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The Betrayal of Authentic LeadershipMarch 6, 2015

Authenticity is a popular topic that I frequently hear discussed in a number of different contexts. In personal growth, relationships, professional development, leadership and performance—authenticity shows up as a highly desired trait. This widely pursued aim is especially prized in hyper-individualistic cultures where every individual’s uniqueness is one of the unquestioned goals.

Whether you’re at home with your partner and your family, at dinner with friends, pursuing the next athletic win, or in the office leading and managing the next steps for organizational success, this idea of being more authentic, and the cultural preference to be authentic, often seduces us as “the way” we should or ought to be able to show up.

While being more authentic is a popular frame of reference for working on ourselves personally and professionally, most of us fail to clearly define it. It remains a nebulous, unexamined term that can, and often does, change.

In our drive to be more authentic we often are captured by two unexamined assumptions. Both of these assumptions are mistakes if we value adult development and growing new capabilities.

First: Authenticity is not the same as competence

The first assumption sees authenticity as some way of being that is more competent than you currently are. Unfortunately, authenticity and competence are not synonymous, although many of us would like them to be. (Authentic leadership is not necessarily more effective leadership, it’s just leadership that feels more “at home” to you.)

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Grow Your People, Grow Your OrganizationFebruary 5, 2015

In 2007 Accenture surveyed over 900 top executives in some of the world’s largest companies across North America and throughout Europe, China, and Japan about the need for more advanced management capabilities. Of those surveyed, nearly 50% of leaders said that their organization was not well suited to producing executives with the capability to manage and lead in the face of rapid change.

It’s clear that today’s professional environments demand greater sophistication of knowledge work; broader global perspectives, infrastructures, and multi-national systems; as well as leaders who are able to self-initiate, self-direct and self-manage. Yet at the same time, high performing leaders continue to be in short supply.

Whether we peer into big business, government, mature non-profits, mid-size companies or startups, the findings are similar: strong leadership is needed and the demand for it vastly outpaces our ability to ready the next generation of leaders to thrive in today’s business climates.

One of the few strategies that can help us to develop greater leadership aptitudes is the use of developmentally crafted curriculum, exercises and assessments. However (and unfortunately) most leaders in organizations are unaware of this body of research, and they aren’t using it to drive leader development in their organizations.

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Agile Leaders—More Maturity, More OptionsDecember 4, 2014

There’s a substantial body of research that supports the idea that managers and leaders at higher stages of development are more effective than those at lower stages of development. This holds true for most meaningful measures of business and organizational effectiveness. Post-conventional or what we sometimes call “post-heroic” forms of leadership and management out-perform and out-maneuver less developed individuals.

Research into nearly 500 managers across a wide range of industries reveals the 80/80 principle. 80% of managers scoring near the bottom of the Leadership Development Profile were found in junior management positions. In contrast 80% of the individuals testing near the top of this developmental assessment were found in senior levels of management. (For those of you not familiar with the Leadership Development Profile, it was created by two of the most trustable names in adult development, Bill Torbert and Susann Cook-Greuter, and has over 40 years of research behind it.)

What this means is that when your capacities develop or mature, you get more options. More choices become available. More diverse behaviors become viable responses. Vertical development yields greater response-ability. Vertical development yields greater command, and more influence.

So, following from that, it also means that if you’re interested in climbing the organizational ladder, one of the most essential tools you need to invest in is your development. And, there’s a good chance that in order for you to even thrive at your current position—let alone add complexity to your job description and responsibilities—you may need to develop.

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Competing Cultures, Conflicting ValuesSeptember 18, 2014

One of the perennial challenges facing leaders is competing cultures, because competing cultures inevitably fuel conflicting value systems.

Competing value systems are critical for leaders to pay attention to because these are “hot spots” where conflicts often swiftly obscure creative and collaborative opportunities. Where people could collaborate, they now fight. Where there might have been agreement, we find resentment. Coherence is traded in for conflict. When this happens we demonstrate our shortcomings. Larger possibilities are forfeited for all-too-common expressions of our weaknesses as a species. We feel threatened by cultures not familiar to us. Differences bring out hostility. We become destructive instead of constructive.

The issue for many leaders today is that when faced with these consequences, it often appears like the best approach is to retreat from difference, diversity and tension.

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Boxing Yourself InAugust 8, 2014

One of the most basic constructions of identity is to locate your sense of self in opposition to one side of a polarity. An example in its most basic form: you like being warm and you hate being cold. You are attracted to this, and you are opposed to that.

This may seem to be a trivial stance, however it is anything but trivial.

A polarized way of organizing or structuring yourself is a persistent challenge that stunts leadership effectiveness, limits behavioral flexibility, and chops the amount of freedom you have in half. (And unfortunately for us, none of these limitations are the biggest problem.)

The biggest problem is that these polar constructions of identity (as I call them) happen without you even knowing about it.

