The Ecology of Leadership: A Twist on the Idea of Professionalism

In our attempt to be ‘professional’, it seems that our society has become afraid of our own human-ness. Have we lost our sense of how to be with each other in the messiness of our humanity?

I was reading my LinkedIn Groups this morning and came across Mike Smith’s ‘Life Back West’ thoughts on people, teams, organizations, effectiveness and success (thanks Mike!). Now, it may seem that I jump around here a bit, so buckle your seat belt and see if you can stay with me on this …

So, after reading his short blurb on leadership that caught my eye, I went to Mike’s blog planning to oppose what I anticipated would be a description of an old belief system that suggests, if we are professional, our feelings are to be suppressed in the workplace.

Instead, Mike described how his young son has inspired his professional nature to include expression, compassion, and emotion. Having a young boy myself, I can totally relate to how he and I allow each other space for emotional expression. But then, why is it that we are not allowed too much expression at work without being sited as a problem?

leading revelation through chaosIt seems that our society has become afraid of our own human-ness. Have we lost our sense of how to be with each other in the messiness of our humanity? For me, today’s sorely needed emerging leaders can not be likened anymore to the stoic guy on a horse riding off into the sunset after he single-handedly saves the town from Godzilla. Why? Because this guy (usually someone we all aspire to be) rarely shows the kind of emotion that allows for each of us to change ourselves – a collective transformation. Rather, the so-called hero tends to be about eliminating a problem by taking out the people that go with it. This doesn’t work anymore.

What if instead, we began to choose our leaders (at least in part) based on how well they have learned to express their emotions, and how well they exemplify ways to share the messiness of their own humanity, while also being able to hold space for others to do the same?

I propose that we dare ourselves to allow more messiness in the workplace by helping to teach and “lead” groups through spells of negative emotion, rather than try to find ways to avoid or expel it. No more heroes of elimination. The key here is teaching groups or teams to hold space for their peers during their time of need, rather than expect the so-called leader to do it alone. This is known as collective leadership, or an ecology of leadership. And I believe that, using this approach, gold can be found within the mines (minds?) of our organizations, which will generate amazing new forms of innovation. Why? Because the form and function of all innovation is the result of the expression of  the group (or company) who created it. Seems we may have forgotten the fact that companies are made of people, from which products and services are an outcome; and not the other way around?

Daniel Goleman’s talk on TED points to this evolved form of leadership that I speak of here.

It starts with what he calls a ‘human moment’, which are the times when we are paying full attention to the person(s) we are with. He suggests that there is zero correlation between intelligence and the awareness of another (this is known as compassion). Yet we hire our leaders and managers almost completely based on their level of intelligence and rarely rate them based on their ability to express themselves, to show compassion, or their ability hold a group through troubling periods. Why is that?

Also interesting is that he correlates the rapid growth of information to compassion, and it makes sense! Creating this new synergy of perspectives begins to define what I like to call an ‘ecology of leadership’ – a new process of thought and relationship-building. It is an evolved form of collaboration where, as we become more present to the relationships in our lives, it actually helps to form a unified ‘whole’ world that works better, while also increasing personal identity and  individual value at the same time. How cool is that?!

Now, this is a bit of a paradox because our increasing access to information often pulls us away from being present with each other. But we have to remember that both are happening at the same time. What I am trying to suggest is that an ecology of leadership, along with increased awareness of our relationships, is changing the meaning of ‘professionalism’. It is morphing into something completely different than we know it today. In ecological terms, this means that even the concept of “the leader” has lived out it’s time, and we now need to consider what a collective leadership can look like. This evolutionary process will empower each of us, rather than just a mere few of us, and can then be carried into any group dynamics to help generate a deeper form of authenticity, purpose, and meaning within ourselves and our companies.

If your mind is spinning a bit, it suggests that the well goes deep here. I plan to write more about this in my blogging. But for now, let us all reconsider what it means to be a “professional”, and discuss together what kind of “leadership” we want and need in this new, interconnected world of ours.

[ See related content on Authentic Leadership]

Learn more about the author, Vic Desotelle 

Ecological Design Principles

Principles of Ecology
From the Center for Ecoliteracy (By Fritjof Capra)

1-Networks
*Interdependence, Diversity, and Complexity*

The members of an ecosystem are interconnected in a vast network of relationships in which all life processes are interdependent and achieve stability through a diversity of linkages.

2-Boundaries
*Scale and Limits*

At all scales of nature, we find living systems nesting within other living systems, each within its own boundary and limits.

3-Cycles
*Recycling of Resources and Partnership*

The interactions among members of an ecological community involve the exchange of resources in continual cycles so that all waste is recycled through pervasive cooperation and countless forms of partnership: on the planetary scale, each of the elements vital for life goes through a closed loop of cyclic changes.

4-Flow Through
*Energy and Resources*

The constant flow of solar energy sustains life and drives ecological cycles, all organisms feed on flows of energy and resources, each species producing output that is food for other organisms.

5-Development
*Succession and Coevolution*

The unfolding of life, manifesting as development and learning at the individual level and as evolution at the species level, involves an interplay of creativity and mutal adaptation in which organisms and environment coevolve.

