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One ancient model of collaborative leadership formation

Jesus has been a model of conscious compassionate and collaborative leadership for more than two thousand years. However, this model is not the predominant model within Christianity today.

By the time the movement aligned itself with the power of the Roman Empire, the compassionate egalitarian communities were either destroyed or relegated to the fringes (monastics and cloistered religious orders).  Jesus emerged as a spiritual leader in the later part of the Axial age.  According to Armstong, the essence of Axial Age was the disciplined practice of compassion, an emphasis on inner consciousness.  There was a revolution and transformation in what it meant to be human, in our ability to extend compassion beyond our immediate tribe.

Jesus used a parabolic style of teaching designed to transform rather than inform.  The developmental level of his followers was primarily a mythic worldview.  Jim Marion (2000) argued that Jesus had attained the highest level of human development, that of non dual consciousness, and that it was from this perspective that Jesus looked out upon the world.  What he saw was a reality hidden from the view of most of his contemporaries, one in which God and humanity were one, one which he frequently described as the Kingdom of God.

Jesus understood that no progress toward the kingdom could be achieved without first turning inward, away from the imperatives of dominant social convention and society.  Developmental learning was something that ‘happens within’ (Spear, 2005).  Jesus used parables and stories to facilitate transformative learning.  He used questions to engage his audience and to question uncritically assimilated cultural and social beliefs.

The commitment Jesus had to developing a non-hierarchical movement was also counter-cultural.  Jesus promulgated “new values, new assumptions, new strategies for social and personal transformation” (Wink, 1992, 135).  Jesus’ listeners were held captive by their mindsets and worldviews as much as they were by their Roman Empire and Jewish religious authorities.  Hierarchies inevitably evolve in cultures with the predominantly mythical worldview that was dominant in the time of Jesus.  Transforming perspectives, mindsets, and worldviews, is a liberating developmental process.

It may be tempting to judge Jesus’ transformative leadership development and teaching style as ancient and no longer applicable.  Although times were different, some aspects of human nature are also the same.  The Jesus movement developed in an age of increasing violence, resistance to power, and chaos.  An old order was fading away leaving space for transformation with a range of possible outcomes: a more compassionate and enlightened humanity — or the apocalypse.

We are still captive to a hierarchical leadership culture, one that is deeply enculturated albeit ineffective.  Informative teaching strategies are no more effective in transforming mindsets and worldviews of leaders, or potential leaders, now than they were 2000 years ago.

From the margins and fringes of our culture, new systems of developing the human capacity to lead are emerging.  There are a number of pioneering approaches to leading and organizing people to transform communities, and the world.  They have abandoned outdated practices of rigid hierarchies, concentrated authoritarian power, and institutions/bureaucracies.

They model communities of practice; people who engage in a process of collective learning, in a shared domain of human endeavor.   Communities of practice are not new but they have evolved as human consciousness as evolved.  They are communities with distributed leading, collaborative creativity, and compassion (for each other and for a shared purpose).

If you are interested in being a part of this kind of community of practice, please join Our Co-leader Community.  Join Here

Seeking new co-leadership development programs

The need for new leaders is urgent. We need new leadership in communities everywhere. We need leaders who know how to nourish and rely on the innate creativity, freedom, generosity, and caring of people. We need leaders who are life-affirming rather than life-destroying. Unless we quickly figure out how to nurture and support this new leadership, we can’t hope for peaceful change. We will, instead, be confronted by increasing anarchy and societal meltdowns. (Margaret Wheatley, 2002)

We are investing in leadership development programs that are not effective in generating the leaders we want to follow.  The nature of leadership and followership has dramatically changed, and continues to evolve.  Are we forming leaders with models that worked in the past, or are we shaping new systems and forms of leading for the future?

During the past two decades, learning executives have persuaded U.S. corporations to double their annual spending on various forms of leadership development to $14 billion. Yet over that same period, public confidence in leadership has dropped considerably. According to a 2012 poll by The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University, 70 percent of Americans believe there is a leadership crisis that will lead to a national decline unless we find better leaders. (Curphy, Hogan & Kaiser, 2014).

