This a presentation I gave to a group of international Bachelor’s students in sustainability, including responses to their great questions. It assumes no previous knowledge of Integral Theory and goes into some detail about Spiral Dynamics.
Mike Kauschke and team did a great job of this article in evolve, exploring my journey through integral evolutionary leadership into leading from the field. Nice to be in the good company of old friend Meg Wheatley and Frederic Laloux.
Here’s the pdf of the article (in German).
Here is a recording of an interview that Barbara Marx Hubbard did with me for her Shift Network course on Generation One. It was lots of fun and great to have Barbara asking the questions and holding space.
[This piece is written for Dutch book Bloei! on leadership and organisation. I was asked to write on “lijderschap” which in Dutch is a play on words. Leadership is normally “leiderschap”. “Lijden” means to suffer.]
Passion – pp. stem of patī suffer (Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology)
We are on retreat with the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands. It is the last morning and we have just completed a forty-five minute session of Quantum Light Breath. I am sitting in a circle of seventeen people who fill a role in the organisation I founded and lead. I have just announced that I have something to say. My voice trembling with the emotion of the realisation that I have just had, I open my mouth to speak. I share that it has just hit me really hard what an honour it is to be entrusted with the leadership of these amazing people I see sitting around me. I tell that I allowed myself to accept that I may be worthy of their trust, which is a huge thing. I say that I realise that I have not always been able to see them for the great souls they are and have not honoured them fully in my leadership. For that I apologise and commit to remembering. The room is still. Then our master of ritual tells me to stand in the middle of the room and has everyone put their hands on my shoulders. People call out qualities that they respect in me and my leadership. I am rooted to the spot and feel my self expand. The pain of the realisation has bonded us more closely and installed me more deeply in my leadership role. Natural order is honoured. Continue reading
I sit here my body shaking lightly, blurry eyed with tears that seem to contain both gratitude and sadness, both release and emergence, both pain and promise. The last week or so I have been feeling depressed, in the dark, not quite knowing what was happening but trusting that something was working its way through. Various events in my private and professional life showed up to reinforce the experience – thanks life!
We (Center for Human Emergence Netherlands Alignment Circle) just completed what should have been our holacratic operational call this morning. Of the nine souls in roles who should have showed up five cancelled last minute, one couldn’t get into the call, one had a poor connection and we decided to cancel it. I was left online with Leidje Witte, our Salons Co-ordinator. Just after we decided to end it, Lisette Schuitemaker, our Organisational Spaceholder, managed to get into the call. I ended up taking the opportunity of having these two wonderful women with me to unload my heart and tell them what I had been experiencing the last week. As I let it go, an insight began to emerge between us.
Leidje wanted to ask me about the salon coming Monday (16 April). I had forgotten about the theme, which was traumas and constellations (Hellinger-style), and had also forgotten that we would be marking the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands’ (CHE NL) seventh anniversary (formally on April 20). The very fact that it was our birthday had slipped to the back of my awareness in the depths of the last week. As all of this came back into my awareness, my whole body, heart and soul started to resonate. Funny how life organised our planned operational call to end up this way…
As the founder of the CHE NL, I have of course a certain energetic relationship to the system. In past transitions, I have also experienced the organisational transition in my own body. Now I realise that it is happening again. We and I are approaching our seventh birthday. Our physical body has completely renewed every cell after each seven years. The seven represents renewal as we enter the octave of the eighth that completes and heals the previous seven notes of existence to bring them into alignment and lay the foundations for the next step. So here we are.
No wonder that my experience this past week has been one of letting go of things that no longer fit with my vision of the next phase of my work, combined with energising glimpses of what it would be like for me to fully embody that work. Last Saturday, working with Dylan Newcomb, my new identity emerged: I am a writer, speaker and consultant who supports life-affirming leaders to understand and work with the energetic dimension of reality. Now I am being invited and challenged to fully step into that. Letting go, letting come, and the space in between – silly how one forgets that you actually have to go through it yourself… As I tweeted over Easter: you have to die to be re-born… The universe tweeting to itself…
The CHE NL is also growing into a new purpose (what we are jointly becoming): “a sacred partnership in evolution”. Exactly how that shapes up is what we are currently leaning into and playing with. At the same time, we are solidifying our expertise from the past seven years into clear products and services that can act as stepping stones for others to find their way, through CHE Synnervate.
