This past weekend I attended an unconference, Leadership in a Self-Organizing World, at the Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavensworth, Washinton.
I need to bring back, and pull out, the benefits from attending this conference to my co-workers, my community, and to myself. But the meal was so rich and intense, I am just wanting to take a big nap after the feast. But I also know I must share this feast, and keep sharing it, or it will not feed anyone.
There is lots to share. I took photographs incessantly while I was there. I invite you to take a peek. The one included in the post was part of a plenary session. I hope it conveys some of the spirit of our passion, playfulness, and reach.
The conference was organized using Open Space Technology, or OST. If you’re not familiar with it, OST is a meeting methodology that is more oriented around interactivity and participation, and which is sometimes called an unconference. There’s an interesting and compelling CNN article about it. Or you can read my own earlier article about it. It has been a passion for me, and something I see has the potential for saving the world. I initiated a wonderful unconference last month, the second annual Missoula BarCamp. We worked on the question of how technology and the arts can help make the world better through Missoula’s vibrant non-profit culture. The participants can’t wait for the next one.
What was compelling at Leadership in a Self-Organizing World? I find it so hard to fit my experience into words, but perhaps telling the stories of the leaders I discovered at the conference will help guide the way. Harrison Owen, the person who discovered Open Space and wrote the book about it, delivered two talks which I videotaped and I will post online. The talks themselves were excellent examples of public speaking which is a key leadership skill to learn, and there are plenty of courses that can help you like Ginger Public Speaking. Visit website to see if there are any happening near you soon. He made clear that the world is already self-organizing. There is only the illusion of control. He also drove home that the power of Open Space is addressing the point where our old answers fail us, and we reach for new ones. It’s a vital question for this current time, where structures are falling away so quickly. He referenced the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who described the phases someone goes through when they learn they have a fatal disease. These are phases people go through in any change. We deny, we grieve, we get angry, we get depressed. And eventually we accept.
St. Paul said he died daily. The universe is ever beyond our comprehension, so the healthy approach is always to be open to what is emerging. Perhaps that was the greatest lesson at the conference. Life is ever renewing and ever emergent. A good leader knows this, and helps foster leadership in everyone around us. It is this kind of ideology that’s used within the business world, with companies similar to Cavendish Wood helping smaller businesses get themselves on the right path to leadership within their companies.
In the Baha’i faith, the founder said that the sign of the maturity of mankind was when no one wanted to bear the burden of kingship. When we realize that the universe is self-organizing is perhaps the only point where a leader can truly be a leader. Just as Jesus taught that those who would be first among us would serve everyone else, and as he sacrificed his life to promote that message, maybe that’s the real lesson of being a good leader – learning to follow spirit.