If followers are no longer willing to follow, and leaders are not granted authority, then what is possible is the emergence of systems of shared power and distributed authority.  This collaborative culture of shared effort is already beginning to emerge throughout the world.  If we believe the emergence of these collaborative, partnership, integrated ways of leading is important to the future of humanity and to the earth, then how can we create contexts and communities of practice that accelerate a new style of transformative eco-egalitarian leadership?

Where do you see new programs and models for developing co-leaders?  What is working to build networks of leaders rather than the dominant model of authority over others?  Please share your thoughts with our growing community.

Our Co-Leader Community is looking for guest bloggers to feature!

Blogging is a form of leading or influencing others.  Guest posting can be a terrific way to establish an audience and to position yourself as a thought leader.  This is one way that our co-leader community shares leadership.

For more information click here.

Beyond the leader-follower dichotomy

We live in an age of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.  We will not transcend the challenges of this world with the type of leaders or the leadership development strategies that led us here.  New methods are being developed to improve and expand our collective leadership capacity.  We are beginning to transcend the false and hierarchical dichotomy where the people at the top of the power pyramid are leaders, and the rest of the pyramid are expected to be followers.  We need to scale cultural and social transformation in rapid and high impact ways. We are facing the end of leadership and follower-ship and the emergence of ‘everyone leads.’

The reality of human experience is that we all lead, from time to time.  When we recognize that there is something inherent in human nature to lead, new opportunities for collective action become available.  History has been dominated by cultures of leadership that divide and rank human beings into leaders and followers.  Traditionally leadership has been associated with hierarchies and power over others.  But power is not confined to people with positions at the top of the power pyramids. Everyone has power.  The “end of leadership” (Kellerman, 2012) coincides with the emergence of democracy and the evolution of human development.  Power imbalances contribute to many of the wicked problems facing our world.  The end of authoritarian forms of leadership are, and will be, creating space for the emergence of new mindsets about leading and following.

The leadership development that we seek (where everyone leads) is emerging through trans-disciplinary explorations that include: the stages of human development, stages of spiritual transformation or consciousness, evolutionary psychology, theories of transformative education, neuroscience, and ancient transformative disciplines such as alchemy.  The next level of transformation in developing our collective capacity to lead social change is integral; weaving intellect and spirit, reasoning and intuition, secular and sacred, and individual and collective practices.

Robyn Morrison provides co-leadership development services to individuals and organizations.  She has developed tools and programs to catalyze the leadership potential throughout a work team or movement.  Contact Robyn for more information if you are looking to create a highly engaged and empowered team or movement.

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Wishing you sacred moments

December 24, 2014

This is Christmas Eve and the last day of Chanukah (Hanukkah) (12/24/2014), tomorrow is Christmas Day (12/15/2014).

I live in a culture where the predominant influence has been Christianity. This culture is fading and religious or spiritual pluralism is emerging. I am not Scrooge, but I do have a few persistence complaints about the Christmas season as I experience it in my culture. The commercialization of Christmas is one of the most obvious examples of the “Evangelical-Capitalist Resonance Machine.”  I prefer a more sacred and holy observation of the holidays.

William E. Connolly wrote about the symbiotic relationship between our current expression of capitalism and evangelical Christianity in his book, Capitalism and Christianity, American Style. The way the “Evangelical-Capitalist” culture celebrates Christmas does not fit with my interpretation of the birth of Jesus. There are many progressive Christian thought leaders (including me) who think the birth of Jesus had something to do overcoming oppression and Empire. Jesus was God incarnate to show the world the path (way) to love, peace, and justice.

Giving gifts and spending money at Christmas time is a superficial way to celebrate the season. To me, the most important gifts are the gift of love and release from oppression.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa share a theme – that the meek shall overcome the powerful. Christmas celebrates a baby born to transform the world, “to scatter the proud in their conceit.” Hanukkah (festival of lights) celebrates the restoration of the light (in the Temple) after the Jewish people overcame Syrian oppression. Kwanzaa was established in 1966 in the midst of the Black Freedom Movement to restore African culture and values for African-Americans. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious holiday, it is practiced by African-Americans of many religious faiths.

