Tag Archive: leadership

Leadership quotes

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside of ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
~JK Rowling

“Given the right circumstances, from no more than dreams, determination and the liberty to try, quite extraordinary things consistently happen amongst ordinary citizens.”
~ Dee Hock

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
~ B. Fuller

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiation and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

~ Goethe

“Leadership: listening to what is emerging in order to bring it to reality, as it desires”
~ Otto Scharmer

“A leader these days needs to be a host – one who convenes diversity; who convenes all viewpoints in creative processes where our mutual intelligence can come forth.”
~Margaret Wheatley

“When people who are actually creating a system start to see themselves as the source of their problems, they invariably discover a new capacity to create results they truly desire.”
~ Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski and Flowers, Presence

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.”
~ Peter Senge

“The leader’s responsibility is to name the debate, knowing what we need to focus on, and naming the questions.”
~Peter Block

“I’m not the Civil Rights Movement. I’m an expression of it.”
~ Martin Luther King


An ode to active citizenship

Today I was referred to a fantastic interview with Peter Block on the content of his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging – highly recommended! Diving into Peter’s brilliant wisdom in this three part YouTube clip, I was reminded of the profound significance of citizenship and the role of leaders in engaging people to act on what matters most to them.

Reclaiming our citizenship

Much of my work around sustainability is exploring the barriers to change. As an environmental scientist, I used to believe that giving people more information – better, more targeted, engaging, simple, meaningful, practical information – would cause them to act to change their unsustainable ways of living, surely! After some years of disbelief, and thanks to some great teaching around behavior change from Doug McKenzie Mohr, I now realize that more information will not create change. If it did, most of us would have reason to be living in radically more sustainable ways. So why is it that so many people are disengaged from acting to make their lives more meaningful, as well as contributing to the wellbeing and survival of other humans, other animals, and all species into the future?

There’s probably not one simple answer ; ) But in the last few years, I’ve come to see that as well as the need to understand our interconnectedness, our understanding of ourselves as consumers rather than as citizens plays a huge role in whether or not we are impelled to act to work with others to create better ways of living.

So much of our lives are shaped around our assumed role as consumers, and this saturation becomes self-perpetuating: with the desire for more stuff driving longer work hours, making it less and less possible for people to interact, to see each other at community events, or volunteer their time. Sadly, as Peter Block points to in his interview, this cycle is dangerously addictive:

“Being a consumer is guaranteed dissatisfaction – looking to others to satisfy what you can’t satisfy yourself…This culture has become addicted to looking for things from the outside.”

So if a life as a consumer is dissatisfying as well as draining on the planet’s resources, and at hyper levels creating barriers to so many around the world being able to fulfill their basic human needs, what is the alternative?

Active citizenship

It sounds simplistic, but the shift in understanding of ourselves as citizens, as opposed to a consumer or client or customer, is profound.  To be a citizen “means that you’re capable of producing something, of diagnosing your own problems, of deciding what’s important to you (Peter Block 2009)”. To understand yourself as a citizen implies that you believe  you have the power to change your life, and to help shape the lives of others for the better.

Currently, those working on social, environmental, economic or political problems focus on creating high level solutions through science, funding, or policy creation. This macro-level work is essential. AND at the same time, I believe working on the micro scale to engage active citizenship is revolutionary, world changing and very necessary work.

“The most important contribution any of us can make now is not to solve any particular problem … What we must do is increase the proportion of humans who know that they can cause change.” ~ social entrepreneur Bill Drayton

“The idea that more programs, more money, better leadership, more expertise, is going to create a different future, it’s not – the only thing that’s going to create that is a deeper sense of connectedness, social fabric, community, citizens thinking this place is mine to create” ~ Peter Block

Leadership as hosting the conversations that matter

One of the most interesting parts of Peter’s interview, pitched towards public servants and elected local government representatives, was his challenge that the role of leaders is not to represent others. Democracy, and most leadership thinking, rests around the idea that we elect others to act on our behalf, and that those we vote for act as proxy for our best interests.

“I think the role of elected officials is not to represent citizens, but to confront citizens with their own freedom” (PB)

This is a huge challenge to our common view of leadership, that others can do public interest work for us (and if it doesn’t work, it’s the fault of that individual or political party, or the system itself!). This handover of responsibility removes us from our own sense of power and possibility, given we’re not in an official role with a mandate to ‘do good’.

