Beginning Thoughts

My hope with Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World is to attract organizational leaders into seeing their organizations and teams as living systems. I believe that when we make that shift, everything else shifts. The way we think about and practice leadership changes. I also believe that there are many effective leaders who have already made this shift without putting a name to it. I find them in the organizations I consult with. They are usually leading high performing teams and very healthy organizations. However, they don’t always have language to explain why they lead the way they do.

I would like to start a movement that spreads these ideas and gives people the justification for why leading organizations from a living system framework creates an organization where the organization and the people in it thrive!

I need your help!

To build a movement, I need to expand my email list and network. You can help me by sharing my blogs with others. I know some of you are already doing this, and I would like to encourage more to tweet, retweet, share, and post these ideas on your own networks. We are all linked, and we all have networks of our own. Together we can spread the word.

If you share my blogs, please use the share icon on the bottom of the blog to pass this on to others. We can track the reach better if you do this.


Training Opportunity

In April I will be hosting a one-day workshop for organizational leaders who want to learn more about how to apply the ideas from Leading from the Roots to their organization. Learning to lead living systems requires us to adapt new strategies and thinking as well as let go of default behaviors that we have learned over time. The workshop will be held in the Twin Cities. Stay tuned for more information.

Focused Reflection – how learning from nature has shifted my perspective on how we can influence systems change

We all evolve as a result of our experiences and life journey. I have been on a journey to deepen my understanding of how nature is designed and applying these ideas in organizations. Recently I reflected on how my ideas on transformation and change have been influenced by my journey.

I used to think…. That John Kotter really got change right. He said you had to have a vision, build a sense of urgency to motivate people to change, get a small group of people to lead the change, and then drive it down through the organization. 

Then I began to shift…. When Cyn Cherry and I wrote our book titled Systemic Leadership: Enriching the Meaning of our Work, we talked about new ways of influencing change. In our chapter we introduced three kinds of change: Making change, surviving change, and organic change. The latter involved more co-creation than top down change. 

The next step in my journey was…. Shifting the leadership questions. These questions reflected a deeper shift into how a living system worked.

  • Instead of “who will make this happen?” I asked, “what interactions will make this work?”
  • Instead of “what do I need to control?” I asked, “what do I need to unleash?”
  • Instead of “how do I overcome resistance?” I asked, “how do I welcome and incorporate resistance?”
  • Instead of “how do I influence a person?” I asked, “how do I influence the field or culture of the organization?”
  • Instead of “how do I create change?” I asked, “how can I transform the energy that already exists in the organization?”

These shifts in questions invited different change strategies.

Now I see change and transformation…. like nature does. Nature creates conditions conducive to support the life of future generations. I apply this thinking to change and organizational transformation. How can I create conditions conducive to support ongoing change and transformation of the living system? Here is my beginning list of the conditions that support ongoing adaptation and change.

  • Relationships: change flows along lines of relationship. If we don’t have good relationships, we can’t learn together, change together, or co-create together. 
  • Information and shared knowledge: we evolve through information. If our organizations are filled with information and we are listening to feedback, we will hear what needs to shift. How can I support the forming of rich and diverse feedback loops in my organization?
  • People support what they help to create: how can I lead change in a way that gives people who will be affected by the change a chance to create solutions to the problems they are facing?
  • People only respond to things that matter to them here and now. Have I communicated why the work we are doing matters to the staff, the departments, the organization, the community, and the world? If people don’t know why this change matters, they won’t give their attention to it.

Now I realize that the living system… is an active partner with us in supporting the change, if we create the conditions conducive to change. If we let it, the living system will help us!

Application Stories – Thinking like nature

A client mentioned she had just finished reading chapter seven in my book on how nature curbs excess from within the organization. Nature uses feedback to help the system maintain a dynamic equilibrium. If there is too much of one behavior and it is destabilizing the system, nature creates feedback loops to dampen down the unhelpful behavior. If a behavior needs to grow to help the system thrive, nature uses feedback to encourage the behavior.

My client said this chapter helped her view her organization through the lens of feedback. She noticed where feedback was rich and diverse and where feedback was ignored or discouraged. Once she saw the organization this way, she overlaid her observations onto the various teams and departments that made up the organization. She noticed a pattern. Those departments and teams that had rich and diverse feedback were more adaptive, productive, had better relationships within the organization, and had healthier cultures. Those teams that didn’t listen to feedback, ignored, or discouraged feedback held pockets of dysfunction that hurt the overall performance of the organization.

If you have applications stories of have noticed how your Leadership has changed when you think like nature, please let me know and I will share your stories in my next newsletter.

Upcoming Events

Podcasts and Radio Interviews: I have a number of interviews coming up, including one for Small Biz Advocate, Lifeology, in Jan. Stay tuned or go to my website for broadcast times.

March 20, 2019, 1 pm CST: Webinar for Lideramos, an organization dedicated to building Latino Leadership

April 4-5, 2019: Johns Hopkins University

May 30, 2019: Dov Baron radio interview 

June 16-19, 2019: 4th Women and Leadership conference Building Solutions, Harmony, and the Greater Good. I will be presenting with Katherine Tyler Scott and Kathryn Goldman Schuyler.

July 7-10, 2019: I will be one of the faculty at the Leadership Symposium at University of Nevada at Las Vegas.