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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.

One of the perennial challenges facing leaders—whether they are aware of it or not—is to cultivate more capable, adaptive human beings. This is perhaps one of the facilitator’s larger aims. Our life purpose is likely entangled in this aim. You are to produce more capable and adaptive human beings. This is playing out in the people you mentor and teach. It reveals itself in the people and processes you manage. It is biologically unfolding in your offspring if you have chosen to bring new life into the world. Regardless, we are culturally, biologically, technologically, and psychologically evolving. Leadership is either participating in facilitating this innovation or it stands in a stasis that is certain to become extinct.

Over the next month, the Ten Directions faculty are going to explore the big challenges leaders face. How to harness development is just one of them. I encourage you to follow our journey closely as Rebecca Colwell, Dr. Cindy Lou Golin, Diane Hamilton and I take you through the densely complex and recurring challenges you are living with and facing day in and day out. Some of these you might not even be aware of. Others might be screaming at you and appear unavoidable. Regardless, we are set to embark on a journey through the gifts and shortcomings we have all inherited as they reveal themselves in conflicts, power dynamics, fears, confidence and much more.

In the mean time, start jotting down the problems that are most vexing for you. Get a handle on them reflectively. Your mind must first hold these patterns as objects in your attention before you are likely to find any skillful strategies for responding. Finally, send us your challenges. Post them in the comments section here or send us an e-mail. You might just see one of your challenges tackled by our talented team.

Looking forward,

Rob McNamara
Harvard University Teaching Fellow, Leadership Coach, Author of The Elegant Self
Ten Directions, Integral Facilitator Faculty

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