Un-defining Leadership

The following are a set of notes resulting from a Seed Project conversation and subsequent elaboration around ideas of leadership in the context of Emerging Leader Labs--and by extension the larger contexts of "old" and "new" cultural paradigms we would seek to bridge.



Premise: Old-style leadership is a command-and-control affair. Rigid formal structure, concentrated authority, thorough constraint by protocol, clear punishment/reward systems, narrow focus of agenda and objective, addressed toward problems/threats, characterized by conflict, fond of sacrifice.


Inquiry: Can we go beyond compromise, to reach coherence? A greater transpersonal whole which demands no subjugation from its constituents--save that of the possessive identity/ego complex?



Generative Paradox: What does it mean to lead from a place of surrender?


  • open stewardship: Self-guidance through identity and belonging instead of ownership. Leading by example--not imposition. Be the change...but first, be changed. Transparent process and accounting.
  • response-ability: capacity for adaptation and creative response to changing conditions. Being present, aware, affirmative and engaging, leading with confi-dance as an enthusiastic improv artist

  • generosity: consistent gifting, sharing, and acknowledgement with participants and stakeholders in the spirit of "greater sum through currency and connection"
  • fortitude: infectious courage, commitment, and resilience in dismantling the spectres difficulty and doubt


What does a leader "look like" - on paper, and in action?


dimensions of accomplishment - how do we demonstrate and communicate merit?

qualitative vibrance / charisma - stories of effective performance

capacity for invitation - how ably are people / assets enlisted?

nurturing the common vision - evocative stewardship

commitment to feasibility - there is a way!!

commitment to play - it's going to be fun!!

deference and distributiveness

decisiveness + sophistication

peace in motion / dance

clear statements




axes of facilitation / attention:


assertive vs. receptive

imagination vs. analysis

holistic vs. specific

permission v. consensus

variance v. coherence

agility vs. persistence



What are the "anti-patterns" - corrosive personal / cultural inheritances to acknowledge and release?


low-capacity reductive/reactive conversation 

structural bias toward hierarchies

myth of "objectivity"

problem "solving" orientation

rigid contractual agreement

comfort zoning

homogeneity of substrate

discreet/linear/lcd accounting



Game the Shift!


We begin as individuals within organizations who agree to agile "phase change" reactions and experimentation, learning and monitoring as we develop systemic awareness as a social organism, at which (theoretical/idealized!!) point "leadership" becomes moot and all assets, all intentions, all degrees of freedom are synchronously inter-actualized.