In the tradition I was raised in this evening is Christmas Eve. Part of that tradition includes attending a worship service that is primarily carols, hymns, and music celebrating the birth of baby Jesus. We raise our voices very much like young Mary, the mother of Jesus, raised her voice and proclaimed when she discovered she would give birth to a son who would be the savior of the word:


Canticle Of Mary (Luke 1)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior

For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.


From this day all generations will call me blessed:

The Almighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His Name.


He has mercy on those who fear Him

In every generation.


He has shown the strength of His arm,

He has scattered the proud in their conceit.


He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

And has lifted up the lowly.


He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.


Wishing you a season of sacred times. May you and your loved ones experience the things that are most precious to your tradition/culture. My Holiday wish list has been the same for years. I wish for a world where there is enough for all God’s people. I wish for a world where no one suffers loneliness or despair. I wish for Mary’s vision – that the mighty might be cast down from their thrones, that wealth and power might be more equitably distributed, and that the hungry will be filled and fulfilled.


What do these holy days mean to you? What are your thoughts about the commercialization of Christmas? How do the Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations expand and enrich our collective or shared humanity?



Emerging Hope: leaders rising from the margins

Bill McKibben’s article (cited in the last blog post) describes his experience of emerging leadership within the environmental movement. McKibben believes our hope resides in a massive, decentralized, grassroots, intergenerational movement.  He also believes in the possibilities of distributed power as an alternative to the multi-national energy corporations.

Most of the influential movements our time do not have a primary heroic leader at the front.  There are many leaders at many levels.  The people getting results in these movements generally lack positional power; they are not corporate executives, politicians, or government officials.  They are young people, indigenous people, retirees, small scale farmers and ranchers, and even children.

First Nations people, the Indigenous Environmental Network, has been highly effective in disrupting the Alberta tar sands production and pipeline.  There are a group of Kids Against KXL and even a grandparents march from Camp David to the White House.

Thousands of young people from over 135 countries are being developed as “organizers”, another phrase to describe distributed or eco-egalitarian leadership.

There are a variety of gifts engaged in leading the movement:  Van Jones (charisma), Jim Hansen (the great climate scientist), Tim DeChristopher (went to jail for two years for civil disobedience), and Tom Steyer (a rare corporate billionaire who quit his hedge fund job and put his time and money into the movement).  There are also positional leaders; organizational leaders employed by a growing number of environmental nonprofits.

We need millions of co-leaders.  This is not a leaderless movement, it is a leader-full movement.

Human beings are evolving.  Creative possibilities are springing up everywhere, anywhere — often in the most surprising places.  Thanks to new forms of communication (cell phones, internet) ideas and information spread remarkably fast.

The Occupy movement was perhaps the ultimate leaderless movement.  Did it fade away? It is no longer as visible. Movements are not institutions, they rise and decline with the energy of the people involved.  Yes, some people may have dropped out due to their frustration and resignation.  However, the energy of the Occupy movement has spread, people are engaged in other ways.

Movements and communities will probably always have some kind of self-organizing system to coordinate the efforts of many people toward shared goals.  It will likely include some modified flattened less hierarchical version of leaders and followers.  That may be one of the lessons learned from the Occupiers.  Perhaps we are not ready to organize without anyone engaging in leading.  Leaders will bubble up from the energy of the community from the combined gifts of the leaders and the shared commitments of the followers to support their leaders.

This is the essence of a culture where everyone leads…  we share leadership…  we take turns.  We follow and we lead.

Hope is rising.  Leaders are emerging and they are us, we are them.

We need your support.  We are creating a co-leader community.  You can make a difference.
Please share a piece of your story in the comments below.

More Wasted Possibilities – Mother Earth

“Managing the economy to maximize profit for the benefit of a financial oligarchy is…a recipe for economic, social, and environmental disaster.”  David Korten

We are eroding the Earth’s capacity to support human life.  About forty years ago, the arc of human progress bent towards unbridled capitalism (and neoliberalism).  Although leading scientists were already exposing the environmental damage of multi-national corporations, capitalism pushed back with a vengeance.  Since the 1980s we have seen increasing concentrations of wealth and power, and increasing denial of the impact of global capitalism on the Earth and on the viability of the human species on Earth.