Instead of representing others, or defending the city’s progress to citizens as if they were clients, Block advocates that the tole of elected officials should be to convene citizens to meet with each other and have the conversations that matter.

“The leader’s responsibility is to name the debate, knowing what we need to focus on, and naming the questions.”

“If you want to create a different future, you have to have a different conversation. And the conversation we’re having now doesn’t have the power or capacity to create a different future” (PB)

Just as importantly as offering meaningful questions, leadership is about having a “conversation about the possibilities, not the problems” – a generative lens through which positive action is much more likely.

Toasting to the profound promise of transformation through simple acts of active citizenship in service to possibility, everywhere….

Thanks to vivian Hutchinson, friend, mentor and leader in social entrepreneurship in New Zealand for sharing such an insightful piece, and for helping inspire active citizenship through the inspiring ChangeMakers platform.

ChangeMakers’ 5:10:5:10 tool for self-defined citizenship action is an inspiring but simple catalyst for supporting each other to step into more active citizenship, wherever we are and whatever we care about:

5 – spend 5% of your time on active citizenship tasks

10 – do ten actions in the next year on your personal passion for making a practical difference

5 – spend 5% of your income directly supporting the citizenship actions that inspire you

10 – join with ten other people to create a learning community to support each other’s work for change

What could your 5:10:5:10 be? And how could you help convene the conversations that help others awaken their citizenship action?

Organising as hosting

My first posts on the Art of Hosting training last week shared some of my harvest from Peter Senge, Margaret Wheatley and the amazing hosting team for the training. Thinking about my learning from the event I realise that as well as the great content, so much of what I learnt was around how to call and host an event, and to collaborate in practice to bring the training into being as a shared outcome from the Masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability, KaosPilots and Team Academy.

It’s often easy for me to overlook the arts that go into organising, and instead focus on the inspiring external presenters, skilled facilitators and the excitement of who is participating and what happens once the event’s started. But what if organising wasn’t boring logistics management, and instead an important service as part of the hosting arts, done in dynamic teams and full of valuable learning and service?

Toke Moller gave me a valuable reminder on the importance of organising as a hosting art, and asked Benjamin and Liher (my great co-organisers from KaosPilots and Team Academy) and I to share our learnings from organising the training over the last two months more widely. So here’s a first go at extracting some of my personal learning from organising. There are lots of great models out there to support event organising, such as the 5 Breaths, Chaordic Stepping Stones, and useful project and event management tools. The Art of Hosting list serve is another good resource for learning from organising hosts around the world.

CALLING an event

Start with a powerful urge

When Karen Miller held a short Art of Hosting (AoH) workshop with MSLS students last November, I was immediately on fire at the potential I felt a longer AoH training held for MSLS students. As change agents for sustainability, we need to be able to effectively engage groups of people. Personally, I wanted to grow my own hosting skills, and the content of AoH put me back in connection with a lot of the valuable group process work I’d done through Heart Politics gatherings, a four-day Dialogue on Genetic Engineering (pdf), and the Stewardship Learning Community in New Zealand.

At the end of the session I told my classmates that I’d look into possibilities for us to attend an AoH in training. The more the idea sat with me, the more my energy grew around the possibility of not just showing up to an event, but making one happen for ourselves.

Jump on opportunities

With great serendipity, through my friend Jasmine Cargill I met Toke Paludan Møller, one of the founders of AoH, at the Inner Climate Learning Village in Copenhagen at the time of the climate change negotiations. I mentioned the idea of an Art of Hosting training for young change agents to him, which sparked his interest, and we said we’d be in touch.

Share the excitement with a few change agents who can build the idea and run with it

The next night I met the wild fire connector Benjamin Degenhart from KaosPilots at a Survival Academy event, and mentioned the idea of an AoH training for young people to him. In his great style of running with ideas he has energy for, the next day at the Survival Academy Open Space session he brought students and AoH hosts together around the idea, and stood at the end of the day to commit to making a training happen. Suddenly, the idea was a possibility held by not just me and keen MSLS’ers, but by a connected KaosPiloter and one of the founders and Stewards of the Art of Hosting.

