We continued our Open Space on the Balcony meetings last night (2-12-07). The bad weather was onimous so we were a little late in starting and a little smaller than our last meeting. However, we proceeded to explore Heifetz' ideas and his approach to teaching adaptive leadership with our core group.
Each of us brought something to read that inspired us. We started by describing the core of each; we found an interesting symetry related to finding a pause between being and doing. There seemed to be a natural struggle for each of us in putting our worlds together in ways that allowed a time-out to explore the implications of what we are doing or seeking to achieve. This led to a very natural conclusion that for most of us, our deepest questions are adaptive concerns that have no easy answer. This is also the core of Heifetz' assertion - that the most important and profound leadership occurs on the tough questions that have no answer. When we attempt to address adaptive concerns, several perspectives can help us. As summarized in a Harvard Business Review article by Heifetz and Laurie (2001) entitled "The Work of Leadership," adaptive leadership includes 1) getting on the balcony, 2) identifying the adaptive challenge, 3) regulating distress, 4) maintaining disciplined attention, 5) giving the work back to the people, and 6) protecting voices from below. We talked about these ideas as exemplifying our intereactions in our open space meetings and we will continue to experiment with them as we delve into reading our inspirational pieces.
We didn't have a lot of time to share our pieces but Jon at least got us started. He combined two readings, one contemporary and one from a 19th century poet in Wales. Jon did a great job of taking time to center and becoming present before he began. When we talked about what was most effective in his reading, the fact that he did not rush in was one of the most important factors that helped him to be effective. In addition to thoughtful preparation, he read at a very comfortable pace, providing pauses throughout to allow us to soak in what he was reading. This was a great demonstration of important principles of leadership - not rushing in, being in the moment, and approaching the adaptive work with appropriate space and time to reflect.
We'll come back in our subsequent meetings to see how our other inspirational readings relate to adaptive leadership ideas.