Six Hopes and Leadership Practices


Three days ago, I sat by a morning fire at the Whatipu Lodge, very near the Tasman Sea and the Manukau Harbor in New Zealand. It was a day when I knew that the remaining four of us, those who had called, designed, and hosted a men’s gathering, would be leaving to a new place. Four of us had a gift of a conversation that morning. There was friendship. There was a unique connection that I felt as men together. There was insight that doesn’t just come everyday. In particular, I gained six insights into some of what I hope for and invite in the work of hosting conversations that matter. Thanks Roq, Glen, Wayne. This helps me verbalize what I couldn’t see as clearly and to invite it in the groups I work with.

1. Clear Voice – I hope for us to be able to speak with clear voice together. Sometimes it is with innocence. Often with simplicity. And often with awareness that there is always another way to think about things. I hope for us to name and share what we see in the moment, as if we are all tuners to frequencies that none of us individually can receive.

2. Authentic – I hope for us to be deeply authentic. And approachable. When I coach people I usually call attention to purpose and share some of the words I might speak if it were me. However, I invite them to find the words that work for them. If they show up authenticly — not performing, just authentic and real — that energy carries to others. It gives people permission to be authentic, honest, vulnerable. I hope we can step ourselves and with others a bit further into our own brilliance. Authenticity, including vulnerability is a doorway.

3. Scissor-Hands Design – I hope for us to realize that design can come quickly and in a comprehensive way. When we notice values, intentions, and a few key questions, it is simple to create times and engagement processes. What can feel like it should take longer — in fact, often has — can become surprisingly fast and comprehensive. I didn’t see the moving Edward Scissor Hands, but I remember a commercial that showed very quick hands.

4. Magic – I hope for us all to be able to make shifts in the energy in a room by what we do. I hope we can do this with clarity. One of the simple ways to do this is to witness what we love, what is beautiful, what has us really curious. It is as if each of these witnessings invite others to join into a creation together. And oh, it is good to laugh with each other. Even in the difficulties, to shift energy to a field of beauty and curiousity is to make the stuck, unstuck and flowing

5. Vibrational Rate – I learned with these men about how we each are the harvest. Yes, there are documents to create and reports to share. However, I sense that how each of us is changed — vibrationally — is the most lasting harvest. I’ve known people who are able to change the vibrational rate of a room. It feels like many of us are learning to trust this. I know that for me this has included deliberate practices of wholeness and wellness. It has also included releasing energy in relationship with some of the people I have loved most in my life. Resonance — us — lasts longer than any words and actually becomes the most important tool for creating change.

6. Commitment to the Practical – I hope for all of us to be able to take big ideas and apply them at the level of work getting done. I hope for all of us to be able to integrate many ideas and move them from philosophical to practical application. Sometimes we are teachers together. I never find myself doubting that the underlying world views with which we work are not practical. In fact, essential in the new stories we are creating together.

What a gift to sit with this circle of men. What a gift to relate to each other in this way. What a gift to explore and reflect back some of what we notice and learn together. I smile to think of the “symbol books” that we picked to close out this learning together. Glen, the Allan Root that goes to the heart. Wayne, the Mole that tunnels below the surface and with a sense of smell and vibration felt through the ground. Roq, the Peace Lilly. May it be so. Me, “I can give up anytime.” Ah, there are beliefs to just let go so that we can be at our next level of generativeness together. Thank you men.

Invitation — Framing the Larger Journey

Colleague Glen Lauder shared this with me this week. It was framing that he spoke to the New Zealand Land and Water Forum. It was offered in the context of framing a structure for a years worth of engagement processes that would include 30 people. It was spoken to offer clarity of invitation and purpose. It is one of the clearest I have seen in some time.

1. Wellness — It is important that we focus on what we are doing well. It is important that we notice when we are working well. This links nicely to the appreciative approach and the reality that “what we give our attention to grows.” It is also a nice invitation to notice what we already know. Thus, the invitation is not to start over, but rather to build on what we know and ask what we could also know, including what we could also let go of.

2. Pratice — The learning that we are in comes largely from a field of practice. There are now practitioners all over the world who are sharing what works. It is learning from engagement. It is story. It is methods. It is invitation for us to be practitioners and pioneers of social methodologies and apply what we learn at scale.