Share the dream and create a wider team

A few days later Liher Pillado, Rogerio Gonzalez and Henna Kaariainen from Team Academy with great foresight and trust came to visit MSLS in Karlskrona to introduce us to Team Academy and discuss over two evening workshops how our two programs might be able to collaborate. Benjamin jumped on the opportunity of adding KaosPilots to the discussion by travelling from Copenhagen for the 2 days, and quickly we began to appreciate the different strengths of our radical education programs, variously focusing on social innovation, sustainability and entrepreneurship, and on the potential for us to compliment each other by collaborating together.

At the end of our second workshop we had a project ‘birthing’ session (a great Team Academy process) on how we could collaborate together, and about ten people self-selected to work together as representatives of the three programs. We decided that an Art of Hosting training would be our first tangible project in order to get the collaboration ball rolling. Soon after a  Sustainable Kaos Academy (SKA) Google Group was set up as a collaboration platform between the programs.


Form a tight hub to hold together

Over the holidays Benjamin, Liher and I started overloading the SKA Google Group with long posts of early stage organising. With a first Skype call with Toke coming up in early January, we decided to take the initiative and form a tighter organising hub to really run with the project. While we kept up the communication with Sustainable Kaos Academy (SKA) reps, working with a tight-knit team was really critical to our ability to create a major gathering in such a short time period, allowing us fast turn around on decisions and a high level of accountability to each other.

My learning from working with Benjamin and Liher on a daily basis over a month and half period was incredible. I have huge respect and heart for ‘my boys’ and would go anywhere with them on future projects – just send me the call guys : ).

Create a vision document

Liher created a ‘Pre-Motorola’ document for us, a pre project plan in Team Academy language, which set out how the project was established and what we were seeking to achieve. Looking back, going through this process together would have been really helpful for us as an organising team to set out our purpose, bottom lines and goal posts very clearly.

Set up an organising infrastructure and use it

Given we were working to organise an event from our bases in Sweden, Denmark and Spain, our online infrastructure was critical. We found a Google Group to be pretty clunky for SKA, so set up a Wiki for AoH Karlskrona organising, which proved to be very easy to use and great value. For participant lists we found Google Spreadsheets really helpful, embedded into appropriate pages on our Wiki.

Benjamin, Liher and I met twice a week by Skype at the same time, and wrote up minutes from our meetings directly on the Wiki, making an effort to record decisions and actions more clearly as we went along. Skype chat was also a useful way to harvest outcomes from group discussions in real time. For documents we needed to draft together we tried out GoogleWave a few times and found it much easier than resending emails to each other with lots of changes.

Pay attention to the practicalities

With so much content in such a short space of time, email chains got pretty silly quickly, and so we made an effort (most of the time, eh Benjamin ; ) to create separate emails with specific subject lines, and to bold the ‘ask’ or required actions from an email. All simple stuff, but makes a huge difference in practice with a full inbox. As much as we could, we tried to save more complex discussions for our meetings and record key actions on the Wiki for permanent archiving and to avoid email searches and confusion (thank god for the search function in gmail which also got used a lot!)

With payments coming from different countries and invoices needing to be created, it was really important to have someone with experience to manage the finances and keep track of payments – huge thanks to Liher, Henna and others from Monkey Business, and their contracted book keeper, which we set aside budget for.  We calculated a break even point in terms of participants and based the hosts’ payment on this, with an agreement to allocate any profit from additional participants above this number, including the possibility of creating a seed fund for future collaboration events.

Meet regularly

With busy lives as full-time students going through exams and project deadlines, there were a few times when I was tempted to drop one of our twice weekly Skype meetings. I was really glad we kept with them, as there was always decisions to process, and they helped keep up our connection and momentum. In future for meetings of more than three people I think I’d invest in an online conference call platform, as the quality of our call with ten people on a Skype line for meetings of the hosting team was very variable and sanity-testing! Apparently http://www.freeconferencecall.com is a good platform which we’ll use for our last meeting with the hosting team.

Value the relationships

More and more I see that the quality of connection and working together determines the outcomes from team projects. Having a personal check in and check out at the beginning and end of each call was really valuable for getting to know each other and deepening our relationships, as well as processing challenges as they came up. Learning about our organising was also a regular agenda item for our meetings, which we harvested in our minutes and on Google Wave.

