Michael Jones and Michelle Holiday presented an exploration of regenerative leadership based on their living systems model on Sept 9. Engaging nearly 40 participants in a close circle, Michelle started off with a cycle of connections and engagement. The context was set to explore questions of engaged leadership, including:
- What new ways of thinking and seeing are needed within the many participatory organizing structures that are emerging?
- How can we integrate living systems principles as we explore the leadership that is needed now in our organizations and communities?
- What are our new practice grounds – spaces and times of shared learning, renewal and relationship that deepen our connection with both people and place?
Michael and Michelle drew from their own experience in community and strategic dialogue work, as well as from their recent article published in the current issue of The Spanda Journal, Living Systems Theory and the Practice of Stewarding Change.
Michelle presented a core case story of their developmental work with the Montreal museum organization now known as Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), a project which combined the Botanical Gardens, Planetarium, Biodome and Insectarium into a new biosciences museum group. As an evolving living system organization, the results of the journey are impressively real in the growing value the new combined museums have to the regional and scientific communities.
Michael Jones shared his stories, dialogue and music over the course of the evening, including insights from the four-step model in his book, The Soul of Place. The two revealed their combined four timeless patterns that shape all living, creative, expressive systems. We worked in small groups to find and share how these four patterns emerged in our own leadership work in the context of regenerative living organizations.
Michelle’s four patterns were drawn from years of study and development of living, biological systems. The nature of life “itself” is represented by four classic patterns that describe any non-mechanical system:
1. The parts, components, divergent members of a living context.
2. Their relationships with one another, how they connect and create new patterns.
3. Their convergence as a whole system, a unitary holon with its own wholeness of identity and distinct form.
4. The self-integration of life as an animating force that imbues a living system with its vitality.
Underlying the four patterns is a deep connection with place. Any living system is rooted in and nourished by the place where it grows, and we and our organizations and communities are no exception. Michael presented his four patterns from The Soul of Place, and through his stories of relationship with place, music and practice, and his own life, he showed how his four patterns connect neatly to the living system:
1. Homecoming, or the pattern of return of individuals to a place of recognition or home.
2. Belonging, the making of relationships among ourselves.
3. Regenerativity, the creative practice of leadership and acknowledgement of one’s role and source, form a place.
4. Carnival, transformative celebration, the expression of shared vitality (life) and possibility.
We explored the areas of practice offering the most fertile soil for these new possibilities to take root. A series of questions prompted exercises to reflect in small groups on possible applications and starting points.
What are (or could be) your practices for sensing and supporting what life calls for? What practice grounds are needed?
What do you feel called to steward? what could that look like, given the 4 patterns we explored?
Where do you see regenerative leadership coming ever more vibrantly to life? What is being done? How are the patterns present and cultivated?
What kind of greenhouse or Solarium do we need to create to cultivate regenerative leadership in ourselves and our communities?
The four phases of the evening’s session are described in Patricia Kambitsch’s sketch of the dialogue. Here the imagery moves from left to right, from the participant’s experiences in “feeling most alive” to the discussion of patterns and relationships in living systems (creating conditions for life to thrive) to the sets of patterns, and final dialogue.
About the Hosts
Michael Jones is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer. His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership. Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning Creating an Imaginative Life. Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres.
He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and many others. As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America as well as Korea and Japan. He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years. See www.pianoscapes.com to learn more about Michael and his work.
Michelle Holliday is a facilitator, organizational consultant, researcher and writer. Her work centers around “thrivability” — a set of perspectives, intentions and practices based on a view of organizations as living systems. To this end, she brings people together and helps them discover ways they can feel more alive, connect more meaningfully with each other, and serve life more powerfully through their work. This generally takes the form of designing and hosting transformative events, as well as delivering talks and workshops. Michelle also writes regularly, including a forthcoming book, The Age of Thrivability. Her research is summarized in a slideshow called Humanity 4.0, as well as in a TEDx presentation.