IN A SELF-ORGANIZING WORLD?
By Tenneson Woolf
Last month I was in Leavenworth, WA for a learning conference, Leadership in a Self-Organizing World. [Berkana] was co-sponsor -- another event to support the needed exploring and forms for these times. The place was beautiful. Gigantic pines. Icicle River running alongside the conference space and at the feet of Sleeping Lady, the mountain after which the conference center is named. A [harvest video] by Thomas Arthur and Ashley Cooper is here, including some beautiful shots of the land. Amazing people there. I particularly found it helpful to be with some old friends and feel the sense of meeting each other even more deeply -- the times are calling us to be in our deepest relations and creations together.
“What do we know now about leadership in a self-organizing world?” was a question that Berkana colleague, Teresa Posakony and I carried deliberately at the learning conference (see also [previous blog post] on this event).
Below are three levels of harvest from this question:
1. Teresa hosted a circle in open space on the third day. (See [photos]) The notes below are in response to a check-out circle on "How do we talk about this?"
Saturday, 3:00 (Teresa, Tenneson, Gabriel, Diana, Henri, Jim, Shiloh, Ashley, Roosey, Tom, Diana, Christy and more………. - Tell real stories of amazing stuff that we wouldn’t have expected - Be in the practice of listening, hearing, and symbolizing - Assume that everything we need to know is right here - Name it as participant organized – they own the responsibility and can point to “somebody did it” - Relationship between hearing the story and self-organizing change - Clear intention, purpose context…people can self-organize to create - Experience it - Ask powerful questions - How would you like to access the true potential of your organization - Focus on the work we have to do, the real need and purpose. Then be thoughtful and choiceful about how to get about it. - Reflection of nature & Body…words and images - Follow the energy of yes! - Use vocabulary to understand and engage - Be in the life energy – how to serve the larger whole. - Cultivate genuine curiosity and authentic response - Welcome people home…to the best of what we know and in connection with what is alive already.
2. The last convergence exercise we did on the fourth and last day was with the full group. The intention was to see another glimpse of what was important in the group. Innovative process hosted by Peggy Holman. Each of us wrote the one principle we thought was most important for leaders in a self-organizing world. The cards included everything from simple principles to larger sets of ideas. We exchanged cards randomly with other participants and then stopped to rank points between two cards. Then random exchange. Then ranking. We did this through five cycles and totalled the points. The top responses are here:
1. One never knows the power of an idea/vision until shared with others who have similar passions. (27)
2T. We are the ones we've been waiting for. "Leaders" are not self ordained. They are recognized by their contributions and response to a calling from deep within to commit their life to contributing to the greater good. (26)
2T. Clarity I now have: *So many labels! * To participate in a Self Organizing World means truly owning up to allowing each person (including myself) freedom to express their passions about the subject * to be fully present and mindful within myself and within the group. (26)
4. Be yourself. (25)
5. In a Self Organizing World: I bring my whole self my dream passion each moment presence, and allow others the same grace. (24)
6. Provides a space where each person can speak her/his truth and offer his/her gifts. (23.5)
7T. Leadership in a self-organizing world - means…We all lead and we know when it is our time to lead by listening to our body and spirit - when it calls out our gift. (22)
7T. Creating contexts that help life-energy find itself, manifest, serve itself, and evolve - at all levels including self, group, community, social system, and planet - with decreasing violence, toxicity, and waste. (22)
9T. You must be a vital self-organizing system in order to lead, serve, and host the ever unfurling nature of a self-organizing world. In this breathing, beating, crumbling, and constellating living world - we love and lead into dynamic tension of living and dying - sending and receiving - leading from in front or behind. True leadership is authentically living expressing just that. (21)
9T. The power of connection to nature remaining in its stillness so that all that needs to show up shows up, with flow of a river. (21)
9T. Open Space is a way that nature organizes itself. I also see that the container is the "how" of the system. It would take longer time periods to deal with certain grievances at a more root level than others. Truly what is needed for humanity currently is "root" responses to personal and collective trauma. (21)
9T. My insight: Hierarchies arise, serve, disolve, reorganize. Leaders can relax and allow their role to present itself - be free of the burden of the acknowledged leader role. It takes an integrated "anima" to be a effective leader in a self-organizing world. (21)
9T. LSOW is allowing and nurturing passion. (21)
9T. Convene in curiosity to remember and create together choices. Trust first next steps. (21)
3. I asked about a dozen people (thanks to each of them) the same questions on the 3rd and 4th days with this context. Assume the world is self-organizing. Assume there is such a thing as leadership. Knowing that these are both meaningful conversations that invite more attention, what you would you name as the most important principle for a leader to be effective in a self-organizing world? Those responses are below.
- stay open -- don't get stuck in a time suck
- keep dropping seeds -- don't get freaked out about what you can't do
- remember you already are leading in a self-organizing world
- be bold, listen, and do
- fully manifest and make room for others to fully manifest too
- give people a place to tell their story (until the sun comes up and it is a new day)
- practice letting go and welcoming a discerning stance
- be deliberate in witnessing what is happening, sometimes not through voice
- create a safe place in the transition (grief work is birth work)
- put a ball into play and then be a participant
- pay attention to the field
- speak a best guess of what is arising
- be bold, and then surrender
- be grounded
- work with the spirit of invitation
- name the question clearly
- be a steward of shared intention
- tend to the social fabric of community
- tune in / center
- welcome and invite diverse voice
- welcome disruption as gifts
- give shared attention to task, process, and relationships
- reenlist in the love affair with tension
What do we know now about leadership in a self-organizing world? One thing for me is that the question is a rich inquiry and on-going practice. Self-organization is the pattern that, as Harrison Owen names, has been going on for 14 billion years. Our work from this reality, our learning together, and our strengthened relationships are critical and called for in these times. And are beautiful and inspiring, much like those gigantic pines growing round the Icicle River in Washington.
Tenneson Woolf consults, coaches, builds community and writes about the Art of Hosting