I interviewed Deborah Lange who discussed Embodied Leadership and Creation of the Intelligent Organization.
It’s nice to speak with you today, Deborah. Today this is going to be an interesting topic. I’m looking forward to discussing with you the topic of embodied leadership and the creation of the intelligent organization. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Sure. Hi, Dustin, it’s great to be here. I love the opportunity to talk with people about these topics. My background is in education. I moved into the tertiary system and managed business-studies programs in Australia. I then became a management consultant. It was, the time of learning organizations, when Peter Senge first wrote his book. I was very privileged to have the opportunity of working deeply with managers and leaders who wanted to progress their practices and create cultures that were more conducive to enabling people to thrive within an organization. That provided a lot of fuel for my passions.
I branched out into the personal-development field and the public field as well, coaching and mentoring individuals in small business.
That brings me here today. I’m launching myself again at this stage of my life as i believe in constant re-creation. I don’t want to be narrowed down to one particular area of expertise because I feel like I’ve developed in so many areas. The area we’re talking about today, embodied leadership and creating an intelligent organization, is very dear to my heart.
I did some previous interviews on my blog with Dean Dorcas and Matthew Weilert; they were talking about their views on, relationships and resilience are critical factors when dealing with supply chain processes and building an organization. You mentioned in some of the discussions in LinkedIn that you have some views on this as well. Do you agree with their views? What are your views on this topic?
I read your blogs with Dean and Matthew, and I highly agree with them that relationship and resilience are critical factors. I wanted to dig a little bit deeper. We need good relationships, but what is good? What kinds of relationships do we need and how do we create those relationships in an organization.
I think there is a belief in organizations that people need to be controlled and the relationship is limited to a professional relationship. It is as if the personal part of a person can be left behind and is not required in a workplace.
In reality i don't think this happens.
I think this belief has been discounted. The most successful organizations and innovative places, like Google and Apple and Inspire9 in Australia are creating organisations that have a sense of community. In community the personal and professional relationships are valued. The more connected we are, the more trusting we are. The more trust the more open we are with our information and our communication. The more information sharing, the more problems can be solved and innovation created. Hence, through the development of trusting relationships and sharing more information there is the opportunity for new knowledge to emerge. New knowledge enables intelligent solutions to emerge for the kind of complex problems organizations are looking at today. Relationship is critical to creating deep levels of trust to allow more information sharing to occur.
Is there anything you can say, some specifics? How can you encourage this type of community where personal and professional relationships flourish in an organization?
I think one of the starting points is ourselves, having a look at ourselves and the way we interact with other people. How we can build trust very quickly. I have never spoken to you before, Dustin, but we had a brief conversation before we started that enabled us to connect. I connected with you a little bit about your work in China and your passions, and you connected with me so we can engage in a conversation and trust one another and share what we’re deeply passionate about.
I think we have to uncover our own beliefs. Are we a dominating manager, who believe we need to control people? or do we believe we can trust people? Through trust, and a freedom-within-limits approach, where people are very clear on the identity, and the mission of the organisation, people can act with more initiative. They can access information they need through open systems and share information openly. Through that sharing, we can have an exponential expansiveness in intelligence created.
I want to go back in history. We have had three major waves of new knowledge developed in our human evolution that has expanded our intelligence and our ideas for civilisation. The first of those was when we went from cavemen to living in community. When We settled in one place, we formed more intimate relationships. Through those more intimate relationships, we developed more language. Those intimate relationships required trust and I’ll use the word love. Today there is emphasis on developing emotional. We need emotional intelligence to transcend fear. Emotional intelligence makes us able to learn to be in trusting, loving, and respectful relationships. In essence, when human beings settled in one place, it was the ability to love one another, share language, and create reciprocal intimate relationships that created the opportunity to develop agrarian practices and use tools and much more.
The next huge wave was when we recorded language in books. When our language went from oral to written, it was an exponential increase in our intelligence and our knowledge expanded. Once knowledge was written in books more people had access to more knowledge. You didn’t have to remember what one person said. We had an exponential increase in knowledge and innovation.
The next wave was technology. The technology we’re using today so we can talk has opened up the sharing of information right across the world. This has expanded our ability to develop our intelligence.
We have to maintain the connection with the ideas that we generate through thought to our emotional body. If we don't we may make choices that do not serve human needs. The more separated our ideas are from our lived experience the more likely we may make unethical choices.
Our language does come from our thoughts connected to our experience. When a baby is born, language is developed through the relationship with its mother, through that experience, which is trusting and loving and safe we make meaning.
In fact, the more we can create safety, love and trust, the more intelligent we can be. If we’re working in an organization that’s fear-based, control-based and punitive, we are limiting the intelligence of the organization. We limit the information that’s shared. We limit the openness about what’s working and what’s not working. Does that make sense?
Yes, and the question that comes to mind is: How important is individual responsibility in this? Does the individual need to be committed to their own personal development for this work?
Definitely, absolutely. It is critical. You’re in a university. I think in general there has been a mind-set that to become educated, is to go through the school system, graduate school and university and then education is over. "I have my skills my job; that’s it."
