Quality Transformation: Leadership

In this month’s column, David Schwinn defines leaderships and the ways in which everyone becomes a leader.

As quality professionals, we must continually ask ourselves how we can improve our own leadership. This month, I am sharing the first blog my wife, Carole, and I wrote for our new website about this topic, http://www.practicingwholenessguide.com.

Whom Do You Choose To Be? The Case for “Next-Stage Leadership”

In Meg Wheatley’s latest book, Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity (2017), she urges us to become the leaders needed now, in preparation for the looming “descent into chaos.” In their own book, Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects (2014), Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown label three different sets of beliefs that are commonly held about what the future holds: Business as Usual, the Great Unraveling, and the Great Turning. Business As Usual is the perpetual growth story; the Great Unraveling parallels Meg Wheatley’s views; and, the Great Turning perspective believes in “the emergence of new and creative human responses,” that will “propel the transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life Sustaining Society.”

To us, no matter our perspectives on what the future might hold (including the belief in an equal potential for all three possibilities), the central question remains the same: “How will we become the leaders needed now?” Whatever your role(s) in life – parent, teacher, community activist, or CEO of a global corporation – your role as a leader (which Meg Wheatley has defined as “anyone who wants to help in these times”), the challenge is to continually develop as a creative and responsible participant in the unfolding of life on earth. We call this process of development Next-Stage Leadership.

Theorists have for decades mapped out, defined and labeled (and sometimes argued vehemently about) the stages of adult development. From Robert Kegan to Jane Loevenger to Bill Torbert and Susanne Cook-Greuter to Ken Wilber, there is general agreement that 1) we continue to develop throughout our lifetimes; 2) there are definable stages of adult development; and 3) an overall framing takes us from an orientation toward “’me’ (ego- centric) to ‘us’ (ethnocentric) to ‘all of us’ (worldcentric)” (Wilber, 2007), or what we called “selfness” to “otherness” to “wholeness” in our 2014 book, The Transformative Workplace: Growing People, Purpose, Prosperity and Peace.

So what does Next-Stage Leadership mean? It simply means that no matter who we are, what role(s) we play in the world, what we believe about the future, or where we are on our own developmental path, it is incumbent upon us to:

  1. Learn more about adult development
  2. Take responsibility for your own next stage
  3. Repeat

There are many paths to those three steps: every one of the theorists above and many others each have their own take on the trip. Our own pathway is pretty simple, accessible to everyone, and based on the theory of William James, the father of modern psychology, who famously said:

If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.

Our belief is that the leaders needed now share a number of qualities or ways of being in the world that all of us can emulate through practicing, or acting as if we already embody them. We call that process Practicing Wholeness and you can access it here: http://www.practicingwholenessguide.com. Welcome!


Read the opening to Meg Wheatley’s book here: http://margaretwheatley.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/MW-WhoDoWeChooseToBe.pdf

Read a summary of Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown’s book here: https://workthatreconnects.org/choosing-the-story-we-want-for-our-world/

Read a comprehensive article on adult development courtesy of the Center for Creative Leadership here: http://www.ccl-explorer.org/adult-development-theory/

Read Ken Wilber’s The Integral Vision here: http://www.mcs-international.org/downloads/085_the_integral_vision.pdf

Read reviews of The Transformative Workplace here: http://integralleadershipreview.com/14621-carole-and-david-schwinn/and here: http://www.enliveningedge.org/reviews/the-transformative-workplace/.

I believe you are a leader, whether you use Meg’s definition or my own that I believe that a leader is anyone who influences the behavior of others, whether they have a title or not and whether they are conscious of that influence or not. I, too, invite you to investigate Next-Stage Leadership as a way to improve your own leadership, your quality improvement effort, your organization, your practice or professional group, your family, your community, or the world. Check it out at the Practicing Wholeness website, www.practicingwholenessguide.com. As I write this, the website is still under construction. By the time you receive this reflection, it should be up and running.

As always, I treasure your thoughts and questions.

David Schwinn

David Schwinn