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)