Make a great invitation and build the excitement

We spent quite a bit of time drafting and redrafting the invitation for AoH Karlskrona, which Ronny from MSLS then turned into a funky graphic invitation which we distributed via a website and in personalised emails to our own programs and networks. The website and promotion via Facebook and Twitter were good ways to hype the event, although Benjamin found that presenting face to face with KaosPilot students was important for helping them understand what the event was actually about and what the value was for them in attending.

Subdivide roles

Originally I thought that as a group we’d develop our strengths by taking on different roles than what was usual for us. But in the short time we had we ended up working to our strengths and clearly subdividing our roles, which was a successful strategy for us. Our role breakdown was:

Benjamin: Online platforms, promotion, key contact and coordinator for hosting team, KP funding and collaboration product, invitations, managing RSVPs and payment from KP’s and external participants, oversee workbook production for event.

Liher: Budget, invoicing and financial management, communication with hosting team re payment, invitations, managing RSVPs and payment from TA participants and those paying in cash.

Kati: Overall project oversight, venue, MSLS funding, invitations, managing RSVPs and payment from MSLS, and overseeing a fantastic MSLS team management of invitation production, catering, accommodation for participants, printing workbook, orientation for visitors, harvesting materials, cleaning. 

Get support from a wider team

Without support from a much wider team of incredibly generous MSLS volunteers, Benjamin, Liher and I alone could never have organised the training. I can’t underestimate the value of an on the ground organising team who select and self-manage their area of responsibility, with a number of group meetings and ongoing support from a core team. Financially, the training would have been totally inaccessible for student participants without the generous financial support of the KaosPilot and MSLS Programs, as well as a number of local and international businesses who believed in the project.

Prepare people before the event

It seemed that warming up participants before they arrived by using an online Ning was really successful. This allowed participants to see each other’s faces and learn more about each others’ networks, projects, and motivation in coming to the training. Anna, Sophia and Maureen from MSLS also produced a great detailed Arrival Guide which went to all participants, letting them know about Karlskrona and what to bring so there were less individual questions.

After a few scrambles and some innovation on the first day, I realised how important it is to give organisers the information they need before they have to make something happen, rather than reviewing what didn’t work so well afterwards. By halfway through the first day I found it useful to have conversations with people who were responsible for catering, harvesting materials, cleaning or other areas about what would be needed, what the time frames were, and who they could involve, so they could self-organise to do a great job.

Hand over, let go, and participate!

While a huge amount of work went into organising the Art of Hosting Karlskrona training, it was incredibly satisfying to see people step into the training so fully right from the start. I felt the incredible value of being in an organising role, physically hosting the hosting of an event, and seeing the value others got from the experience, and really feel that the sense of service that organising brings is more needed in the world, particularly the feeling of shared organising for shared outcomes. Because of this, I’m becoming more comfortable in asking people to take on part of an organising role, and letting go of my tendency to try and do things myself: an area of really valuable learning! So once we’d got into the organising swing by the end of the first day and all the roles were covered by small self-organising teams, it was great to step in as a full participant on the second day.

Celebrate, reflect, harvest and share your learning

Gratitude for this incredible learning experience, and for the appreciation and recognition of AoH Karlskrona!

This is my first go at harvesting my learnings on organising as part of a hosting role. If it would be useful, Benjamin, Liher and I would be happy to share our Wiki, budget and other resources with you in the spirit of shared learning, and to be in conversation to support your organising. Feel free to get in touch on kati.aroha @ gmail.com

Meg Wheatley at AoH Karlskrona

I really appreciate the voice Meg Wheatley has on the importance of conversational leadership and learning together. We were lucky enough to have her join us by web conference at the Art of Hosting Karlskrona training last week. I was struck by Meg’s contributions on perseverance, hope and a leader as host. Here’s some of  her key notes:


  • There is only one kind of leadership that works – leadership that respects and develops others.
  • Always work in the spirit of ‘I know what you are capable of’. Similarly, WE can be much more than we are, as humanity.
  • What we need is already here. The leadership we need is here.
  • How a leader evolves is dependant on whether they trust others
  • Authoritative leadership turns people into robots, where they begin to be asked to be told, and not to think or respond personally.
  • Chaos is our most sustainable resource


  • There are not enough people on the planet thinking more deeply

Leader as host

  • Collaborative processes bring us together with others’ skills and knowledge that will be required for the change we need in the world
  • How much time do we put into making people feel comfortable with the meaning of our lives? Not much compared to the time we put into hosting people physically.
  • In chaotic times the world reverts to heroic leadership. In uncertain times we need more than ever to turn to the community.