The first time I came across the term “eco-egalitarian leader” was when I was reading, Capitalism and Christianity, American Style, by William C. Conolly (2008, Duke University Press).  It describes an emerging egalitarian leadership culture capable of addressing our environmental threats.

Bill McKibben environmentalist author and founder of 350.org published an article, “Movements Without Leaders” (http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175737/) in which he outlined his belief that the environmental movement will succeed because of it’s lack of a clearly identifiable leader.

Certainly there are many high profile individuals involved in the global movement to address our collective environmental challenges:  Bill McKibben, David Korten, Naomi Klein, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Al Gore, Wangari Maathai.  However, the movement is currently a mass movement with cells and networks of people actively engaged in widely divergent ways.

“This sprawling campaign exemplifies the only kind of movement that will ever be able to stand up to the power of the energy giants, the richest industry the planet has ever known. In fact, any movement that hopes to head off future depredations of climate change will have to get much, much larger, incorporating among other obvious allies those in the human rights and social justice arenas.

The cause couldn’t be more compelling.  There’s never been a clearer threat to survival, or to justice, than the rapid rise in the planet’s temperature caused by and for the profit of a microscopic percentage of its citizens. Conversely, there can be no real answer to our climate woes that doesn’t address the insane inequalities and concentrations of power that are helping to drive us toward this disaster.”  Bill McKibben (article link above).

It is precisely because environmental justice is justice for all (all people, all living beings, and all of creation) that mass movements of co-leaders or eco-egalitarian leaders is the only way to address the challenges and create possibilities that will save the Earth.

We are the leaders we have been waiting for, and now is the time we must rally together for the sake of the Earth.

More about William Connolly:

More about Bill McKibben:

More Wasted Possibilities – Democracy

Democracy is going through a difficult time.  It is impossible to assess the full costs of the wasted possibilities while we experience the decline of democracy, “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The danger of authoritarianism and totalitarianism is as imminent now as it was in the 1930s.  In Italy fascists had already established extreme authoritarian rule.  The Nazis were rising in Germany and much of Central Europe.  Japan was controlled by a distinctly different form of fascism, one ruled by the Emperor but just as opposed to democracy as the fascism in Italy and Germany.  Britain’s plutocracy dominated superficially democratic institutions.

Among the industrialized countries in the late 1930s only the United States was experiencing a strengthening of popular participation; trade unions were asserting themselves as a major political force.

In 2014 vigorous democracy may be even more difficult to find.  Certainly not in United States where, after the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision, both political parties are subject to the control of wealthy corporations and individuals.  The anti-democratic forces are evident in the voting rights restrictions, infringements on women’s reproductive rights, and rising militarization of community police forces.  Even our Democratic President appears to support massive intrusions in our privacy by the NSA and Homeland Security.

The rise of authoritarian regimes in the 1930s was precipitated by unregulated capitalism and the Great Depression. The current trend towards increasing concentrations of power and the decline in participatory democracy also involves capitalist elites.  Neoliberalism is the 21st Century threat to democracy, which is highly ironic given their claims to “free markets”.

Neoliberalism is not about democracy of the people; a system of government wherein citizens can participate equally.  Neoliberalism is about the rise of a refined form of totalitarianism; one where the wealthiest have all of the power.

Markets can never truly be “free.”  Freedom is a lived experience.  Corporations are not human beings and they should not be given civil rights in a democratic form of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Corporations should only be allowed to exist to serve a common good.  Democracy has not proven its capacity to resist the power of neoliberalism.

It is impossible to assess the wasted possibilities of the failing democratic experiment in the United States.  Part of the problem is how we cling to the dominant myth, that the United States has a model of democracy that can save the world.  However, public opinion polls prove that our government does not even do what the majority of the people want.  We have a pretense of democracy.



Invitation to co-leaders to guest blog

“It’s a remarkable conceit:  the idea of changing the world simply by sitting and writing.”  
(Barbara Kellerman, Leadership: Essential Selections on Power, Authority, and Influence, 2010, 118)

Our Co-Leader Community is looking for guest bloggers to feature!