Today we need to believe in lifelong learning. We never stop, people have multiple degrees and they learn on the job. The experience of learning on the job is absolutely critical. We are constantly learning and evolving. I had the opportunity to care for my mother until her passing, and I can tell you that right until the day she died, she was still learning; she still had insights. I really think that there needs to be this shift that learning just doesn’t occur in institutions and universities; it is lifelong and it’s not just learning about the technical needs for a job, ie accounting, engineering etc
The personal development or relationship and mind-set skills are just as critical. Without them, we cannot relate to other people to gain the information that we need. If we create a closed system where there’s fear or lack of trust, we’re not going to have the openness and the sharing required to create the innovative solutions required. This is probably being a little bit out there, but if you look at countries which have developed democratic systems which are safe places to live they have expanded their knowledge and intelligence and ways that people can be together in community and work.
Countries where people are born into fear, violence and war, have limited opportunity to make technological improvements, and better civil systems, and creative ways to live and be together? They don’t exist because they live in fear, so there isn’t the capacity to create systems that benefit and enable humanity to thrive. We can only thrive if we live in systems where there is trust and love and openness and sharing.
If there is fear and war, we’ll just kill ourselves off, and it’ll be the end of the human species.
Personal development is a critical part of education today. We cannot just learn technical expertise. You are also working with the learning organisation. We need technical knowledge and the knowledge of self, relationships, connection, mind-set, values and beliefs. With this knowledge we are more likely to make choices that are good for humanity, and are good for an organisation.
The more rational, logical solutions we come up with that denigrate emotional content or our human essence, changes the culture of the organization or the community. We can’t just be technically competent without also being relationally competent, mind-set and value competent, if that makes sense.
I use the term embodied leadership because it’s not just learning about ideas and techniques; it’s actually embodying them into a very conscious way of being so that we can relate to one another as human beings. So that our ideas come from our thoughts and our human experiences to improve our systems. So that our systems are conducive for human beings and they don’t become punitive and fear-based. Does that make sense?
Yes. Can you maybe help describe your vision or if you imagine what a perfect learning organization would be like, an intelligent organization? How would that look like?
I’ll give you a little example of a case study. I had a manager come to me to work with his team and his department. He was a Chief scientist, and he had worked in a scientifical organization, and they had produced great results over his 30-odd years. He wanted to retire and he wanted to make sure that he left his department thriving. He’d realized that there were some things he didn’t know along the way, which were more to do with the people than his science, and that, he had created quite a competitive scientific group. They were all out looking for research funds and resources competing with one another. He knew they could do better.
He took me on board, and I worked with him for about a year. At the beginning of that time, yes, people were closed. Sure, they were doing their own projects, but they were very closed, they kept to themselves, and didn’t share resources. It just wasn’t a very comfortable place to be. Sure, people were producing an outcome, but it could have been better.
At the end of the year he and I sat in the back of a room where his people had organized their own conference. They developed teams which included the most junior person to the most senior scientist to work together. They shared where they’d successes throughout that year and their visions for the next year. They totally self-organized themselves without the need for high control and linear hierarchy. There were now cross-functional teams. There was sharing of resources. There were people coming to work smiling, and enjoying their work. They had won more funding. There were more resources to do the work they wanted to do.
That was the kind of outcome. There weren’t the silos, there weren’t the barriers, “this is mine and this is yours.” It was much more looking at a bigger picture of “What are we here for, what resources do we need, and how can we share that openly with one another?” It was absolutely, entirely different. Even though, at the beginning it was still a productive organisation. It was now a self-organising system. Now he could leave that group knowing that the people were leading it themselves. There was leadership right across the group.
Leadership and even what I’d call followship, because, as a leader, you need to know when to follow. It can’t just be your ideas; you have to enable people to contribute their ideas and take the lead where they’ve got expertise. The leader of today needs to learn followship as well, which is knowing when to lead and when to follow, and how to create the conditions for the people to use their intelligence to contribute and create even more in a better environment.
Does that give you any kind of a picture, Dustin?
Yes. Thanks today for sharing on this fascinating topic. If you ever want to continue to expand, we can go into further interviews to discuss some more details.
Great, I’d really appreciate that. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, Dustin, and I think the work you’re doing is fantastic, so, yes, I’d love to come on board any other time in the future.
About Deborah Lange
Deb Lange, https://www.deblange.com is a thought leader, master mentor, intuitive coach, professional facilitator/ trainer, speaker and author.
Throughout her career, there has been a consistent thread, her passion and love in helping others develop their potential and applying their new capacities to their personal and professional lives. A deep, inner foundation is required today for leaders to navigate their way through unpredictable events.
Deb offers a unique learning approach with application techniques for corporate programs for both large companies to the small business owner. Deborah brings her work to bring "humanity" to the world of business where at the intersection of love, language and reciprocal relationships lies the capacity for creative intelligence. We need to continue to evolve the way we work together to develop innovative ways to solve our complex organisational and societal problems, creating abundance in our world. Being able to respond intelligently in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty requires skills like intuition, body wisdom, trusting ourselves and others, that the group has the wisdom for any given situation. The ability to be an Embodied Leader, who consciously co-creates processes to uncover the wisdom requires trust, an open system of sharing information, and relationship to allow the creative intelligence of an organisations people to emerge.