  • Who amongst us knows the answer? No one! Collaboration will save our lives.
  • Collaborating, we all grow smarter, and we grow closer
  • Collaborating creates the conditions for sustainable lives
  • We must make a decision to work together


  • Begin with passion. But passion does not give us the ability to persevere.
  • The world is calling for great perseverance.
  • “Every day I have to decide not to give up”
  • Urgency acts to fracture our relationships and drive us apart from one another. Ugency pushes people away who’re not focusing on the same issues, or have a different idea from mine. Urgency exhausts us. Urgency is a trap.
  • Anger also doesn’t give us the capacity to continue working. Anger is a parasite that destroys the host. There’s more than enough to be angry about, but what do we chose to do with our anger?
  • We must pay attention to our inner state – need to be grounded in the long term.
  • Notice what motivates you – this will directly affect your results. And chose a motivation that allows you to persevere, from which you can say “This is my work no matter what, I can’t not do this work.”
  • Focus on the work I want to be doing no matter what. This takes discipline.


  • Work without hope because it automatically brings in fear and despair, the shadow sides of hope.
  • The place beyond hope and fear is where we need to work

For a fantastic article on the power of conversational leadership, the ‘leader as host’ idea that Meg refers to, see Conversational Leadership – Thinking together for a change

On the 20th February we were lucky enough to have Peter Senge join us at Art of Hosting Karlskrona, a facilitation training I co-organised for 90 young leaders collaboration for change.

Peter Senge has always been a leading thinker and leadership guide for me, so it was hugely inspiring to talk with him by web conference and to have him sound so many valuable notes around  leadership, intergenerational dialogue, community and collective change.

Here are some of my highlights:

Youth leadership, the future and intergenerational dialogue

  • We have a long-term loss of connection with the future. This is enhanced by modern society excluding the voices of children and young people. An emotional connection with the future is so critical to the profound changes that are required in the world.
  • People are predisposed to listen to young people’s voices – they hit us in the heart and have an unexpected authority and influence from young people’s voices. Just think of the contrast between hearing about an issue and looking at a trendline, and looking into the face of a child.
  • Young people doing community building are agents for profound change
  • “I know of no quicker way to bring the future into the present than to bring in children and young people.”
  • We need networks of mentors that span generations.
  • Look for commonality – there is so much! But commonality is not revealed when you focus on one controversial issue – this puts people into opposition mode and simplistic polarisation.


  • ‘Change’ is a problematic idea
  • People don’t resist change, they resist being changed!
  • How do you evoke wanting to change? How do we create spaces where people can connect to their aspirations?
  • Don’t get caught up in opposing the status quo. Be a force for the future without reinforcing polarisation.
  • Span the issues. Suspend the rigidity of your views, which is an expression of our fears.
  • Speak to our potential and the possibility of the future
  • Start with the people who are most predisposed and invite others who are less disposed in to join you
  • So many of our views and assumptions are informed by a view of humanity at our worst. Let’s work from the basis of humans at our best, and use the natural energy of our desire to be who we really are and can be, and our genuine desire to help one another.
  • We don’t need to solve all the problems, or have a plan in place, we just need to make some progress and use this momentum to drive further changes. Do one of two things and the momentum will grow!
  • There is no ‘answer’. Let go of their being an answer, and don’t worry about solving all the big problems. Focus on the quality of relationships, small steps, and gain momentum.

Collective leadership

  • Leadership must be catalytic, rather than an end unto itself
  • Respect is a cornerstone of effective process – people need to feel respected
  • A powerful act is simply to get people (including children, young people and older people) together, host them well, and reveal collective wisdom.
  • Collaboration is the human face of systems thinking.


  • Everything we do is to build networks of relationships
  • Communities are a synonym for microcosms of the world
  • Community forces you to embrace diversity
  • Communities must be geographic or at least able to meet face to face. Web-based communities are a compliment for face-to-face communities.


  • Find your deepest source of aspiration
  • See with your heart – this is literally the meaning of ‘courage’
  • ‘Enlightenment’ = open heart
  • The oldest Chinese symbol for mind is heart
  • As humans we have a knowing of the heart
  • Let go of the attachment to the mind and intelligence. Pay much more attention to your deepest feelings.
  • Just keep doing the work!