Blogging is a form of leading or influencing others.  Guest posting can be a terrific way to establish an audience and to position yourself as a thought leader.  This is one way that our co-leader community shares leadership.

For more information click here.


Announcing the formation of our co-leader community

we are the leaders.001We are creating a community of practice for individuals with an interest in being a new breed of leader: collective leading, shared leading, co-leading, or eco-egalitarian leadership.

This 4 minute video is an introduction to the purpose of Our Co-Leader Connection. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHuKlvEmhQ8

If you are interested in joining this community of co-leaders, connect with our follr community at:  https://follr.com/Communities/OurCoLeaderConnection/

More Wasted Possibilities – The Disappearing Middle Class

Trickle down economics is an illusion. History demonstrates that wealth flows up, to the wealthiest, not down to the poorest.

In Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty argued for redistribution of wealth through wealth taxes and high marginal income tax rates. In the post WWI and WWII years, the United States and other developed countries adopted wealth taxes and high marginal tax rates which contributed to the emergence of a strong middle class. Along with the growth in the middle class came unprecedented improvements in economic growth, productivity, and innovation.

Many economists contend that the debt crisis and economic collapse (2008 – 2010) was primarily caused by growing income inequality paired with extreme greed and a brand of capitalism that rewards liars, cheaters, and frauds.

Since 2008 wealth and income inequality has increased.

Here are a few facts from the 2014 Global Wealth Databook published by Credit Suisse: https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=5521F296-D460-2B88-081889DB12817E02

  1. Forty-seven wealthy Americans own more than half the private wealth of the United States. Eighty-five people own half the entire global wealth.
  2. Ten percent of total global wealth was ‘taken’ by the global 1% in the past three years. One of every ten dollars of global wealth has been transferred to the 1% in just three years.
  3. Almost none of the wealth that has been flowing to the top has led to innovation and job creation. Business startup costs made up less than 1% of the investments of high net worth individuals in North America in 2011. A recent study found that less than 1% of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. They come from the middle class. A shrinking middle class leads to lower levels of job creation.
  4. Every year since the recession, the increase in wealth to America’s richest 1% has exceeded the cost of all US social programs. The 1% took in somewhere between $2.3 trillion to $5.7 trillion. The $2.3 trillion is greater than the combined budgets for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire low-income safety net (food stamps, WIC, temporary assistance for needy families, low income housing, earned income tax credit, and supplemental security income).

When middle class working Americans slip into poverty; or see their families, friends, coworkers, and neighbors becoming part of the new poor, there is a tremendous loss of engagement and empowerment. This contributes to low levels of engagement on the job, and low levels of involvement with democratic processes (voting, working on campaigns, and grassroots lobbying for issues).

Despite the understandable disengagement people feel towards their jobs, between 1979 and 2013, productivity grew 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation grew only 8.2 percent. Productivity grew nearly eight times faster than hourly compensation. Just imagine what would have been possible for our economy, communities, and families if wages had increased at the same pace as productivity. (http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-americas-pay/)

When the middle class struggles to meet their basic living costs the economy suffers. This is particularly true when politics rewards the wealthy with tax breaks and bailouts, while expecting the middle class to bear more than their fair share of the cost of a civil society (education, public infrastructure, safety, health, and welfare).

The “American Dream” is a dream of economic and social mobility. We want to believe it is still possible to work hard and get ahead, to give our children a better life than we had. However, a number of studies of income mobility conclude that the United States has lower mobility than other wealthy countries. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2011/05/19/economic-mobility-and-the-american-dream-where-do-we-stand-in-the-wake-of-the-great-recession1

We don’t like to acknowledge the loss of the American dream. Few would argue that aristocracy or plutocracy, or rising inequality without class mobility is something that we can be proud of as American’s.

Our current reality is that the United States is not a “land of opportunity.” The American Dream, that anything you dream and work hard to create can be possible, is fading. Economic inequality destroys hopes and dreams.

We are wasting the possibilities that would be available if we had a strong growing middle class. We are also wasting the dreams of millions of middle class and lower income Americans.