3. Theory — Though we do not speak as theoreticians, there are several aspects of theory that feed these practices. It is an invitation to notice the most clear gems and world views. And example is self-organization. Another is systems theory. Another is chaos and complexity theory.

4. No Shit — This was a warrior’s call into clarity of purpose. If the work is about preserving water and land availability — some of NZ’s most important issues, then make sure this is at the center. If the work is about preserving rivers that our children might swim in them and feel expansive in spirit, then make sure this is at the center. It is the invitation to show up with the realness of issue, despite any obstacles in the past be they political or otherwise. It is the invitation to think beyond planning meetings.

5. Personal — For us to work in wholeness, we must show up personally. Very often I hear the distinction that people make about showing up personally versus professionally. Sharing stories of home, of family, of emotions often are not the pattern for professional work. And yet, the learning is that we can’t not show up personally. We must be willing to take that personal journey and not fear the integration.

6. Offer what is Above — Each time, can we be deliberate to notice what we know now that we did not know before. Or feel. Or intuit. Stand with each other in a commitment to innovate and to notice what is emerging. Earlier in the week we asked people to notice what is arising in the group. This was a question about noticing patterns. It is the invitation to see what is unfolding. To see what is beyond what we know as individuals. It is further invitation to trust that those noticings give us the wisdom we need for the next steps.

Alistair Lauder

I’ve just spent the past hour or so in a pub / restaurant, The Honest Lawyer, in Nelson on the south island of New Zealand. The wind is brisk, howling past the window and through the trees. A cozy fire burns next to me.

I’ve learned and loved much on this trip. Though only four days since arriving in Wellington, much has happened that I feel very grateful for. Learning. Experience. Feeling the energy of this place. An immediate meeting with Glen Lauder my colleague and good friend. A short flight to Picton and a drive down the coast to Kaikoura, where the sun was shining and the views of the Pacific and the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains was spectacular. I love the experience of staying at an Inn. Homey. Friendly. Welcoming. The Pier was our first overnight stop. From Kaikoura, the next day we found our way across Lewis Pass to Maruia Springs for a good soak in the hot pools. From there to the west coast through Greymouth and down to Hokitika – very wet and very rain-filled. Back up for a night in Murchison and then to Nelson. I am filled with a newness and rush of feelings that only come from first time adventures.

This last stop in Nelson has been delightful. It has included a visit with Glen’s father, Alistair. Alistair is a former engineer who migrated from Scotland with his family 40 or so years ago. I think he is in his 80s. He is slower in his step and speech, yet quick in his mind and joyful in his heart. Quite a thing to meet a friend’s parents and see a few of the root – these quick minds and joyful hearts.

Today’s conversation with Alistair was particularly a gift. He and I were to sit for a bit by the fire. We’d met yesterday so we had some sense of each other. I joked with Glen as he was off to meet his colleague Peter – “go change the world.” Alistair was gentle as he shared with me, twinkle in his eye, “maybe it isn’t changing the world, but instead, changing the way we think about the world.” Ah, a good start.

We each shared stories with each other over the next hour in what felt like one of the exquisite moments of deep connection with an elder. He told me about participation (yes, Glen and Peter were have a similar discussion with different content). Alistair’s story was of migrating. Sitting with his wife, daughter, and Glen as a 7 year-old to talk about what they were doing. They asked the kids when they arrived if they should stay in Auckland or go to Wellington. Alistair was sharing a version of participative leadership, of co-creation. “We were pioneers together.” Yup, that feels like the work of leadership and hosting today.

I so much appreciated Alistair’s wonder in being able to talk about choices and freedom in this era. He lives with an appreciation that is palpable and sweet. He thanked me for bringing my light, for carrying light. This too, deeply moved me. And one last kicker and twinkle – “You know what I’ve learned today?” he started as we were finishing our conversation. “Metaphysical discussions and umpteen cups of tea make me go to the bathroom.” We belly-laughed together.

Thanks Alistair for your light. And for just what I needed as I carry forward from four days on the South Island to a couple of weeks on the north island, and to the work of leadership that is crystal clear from our sit by the fire.