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Last night I learned something I didn’t expect to learn about leadership from watching The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

This lesson comes from an old adage: “Never bring home an injured baby Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

First, replay this gripping scene in your mind’s eye:

It was a dark and stormy night. Scientist Julianne Moore warned activist Vince Vaughn, injured T-Rex in his arms, saying that taking the injured dinosaur to their trailer laboratory was “going to be really, really bad.” Even if you don’t remember this scene, you’ve already guessed (1) he didn’t listen, and (2) it was really, really bad. (Raging Ma and Pa Rex pushed the lab over the 500 foot cliff into the churning sea below. And, worse yet, I don’t think Vince Vaughn ever apologized.)

What’s this got to do with leadership and collaboration, you ask?

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Like most kids, when I was a little girl I eagerly anticipated the transition from school to the freedom of summer. But the real highlight for me was the opportunity to travel up the hill to the public library (much more mysterious and shadowy than our protestant elementary school library) once a week to select new reading material. I climbed the hill, pulling my red wagon behind me; I was allowed to borrow only as many books as filled my wagon, providing I returned them all by week’s end.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little greedy.

I became adept at making spatially savvy selections. I strategically selected non-slip covers and optimized book size and packing techniques so that I could maximize my ‘haul’.

Oh, how I loved pouring through those treasures…and the anticipation of what might be in the next wagon.

Fast forward to today, and my tables are stacked with books. Long lists of bookmarked sites. A contact list full of people with ideas, expertise, connections. RSS feeds, Twitter, Stumbleupon, MashUp, Pinterest etc. An almost insatiable interest in what is new, what is relevant, what is trending, and what is necessary and important for me to know—for me to be adequate to the task, to be relevant and on trend.

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Facilitative Challenges for LeadersJune 19, 2014

The biggest problems facing leaders today will also be some of the most perplexing challenges our future generations will confront. Why? It’s simple: we have built-in challenges. Just as human beings are hardwired to handle certain problems with ease, there are shortcomings in our design. While in many ways we are walking and talking miracles of complexity, we have also been built with gaps. These gaps are where we struggle in our own personal and professional lives, as well as from one generation to the next.

So, while you have been built to learn and change in important ways, there are also limits to your adaptability. Now if you’re like many people you may be assuming that adults all share the same limitations. In some ways this is correct. For example, our eyes can’t see infrared light without the help of technology. Yet, adults also have different measures of adaptive capability. Some of us are more adaptive, responsive and capable than others. The fields of leadership development, cognitive development, identity development and many others study these changes in adaptability.

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What is Facilitative Leadership?June 12, 2014

Facilitative leadership is one of the emerging leadership paradigms making its way into more and more organizations, governments and institutions. It is a co-creative leadership model asserting that leaders should effectively facilitate deep collaboration. Deep collaboration means the parties involved—all of them, including the leader—undergo transformations through the work they are engaging. In short, groups undergo what Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government lecturer and founder of the Center for Public Leadership, Ronald Heifez, calls “adaptive changes.” This means development is a central part of leadership.

To be clear here, Facilitative Leadership does not get rid of hierarchical forms of leadership and management. Contrary to popular opinion, it does the opposite. Hierarchy thrives within facilitative leadership. It thrives because pre-existing hierarchies are no longer rigidly in command. As leadership capacity develops beyond traditional hierarchies resting upon position, a new form of hierarchy emerges. A more effective form. Organic and responsive hierarchies come forth—they emerge—and are subservient to the most proficient and creative outcomes. Role and position no longer exclusively distribute power. Now, capability does. And as any seasoned leader will tell you, innovation and productivity have powerful agendas that challenge us to transform ourselves into more adaptive and responsive human beings. Rest assured, if you’re working with leadership models that have abandoned top-down hierarchical models of management, you are going in the wrong direction.

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Skip the preparation?May 30, 2014

Last week, our Integral Facilitator faculty member Rob McNamara shared a provocative perspective on preparation and planning on his blog.

“The most dangerous tool you currently have is the plan you are already holding in your hands. Why? Because the plan makes assumptions that you likely do not question every day. Every day you should be getting out of your plans such that you can adaptively respond to life in creative and innovative ways. Gain more altitude. Get more perspective.”

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Ten DirectionsMay 20, 2014

Ten Directions programs are designed to serve the unique personal and professional development needs of exceptional individuals who seek to bring more consciousness to their work in the world.

Our deliberately developmental learning programs orient to each individual as an embodied instrument of change. This means that throughout our programs, we emphasize personal transformative practice to support the development of embodied presence, skillful perspective taking, masterful communication, compassionate engagement and fluid responsiveness to complexity.

We focus primarily on creating programs that address the domains of leadership performance, facilitation mastery, facilitative leadership, and personal development.

We attract participants who:

  • Are interested in growing and transforming themselves, their groups, organizations and surrounding systems.
  • Identify as life-long learners who are committed to actively participating in their own learning.
  • Are explicitly interested in supporting others in their growth and development, whether through formal or informal contexts.
  • Appreciate the interdependence of individual and collective development.
  • Value mindfulness practice as an essential foundation for cultivating presence and awakeness.
  • Are curious and comfortable with engaging difference as a stimulus for creative potential.

