the ‘I,’ the self–both individually and collectively.” This requires a deeper level of knowing.
Knowledge Creation and Innovation Happen in Places: Ba, Nonaka’s notion of shared context, arises from interactions among individuals, not within the individual.
Primary Knowing: Shifting the Place from Where We Operate: A new kind of knowing, wisdom knowing, is required that recognizes that mind and world are aspects of the same underlying field. “The core process of future leadership is deeply connected with the capacity of presencing: to use one’s Self as a blank canvas for sensing and brining into presence that which wants to emerge.”
Organizations Are Relational Spheres in Motion: Organizations can be thought of as morphing fields with attractors. “The fields organize systems in a nested hierarchical way….” These spheres of relationships include customer relationships, operations and infrastructure, as well as product innovation. The challenge is to create “an ecology of differentiated relational spheres that are driven, interwoven, and integrated through individuals and networked teams ho participate and move across, as needed, the different spheres of relationship and value creation.”
Organizational Health Stems from the Interplay of Three Relational Spheres: the formal/structural, the social/relational, and the trans-personal.
Leadership Is Both Deeply Personal and Inherently Collective: It is about shaping life-enhancing conditions. “It involves individuals tapping their sources of inspiration and imagination, and it involves collectives actualizing emerging futures. It grows from both individual and collective discipline, much of which we still grasp only dimly.”
The Most Important Tool for Leading 21st Century Change Is the Leader’s Self: “…the success of a tangible move in a particular situation depends on the Self of the intervenor
Distributed Leadership Systems Require Collective Practices: This means to study to see reality, practice by meditating on reality, and serving by collectively co-creating reality.
Organizations Must Develop Core Practices that Inspire Creativity and Action: These are observing, sensing, presencing, envisioning and executing.
The Leader’s Work Is to Allow New Social Spaces to Emerge: These are the spaces of seeing and sensing; sensing, presencing and envisioning; and incubating and rapid prototyping.
The Quality of Places Is Foundational In Transforming Organizations: Nonaka indicates that a good ‘Ba” has five elements: self-organization, an open boundary, transcending habitual patterns, multi-discipline and multi-viewpoint dialogues, and equal access.
Seven Principles for Changing the Quality of a Field:
Immersion – becoming fully engaged in the contexts at issue,
Interpretation – becoming conscious of one’s own and other people’s views and moving across all of them with ease;
Imagination – a quality of observation that involves seeing and sensing;
Inspiration and Intuition – the senses that allow one to recognize and strive for the highest possibilities;
Intention – the alignment of one’s will with what is trying to emerge as the larger whole;
Instant execution – rapid experimentation and prototyping in order to capitalize on emerging opportunities; and
Implementation – embedding and embodying the seeds of innovation in appropriate structures.
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Dedicated to Chris Newham with deep appreciation.
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