The Illusion of Successful change requires the top person

Harrison Owen owenhh at
Thu Feb 22 05:46:23 PST 2001

At 10:55 AM 2/22/01 +0100, Uwe wrote:
>Dear Peggy,
>your observation points to the core of our challenge. I like to comment in
>particular to the following part of it:
>"As long as people believe that change requires active involvement from
>the top,
>this is true.
>It is self-fulfilling because those not at the top have either consciously
>or unconsciously given away their power to have an impact.  And those at the
>top either consciously or unconsciously accept that power as theirs to wield
>as they see fit."
>In my view your are also pointing to an even deeper level, which is rooted in
>our desire to be safe and taken care of. I'm becoming more aware lately that
>those who follow not only "suffer" but in a strange way also gain. What is
>gained might be perceived as security or being taken care of. We might
>that "growing up", i.e. taking care of ourselves with integrity and full
>responsibility is a process that requires much energy and courage. By playing
>the role of "following" we relinguish this responsibility to someone else.
>like having surrogate parents. During my coaching education at New
>Ventures West
>I came across an excerpt from A.H.Almaas, Diamond Heart, chapter One - Growing
>Up. For those interested, it makes the point very clear. So for me the
>expands into: How much do we really want to grow up? And, what would this
>mean for our societies?
>My emerging view is that the leader/follower conversation in terms of
>polarization leads into a dead end. We need both, leaders and followers
>interacting more like in a dance. In my view it is the diversity of a
>group and
>the absolute adherence to the principle that no one is "better or worse",
>"higher or lower" just because of the capabilities he or she brings to the
>group. This I believe is the second great obstacle for all - we want to be
>as someone special but we do not want that "specialness" to seperate us.

There is no question (to my mind) that the dance of life  in organizations
absolutely requires Leadership and Followership. Things get stuck and space
closes, however, when the mantle of leadership is allowed to rest on only
one set of shoulders -- the CEO, MD,  President -- whatever. For me, one of
the profound learnings of Open Space is that Leadership only appears at the
junction of passion and responsibility, and in the absence of either or
both, leadership dissipates, the dance slows and eventually stops. In a
word -- It's all over, baby.


Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854 USA
phone 301-469-9269
fax 301-983-9314
Open Space Training
Open Space Institute
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