[OSList] embracing paradox as a leadership competency

Daniel Mezick via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Sat Mar 12 13:50:19 PST 2016

Hi Birgitt,

I like this topic a lot. Thanks for opening it here for discussion, and 
civil discourse.

One paradox in leadership might be "the paradox of leading as following."

I continue to learn more about this. My current beliefs on the topic go 
something like this:

There is a symbiosis relationship between so-called followers, and 
so-called leaders. Any genuine authorization leaders actually have 
actually comes from others, not from the organization. 
Formally-authorized leaders might get some kind of authorized standing 
from "the organization." So-called position. The problem of course is 
that formal authority- 'position'-  is not enough. Leaders need 
peer-to-peer authorization from others before they can exercise it. This 
so-called "informal authorization" is also known as "street credibility" 
or "respect." Also known sometimes as "influence."

When someone with informal authorization is speaking, they are probably 
speaking for the group as a whole.

When formally and informally authorized leaders lead without following, 
then by definition, they are not acting on behalf of the group. When 
they speak, then by definition, they are not speaking for the 
group-as-a-whole. They are actually powerless, since power is the 
exercise of authority, and they have no effective authorization.

They therefore cannot exercise.

They are ignoring, or are currently ignorant of, this paradox of leader 
as follower.

I wonder what you-- and everyone else--  is thinking about this idea. I 
invite your thoughts on the matter.


On 3/10/16 9:21 AM, Birgitt Williams via OSList wrote:
> Dear Friends and Colleagues,
> Facilitators, change agents, consultants, coaches, moderators and 
> trainers, in my experience, struggle with their role and power as 
> leaders. Years ago, I learned a lot from the late Angeles Arrien about 
> the power of leadership: the power of position, the power of 
> influence, the power of communication. In our roles especially as 
> outsiders to an organization and to the lives of the people involved, 
> we have all three of these powers. I have been active in my pursuit of 
> understanding leadership since I was fifteen and catapulted into 
> leadership positions that I may or may not have been ready for, 
> despite what the adults around me might have believed.
> In recent years, one of the leadership competencies that has grown and 
> expanded in me is the ability to embrace paradox, to simultaneously 
> hold two seemingly opposing views or emotions, with both being valid 
> for me. For example, I can recognize in myself to be in extreme 
> gratitude for something simultaneous to feeling extreme 
> anger…containing both emotions simultaneously, not sequentially. I 
> have come to understand how important this is as a leadership 
> competency, and I write about it on this list as I feel it is a most 
> valuable competency for facilitators of OST. I remember way back when 
> Harrison teaching about OST assisting the people in a system working 
> with both chaos and order. I was fascinated by this topic. And yet, 
> today, I admit that as I learned about chaos and order, I seemed to 
> have an internal picture of one, then the other, then the other, kind 
> of like a teeter totter with possibly some kind of balance point at 
> the fulcrum. As I expanded my capacity to handle paradox, I was able 
> to genuinely grasp chaos and order both existing simultaneously.
> In understanding and working with OST, I think it is important to 
> embrace paradox and to expand our personal capacity to handle paradox 
> in even very stress filled situations. For example, a paradox that we 
> end up contending with is that everything is open space, and Open 
> Space Technology is a tool. What is the benefit of grasping this 
> paradox, you might ask? If I approach OST as a tool from the 
> simultaneous perspective of ‘everything is open space’, I am going to 
> influence different outcomes than if I approach working with OST only 
> as a tool.
> I wrote about embracing paradox recently, so you can see I am feeling 
> deep interest in this topic at the moment 
> http://www.dalarinternational.com/the-power-of-limits. What are your 
> thoughts about ourselves as leaders? What are your thoughts about the 
> importance of expanding personal leadership competency with embracing 
> paradox? Or maybe, in working with OST you are currently developing 
> other leadership competencies? I am interested to see if anyone has 
> interest in showing up to this topic.
> With blessings,
> Birgitt
> Birgitt Williams
> President & Senior Consultant of Dalar International Consultancy, Inc.
> http://www.dalarinternational.com <http://www.dalarinternational.com/>
> Co-founder of the Extraordinary Leadership Network 
> http://www.extraordinaryleadershipnetwork.com 
> <http://www.extraordinaryleadershipnetwork.com/>
> Co-founder of the Genuine Contact™program and author of The Genuine 
> Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership 
> http://www.genuinecontactway.com <http://www.genuinecontactway.com/>
> Co-owner of the Genuine Contact Co-owners Group Ltd. 
> http://www.genuinecontact.net <http://www.genuinecontact.net/>
> */Supporting leadership development for leading in a culture requiring 
> agility and flexibility in a performance environment of constant change./*
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Daniel Mezick
Culture Strategist. Author. Keynoter.
(203) 915 7248. Bio. <http://www.DanielMezick.com/> Blog. 
<http://www.NewTechUSA.net/blog/> Twitter. 
Book: The Culture Game. <http://theculturegame.com/>
Book: The OpenSpace Agility Handbook. 

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