I now feel relaxed, a little tired and deeply grateful. My system feels calm. I guess it is happy to have been seen for what it is. I am very curious about what will happen at our salon on Monday, when we constellate what the CHE NL has to release from the last seven years to be able to move freely forward into the next phase. I guess there will be implications in that for me too…That’s the work.
Watch this space.
I am currently writing a new book called The Pain and the Promise.
Here is a recording of a recent presentation with questions and reflection that I gave for the Integral Leadership Collaborative, a great initiative with a vast array of Integrally informed folks (see http://www.integralleadershipcollaborative.com). It lays out the essence of where I am at now and what the book will be about. It is 2 hrs in total. My core presentation goes for c 35 mins from c 10 mins in. The questions and discussion also proved very rich.
Listen to The Pain and the Promise audio
Download The Pain and the Promise transcript
We’ve been through an intense few weeks! Following on from the “releasing our claims” session and energetic dissolution of the Board mentioned in the last blog, we spent two days with Brian and Tom on holacracy, and an afternoon with Terry Patten from the Integral Institute.
One of the key things we learned from Holacracy was to look really clearly at what is actually there at the moment in terms of organisation – what is the organisation actually counting on people to do (accountabilities) – and to organise around that, rather than around the grand visions that we have of what we would like to be doing… That has provided great clarity and simplicity as we move into creating supportive organisational structure and processes that enable what is, whilst holding space for current tensions to manifest next steps.
There was a similar theme in our work with Terry, which was facing up to what is really present for people – surfacing the current tensions – “face everything, avoid nothing”, as one of Andrew Cohen’s tenet’s goes. It’s amazing how much we don’t say to each other, even though we consider ourselves to be “brothers/sisters-in-arms” on this evolutionary edge. Naming the judgements and tensions we are carrying releases huge energy to actually do the things that need to be done – engaging the issues that have been unspoken. It felt like a collective landing in the messiness of our relative reality – re-entering the marketplace as friends.
It feels to me as if dissolving the formal roles in the organisation has also helped people to be more themselves and get clearer on what their actual work is. And the funny thing is, the work that people are feeling called to still happens – without any formal structure! And that is what we are looking for – how can we create a minimal structure that simply aligns and supports the work that people are naturally being called to – whilst at the same time consciously identifying work that the organisation needs that currently isn’t being done – and finding the people that best fit that work.
It feels as if things are naturally falling into place, the dust of letting go attachments and fears is settling, and an eerie kind of calm is forming – fragile, delicate and real. As we enter the darkest period of the year, our roots are dropping deep, and we gather ourselves for the return of the light. The Spiral spins, the cycles turn and all is very well.
When wondering whether to write this, I doubted because of the lack of clarity I had about exactly what I was going to write – but then remembered that that is the beauty of blogging – I can just tell the story and see how it unfolds…
If you have been following this story, you may remember an earlier blog in which I described a previous important step that we made in the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands and the decision-making around that. One of the key elements of that early phase was my decision to essentially gather around me the people who I most trusted, and with whom I felt vertical and horizontal solidarity – i.e. resonance at the level of consciousness and with appropriate skills. There was no formal structure or process around this – it was essentially a Purple system of leadership (colour code references to Spiral Dynamics Integral).
It has worked for a while, holding the centre and going deep into what it is we really want to be creating and what kind of organisational form could best support that. As a Purple system, it has by definition been pretty inward-focused, with justified complaints from outside the inner circle of a lack of transparency and little idea of what we were actually up to. In hindsight it would have been possible to hold that space and to have continued informing others of the process we were in, but somehow that energy does not support it. Anyway, we kept our focus and intention clear, through periods of insight and enthusiasm as well as phases of confusion and self-doubt.
In the last 6 months, we have been increasingly focused on how to put in place the kind of structure that would serve an integral evolutionary perspective – to walk our talk as an organisation. Spiral’s Natural Design templates, Dee Hock’s Chaordic flow, and the Holacracy concepts have all played an important role.