6-Dynamic Balance
*Self-Organization, Flexibility, Stability, and Sustainability

All ecological cycles act as feedback loops so the ecological community regulates and organizes itself, maintaining a state of dynamic balance characterized by continual fluctuations.

Reconsidering the Meaning of "New" Technology

A critical piece to technological success in an emerging era of the green (or sustainable) design marketplace is to, not just create cool, cutting edge technologies, but to also define design itself differently so that technology’s underlying processes comply with the new principles of triple bottom line (sustainability) management. That is, we must redesign our underlying methods for designing technologies. To do this, we will have to take a much bigger look at how we define – not just the end-result, but also reconsider the actual design processes themselves by asking questions such as: ‘why’ are we designing a given technology in the first place?, ‘how’ does this technology need to be created with alternative design principles in mind (see Bucky Fuller’s Design Science as an example)?, ‘what’ will be different about the form and function of the end-product?, ‘who’ does the technology affect?, and what is its (w)holistic impact on the greater earth ecology of living systems?

I’d love to hear from you all what you and your teams are doing to make this shift in technology design thinking.

Vic Desotelle
http://DiscoveryFuel.com

The Need For Communicating About Our Communication

Join Abhijit and I in this dialog about the evolution of “communication” …

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Dec 24, 2008 AM

Vic,

I’ve been in the business of mass communication and making efforts to ease the man-to-man communication process.

Abhijit Banerjee, 54
Calcutta
India

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Hello Abhijit,
I am curious to learn more about your statement: ” efforts to ease the man-to-man communication “.
Kindly,
Vic D
http://discoveryfuel.com

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Abhijit Banerjee
Reply Message

Hi Vic

I was expecting this question from the time I joined Copperstrings. And when I almost gave up, you asked. It’s a rather long story, but to cut it short, I am supposedly a mass communication specialist. Made my living in this profession for 30 long years. Created mass communications which helped sell several products, benefitted a number of companies. And all the while I kept wondering why when we are in direct communication with people – even one-to-one communication, there remains in most cases so much which is half understood, misunderstood or not understood at all. My wish is to ease this as far as possible. Not been very successful so far. Love to be your friend.

Best wishes.
Abhijit

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Hello Abhijit,

Yes, yes; I agree with the principle inquiry you are making.

As a facilitator of group collaborative design processes (http://DiscoveryFuel.com), I am very interested in what makes communication happen between both individuals and the among the global collective (the masses). It has triggered some thoughts for me, which I’ve added below as a list of points.  We may be able to build on a couple of them and see where the possibility of helping to generate more evolved forms of communication …

1- I believe that the primary glue that holds (or doesn’t hold) a group of any kind and size together is ‘communication’. It seems in today’s world that building group infrastructure needs to be based on how communication emerges between individuals within companies. Rather than the other way around as we do today, where people step into preconceived info-structures.  This backwards approach works for the masses but fails miserably for individual to individual interactions.

2- With such poor interaction between us humans as individuals, it amazes me that functional products get out the door of any company. It does seem that ‘mass’ communication is ruled by principles that are different than ‘individual’ communications. This raises a thought that ‘fractal’ theory may be relevant to clarifying and creating an evolved forms of communication.

3- Our technologies may get out the door, which is a direct result of communication. Yet there seems to be underlying design principles that are not “communicated”, which is causing huge decline in the ecology of our earth system. This loss of ‘ecology’ (i.e. the interaction between living systems) could be thought of as a breakdown in communication at the larger earth scale. This is beyond just human communication. The concept of ‘sustainability’ is helping to bring in new forms of awareness into our language and as a result, the way we create and live on this planet is changing.

4- The internet has opened a portal for entirely new forms of humane communication to emerge. What this looks like is not for any one of us to decide since they are mostly ’emergent’ through a collective process (i.e. emergent means showing up in organized ways that are not pre-planned). At the same time however, many of us are riding the desire for humans to connect in unique way and across world cultures (as we are now) to watch for patterns that may help to identify who we are becoming or want to become. The ideas of self responsibility, interdependence and collaboration have never been so relevant.

5- You may want to join my new online community called http://ChangingNormal.com. It is an experiment in advancing human interaction and collaborative design, and is founded on the question: “What is communication and how does it become a tool that we use to deepen our physical and spiritual lives as both individuals and the collective become aware of communication as a guiding tool or map to the creation of chosen states of being. Rather than today’s approach to communication which metaphorically acts like a vehicle that we are unknowingly riding in. This level of conscious communication falls under what I call ‘the squared principle’ meaning that it is about the “communication about communication”. This is what you and I are doing in this dialog.

6- Our connection has triggered me to start a blog conversation about this subject regarding ‘mass communication’ vs ‘person-to-person communication’. I was hoping that you might join me in this dialog there so that other’s may be able to jump into the conversation as well. Plus it will be easier for us to review, synthesize, and track the lineage of conversations that emerge. More later …

What are your comments or insights?

Best to you,
Vic Desotelle
DiscoveryFuel.com