Leading from The Emerging Future

Submitted by Katharine Weinmann on December 13, 2013 - 7:30am

Leading from the Emerging Future is the title of Otto Scharmer’s most recent book.  My co-hosts for our recent Art of Hosting BIG Decisions convened a book study and as I read and reflect, I realize it’s a perfect preparation for the field so many of us are intent to create.

We encountered Otto at our first community of practice, the summer institute of ALIA - Authentic Leadership in Action - in Halifax.  In 2003, I was introduced to his initial conceptualization of Theory U and recognized it as THE way into helping leaders evolve their practice as we faced more complexity and higher stakes. 

A weighty tome of a read, Theory U evolved from The Fifth Discipline authored by Otto’s mentor-collaborator, Peter Senge.  Where The Fifth Discipline introduced us to the blending of systems dynamics, organizational change and creative process, Theory U and presencing, became the language and framework for learning - not from the past, but from sensing and responding to emerging future possibilities -  leading and innovating profound system change.

Grounded in the profound recognition that “form follows consciousness,” Otto and his work-life partner Katrin Kaufer write in this now distilled and more accessible read, “The success of our actions as change makers does not depend on what we do, or how we do it, but on the inner place from which we operate.” (18)  An inner place that asks us to remember who we really are and what we want to be as a society.  An inner place that requires us to expand to think with wide-open hearts.  An inner place that shifts from an ego-system of awareness focused on what’s good for me, to an eco-system awareness that cares about and tends to the well-being of all, including me.  This inner shift, they offer, “is at the core of all deep leadership work today.” (1)

Attending to the inner place from which we live and lead and make big decisions, is what we explored together in November when we learned about and practiced hosting one’s self well.  Further, we were intent to “create the conditions that allow a deeper alchemy” (16) for our reflections and conversations to co-sense, co-inspire and co-create those future possibilities.   Playfully and creatively, we made peace with our voice of doubt and judgment, cynicism and fear – the three enemies to connecting to source of our deep presence and authenticity. (30)

“Pioneering the principles and personal practices that help us perform this shift

may well be one of the most important undertakings of our time.” (2)











Creating the conditions

 This is wonderful Katharine! Thank you for another great post. A few years ago, while completing my masters in leadership and sustainability, I was led through a U-journaling exercise that brought my classmates and I through the different phases of the U-process and ultimately brought us to deepest part of the U - presencing. It was a wonderful reflective practice and after reading your post I'm inspired to do this exercise again! 

"Playfully and creatively, we made peace with our voice of doubt and judgment, cynicism and fear – the three enemies to connecting to source of our deep presence and authenticity" - how true that these are the enemies for most of us yearning to connect deeper to our authentic selves and who wish to operate from a place of presence. Would you be willing to tell us a bit more about the exercise(s) you used to help your group make peace with these voices?


Making Peace with our VOD,J,C

Thanks for your great question, Kirsti. 

I hosted a morning of intuitive process painting based on the Point Zero method I study with its founder, Michele Cassou

Called Painting from Within: A Genus of Originality...Yours, each participant stood at their "painting station" with brush, watercolour tablets, paper and water, invited to play with brush stroke and colour, and assured that:

NO previous painting experience was required

NO painting technique would be taught

NO critique or comments would be made on their work

NO mistakes ever happen!

Process painting is not about art making.  As a rather Zen-like, inquiry based process, inexpensive paper and liquid tempera paints or watercolours become the ways in to and through our self-limiting habits of minds to pure creative gesture and expression. 

We paint and put it away – with no technique, critique, interpretation or meaning making.  “It’s just a stupid piece of paper” where “we cannot make a mistake” become our mantras for diving deeper into our innate creative wellsprings. 

While not expressive therapy, its benefits may be therapeutic as one is invited to question their blocks, challenge the “demons” of interpretation, technique and product, and voices of doubt, judgment, and cynicism, to discover a light, playful, energetic way of painting.

How do these “lessons” transfer beyond the paper to all aspects of our lives?  We grow in confidence to take risks, to silence the inner critic, to play, to make messes and see them through to beauty and never seen before newness, never giving up on ourselves.