In the last few weeks we have had the feeling that we were very close to manifesting it, but that it just wasn’t quite there yet. In that time it dawned on me that we were missing an important piece of the puzzle. Our focus had primarily been on the structural perspective (Wilber’s LR quadrant) and we had not been giving much attention to the LL Collective Field quadrant. This is where the link to Purple comes in. I realised that if we were going to move beyond where we were now, then we were going to have to release the energy of our Purple field. Structurally what we are trying to do is put in place a healthy Blue system (designed from Second Tier) that will lift the organisation beyond a co-dependancy upon me as its founder, into a space where it has clear structures and processes, so that anyone looking at our governance from outside would be able to see clearly how we are organised and why certain people are in certain positions. At the moment it is just because I have asked them to be there, and we need to move beyond that. To do this required a serious energetic intervention.
What I realised was that the only way to do this was for me as the Purple founder (“tribal chief”) to step in to make that happen. I decided that we needed to actually dissolve ourselves as a Board before we would really be able to let go of the past to let come the future. If we did that, the only function that would be left would be mine, as the “lead-link” from CHE Global, and that for this transition period I would have to hold the leadership on my own to enable the next phase to emerge. So we would create an energetic vacuum into which the future would be sucked, rather than trying to create it from the old structure and culture. Scharmer’s Theory U backs this up.
I got a reinforcement of this position during our recent retreat, when the core group (Board and others) were skilfully guided through a process of becoming conscious of any claims we had on the CHE as a system, i.e. what are we demanding that the CHE system gives us before we can be a whole person (e.g. a place to be recognised and loved, a place to be heard etc) – and then letting go of those claims. As we went round the circle and people stood up to release their claims, I became aware of a huge energy flowing through me, and realised that as the founder, people’s claims on the system were also energetically claims on me.
So during our Board meeting last Friday, I decide to take things into my hands again, pull the energy of the organisation to me once more, and see if I could facilitate a letting go. A core element in what helps a group to let go is that they feel they have been honoured for the work they have done in the past period – after all, we are only where we are now thanks to the path that has been walked. So in the days before I contacted the next circle of people around the Board and I asked them to send me a testimony/appreciation of the work that this group had done. Beautiful things arrived in my mail box, including poetry, and as I pulled them together the evening before our meeting I had a strong sense that we were on the right path.
During the meeting, after we had checked in and dealt with practical stuff, I explained what I felt I needed to do, and why I felt I needed to step into a different leadership role for the moment and hold the space as the founder. I had no idea how people were going to respond, and it was a great relief to hear the group’s appreciation of this step and indeed the relief that they felt at me taking that leadership position. We were well placed for release. Next I handed out the testimonies I had received from others and we read them in silence. You could feel the field deepen and expand. I then invited us all to go into a round of appreciation of our time and work together over the last period, which proved to be very powerful, for me as much as for anyone else.
As I sensed into that question (“what do I appreciate about this group?”) I could feel the emotions surging up, and what powered its way through was a deep sense of gratitude that a group of people would have the faith in me and the vision I held to step into a journey which had no clear destination. I can offer no result – only a clear commitment and intention – and yet these crazy crew were ready to devote their time and energy to manifesting whatever it was we had to do together. These Dutch have explorer genes in them – their ancestors got into flimsy boats to cross the oceans without knowing what they would find – and bless them for that.
Once the circle was finished, one of our company who is particularly sensitive to the collective energy field said she could see that it had shifted – our letting go had happened. I don’t really know what the implications of this are going to be, it just feels like the space we have created is what we need to hold if we are really going to allow the next phase to emerge. We are working with Brian Robertson from Holacracy this coming week, and I have a sense that the last pieces might just fall into place.
We will see, and I will keep you posted!
OK, here we go. Feels like the start of a whole new domain of practice…
The first book I wrote was called “Evolutionary Leadership” (currently out in Dutch and looking for publishers in English and other languages), and focused on what an integral approach to facilitating emergence into integral evolutionary consciousness in self, culture and organisation might look like. It focused on the emerging second curve in this graphic:
During our recent Art of Hosting Integral in the Netherlands, the following thought crystallised, which had been hovering in the background for a while:
The manner in which our dying paradigms, behaviours and systems are let go of is going to have a major impact on the quality of the space in which the new grows.
When an apple is not picked, it falls to the ground and rots, fertilising the soil and potentially seeding a new apple tree.