Ten Directions learners are mature and purpose-driven individuals who are committed to engaging complex issues, diverse worldviews and value systems in service of creating emergent, creative and elegant organizations.

By collaborating with uncommonly insightful and gifted teachers, Ten Directions is cultivating an ecosystem of consciously developmental offerings that will contribute to closing the gap between our human condition and our human potential.

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Leadership Performance is About InfluenceMay 16, 2014

by Rob McNamara

In Integral Facilitator® programs, one of the core competencies we cultivate is the competency to use the self-as-instrument as a vehicle for greater influence.

Here’s what that looks like:

It’s Sunday morning on the last day of our 5-day certificate program intensive.

Participants have been invited to take center stage in front of their peers, instructors and coaches to take a stand and/or commit to taking a risk in their professional development.

The pressure is on.

On the surface, this exercise is a strong encounter with themselves and the group. But underneath, what we are actually engaged in together in our training is much more complex.

Across the board, participants in this program have taken great stands for their “noble intentions,”—each participant’s intention for their own development. But what unfolds in the moment when someone physically “stands” in front of peers and coaches is something no rehearsal can prepare us for.

In fact, rehearsal invariably leads to “presentations” of self—not the pure force of your body, mind and heart unified in the moment discovering itself as a vehicle for facilitation.

The invitation to take a “stand,” be recognized, and held accountable is a rare opportunity most people simply cannot find anywhere else in their lives. Rare are the deliberately developmental contexts that see beneath our “presentations” of self and call us to show up fully.

One participant takes her stance in front of the room, and begins to speak. Quickly, her coach interjects, pointing out the gap between her embodied presence and the words she’s speaking. She tries again. More coaching is offered, and then again.

When her expressed intention is lived through her presence, the message lands in the room. The entire room feels the dramatic difference. Some of us have tears in our eyes.

Another participant stands up, presents, then attempts to take their seat. I find myself saying, “Not so fast, you’re not done!”

It’s clear to me, a subtle betrayal is occurring. The self is not yet joined to the immediacy of the instrument of facilitation. Again, there’s a gap. I find myself working with her body, inviting more bold and powerful energetics to conduct from a vulnerable heart that is focused and on a mission.

As each person takes their seat, I can see a visceral change in who is sitting down. In just a short 60 or 90 seconds, participants are transforming. They are being reshaped into more worthy and powerful instruments for facilitative leadership.

While we each want to escape the hot seat when we find it’s our turn, I can also see this is what we have come here for—this is what we have been starving for. Real, genuine, developmentally-fueled feedback.

Why do we do this?

It’s simple: influence. Our participants are driven. They are looking for a new level of engagement from themselves. They are wanting to give themselves more fully to their vocations and the many people they can serve. They follow the threads leading them to greater embodied presence, greater discernment and more powerful leadership that is born only from the unique mixture of their unique gifts and the Integral Facilitator® certificate program.

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Our work life today depends on our ability to effortlessly collaborate with others while executing our goals with precision and ease.

And every one of us—regardless of whether we are a leader, manager, coach, or consultant—needs to develop the awareness and skills of a facilitator in order to influence the successful outcomes of our endeavors.

As our understanding of the complexity of organizational life and human relationships evolves, many of us realize that we can no longer depend on hierarchical structures to lead the way, nor do we have the time to spend in lagging consensus or feel-good processes.

In order to help teams and groups achieve their objectives, we need to be able to rapidly assess and understand context, develop agile and effective plans, and have the skills to help a group respond dynamically throughout the process.

We need effective tools—yes—but even more, we need the presence and skill to recognize and respond to the emotion, conflict and obstacles that naturally arise in our engagements.

In order to work optimally within complex, fast paced environments, today’s innovative professionals need to be as adept on the inside as they are on the outside.

And in developing ourselves as facilitative leaders, the challenge is not to add more tips and tricks to our repertoire. Rather, it is to deepen our presence and ability to respond wisely and effectively to what is arising in the moment.

An Integral approach is a profoundly useful framework for illuminating the patterns within the complexity we are dealing with.

By addressing the deeper dimensions of group dynamics and the myriad subtleties of human interaction, an Integral approach supports us (no matter what our role) to become more effective, light on our feet, and creative in our responses to group challenges.

With practice, Integral Facilitators cultivate the capacity for presence in spite of what is going on—whether it’s anxiety, boredom in the room, or a leadership struggle.

They can flex and flow fluidly, are more creative and open, more comfortable with difference, and have less anxiety and fear.

As a result, our teams, projects and collaborations unfold with flexibility, precision and ease. Agreements get made, people follow through on their commitments, and emotion, humor and conflict can be navigated with ease.

Please join us for our upcoming Next Stage Facilitation, and the prerequisite for the nine-month Certificate Program:

More information, resources and training is available at www.tendirections.com/programs/

 

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