The role of pain and tension in evolutionary leadership

heart shaped red neon signage

 

[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)

Practice

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

A beautiful moment in time

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.

CHE NL Publishes Report into Turquoise/Holistic Value System

For the past year, we at the Dutch Center for Human Emergence’s School of Synnervation have been researching into the qualities and expressions of what in Spiral Dynamics is known as the Turquoise / Holistic value system. The impulse for this came as we reached the limits of our existing coping mechanisms and had a sense that this is what was needed next – for us and others in the world. For this project we experimented with an Integral research framework and process, which the report also describes.

We remind people that this is just the start of an inquiry, not a final proclamation of an absolute truth ;-). It’ll be interesting to see what putting this out there will generate. If the initial announcement that we were doing this in the Integral Institute LinkedIn group is anything to go by, many creative (and not-so-creative) sparks may fly! Bring it on!

Download the report of the first phase of the turquoise research project

Devolutionary Leadership

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:

s-curves of emergence


The book synthesised WilberSpiral DynamicsTheory ULaszloArt of HostingPeter Senge etc.

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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 :

  1. Denial: The initial stage: “It can’t be happening.”
  2. Anger“Why ME? It’s not fair!” (either referring to God, oneself, or anybody perceived, rightly or wrongly, as “responsible”)
  3. Bargaining“Just let me live to see my child(ren) graduate.”
  4. Depression“I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
  5. 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…

MeshWorks

I just wrote this as part of the preparation for our Global SDi/Human Emergence EuroConfab, and thought it might be good to share. This is a core capacity that we are being recognised for in the Netherlands today.

MeshWorks are one of the core products of SDi and Human Emergence practitioners. A MeshWork is a form of next generation network, where different parties are consciously woven together to serve a higher collective Purpose. What a MeshWork can achieve is way beyond anything that any of the individual parties could achieve on their own.

In a MeshWork, special attention is given to what the specific qualities of the different parties are, how their uniqueness can be enhanced and vitalised through their connection to other unique parties. We release a part by limiting it to its specific place in the whole. The combination of alignment behind one higher Purpose, buy-in to a collective set of Principles, and the uplifting of the identity and capacity of each of the parts, creates a powerful dynamic MeshWork that has a clear identity of its own, is diverse in its make-up, and is rapidly responsive and adaptive to the world around it.

Good MeshWorking requires giving attention to an integral combination of Leadership, Culture and Structure, reinforcing each other and strengthening the fabric of effective collaboration. It is the next emerging form as we explore how to organise ourselves to deal with the complex and urgent challenges we face in the world today.