As people in positions of power in our established institutions become increasingly aware that the paradigm on which those institutions have been built is largely inadequate to deal with the rapidly evolving and intensifying challenges of the world around us, there are essentially two paths we can take:
- We contract into a fear of the unknown, digging ourselves into denial, and lashing out around us to fend off anything that may prove to us that which we do not want to accept, holding on to our old ways for dear life (ironically)
- We relax into the inevitable, and open up to the opportunities that that may offer, letting go of what needs to be let go of, in order to take the next step
It has become clear to me that an essential part of our Work that does not seem to have been given much attention, is to find out how we can best nurture the natural decay of that which wants to die in such a way that it fertilises and seeds the soil for the new, rather than poisoning the soil with toxic sludge (so the descending curve in the graphic above). This is very different to attacking and trying to destroy the old. It will go of its own accord. It comes from a place of deep compassion and concern for the energetic dynamic-balance of the whole.
As our conversation about this unfolded, I was reminded of much of the great work that we have done in supporting individuals in their dying process, and someone put me on to the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She identified five phases that people go through when they know they are going to die, and also that those around them go through in their grief. The five phases are :
- Denial: The initial stage: “It can’t be happening.”
- Anger: “Why ME? It’s not fair!” (either referring to God, oneself, or anybody perceived, rightly or wrongly, as “responsible”)
- Bargaining: “Just let me live to see my child(ren) graduate.”
- Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
- Acceptance: “It’s going to be OK.”
What I am interested in is how these could play out at a collective level. I remember reading an article once where someone said that individuals when they realise they are going to die get very clear about their life. The author pondered if it would help humanity if we woke up to the fact that we were part of the Sixth Great Extinction on this planet and that our survival was far from guaranteed. Would we then collectively get much clearer about our priorities?
I still notice a lot of denial around me in the formal institutions, and until we start to notice the anger I guess it means we’re not far beyond that denial. However, when the anger sets in, it may not look very pleasant. So how do we develop the capacity to help those in relevant positions to flow through these stages in such a way that they leave more fertiliser than sludge behind them? Clearly practices such as Tonglen have a role to play at individual level. However I would love to hear from people who have experience of or ideas about nurturing the natural decay of established and outdated institutions and practices, and ways of supporting leadership in this process go through a transcend and include process.
A part of the context for this for me is the approaching Fifth Night of the Galactic Underworld (as per the Mayan Calendar work of Carl Johan Calleman) – the phase that in all previous eras has heralded the collapse of the dominant civilisational form. The main difference being that in this Underworld it will happen over a period of 360 days (starting mid-November) rather than hundreds or thousands of years. All the signs are lining up so significantly that for a pattern-scanner it would be irresponsible to deny the building evidence.
So thoughts, links, references please, on how we might facilitate devolutionary leadership…
We have co-emerged these as core functions of a society that practices sustainability, resilience and emergence, as part of the project we are involved in to facilitate the current transition in the Dutch society. They act as a check list to see to what extent the diverse policy areas and implementation projects support these core functions. We wrote them originally in Dutch (below), so this is a translation. I’d be interested in your thoughts:
Survival (beige) : to provide basic needs for people who can not look after themselves
Belonging (purple) : to take care that people feel they belong
Power (red) : to trigger self-expression and action
Purpose-Structure (blue) : to name and protect our collective Purpose and the agreements that are necessary to fulfil it
Entrepreneurship (orange) : to continually stimulate high performance, successful entrepreneurship and innovation
Sensitivity (green) : to offer the possibility for personal growth and participation for everyone in the society, while caring for the natural habitat that we live in
Integral (yellow) : to stimulate functional connection and vitality across the whole society aligned behind the higher Purpose
Holistic (turquoise) : to facilitate the emergence of holistic solutions that serve life as a whole
Overleven (beige) : voorzien in de basisbehoeften voor mensen die niet (meer) voor zich zelf kunnen zorgen
Familie (paars) : er voor zorgen dat mensen geborgen zijn en zich thuis voelen
Expressie (rood) : aanzetten tot zelfexpressie, creativiteit en daadkracht
Structuur-zingeving (blauw) : vormgeven en bewaken van onze gemeenschappelijke bestemming en de daarvoor noodzakelijke collectieve afspraken
Ondernemingszin (oranje) : voortdurend stimuleren van hoge prestatie, succesvol ondernemerschap en innovatiekracht
Sensitief (groen) : de mogelijkheid aanbieden voor persoonlijke groei en participatie voor iedereen in de samenleving; zorgen voor de natuurlijke wereld waarin wij leven
Integraal (geel) : bevorderen van integraal; werken en verbindingen leggen tussen de verschillende perspectieven en functies