Generative Capacity-Building a core organizing strategy for an ever-evolving future.  

Reinventing Leadership Development

Our view of what's possible is determined by our beliefs—our assumptions about reality. Below are two collections of assumptions about the work of developing leadership within an organization— two different conceptual/perceptual boxes.

  The first box lists a collection of interwoven assumptions that seem implicit in many of today's approaches to leadership development.

The second box lists some "designer beliefs" that open the door:
  • To developing highly leveraged and organic leadership development strategies.
  • To the possibility of an organization's mastering generative capacity-building.

  1. For Box #1, read the assumptions carefully and place a checkmark by those that seem to be operational or implicit in the actions of the leaders in your organization.
  2. For Box #2, read each assumption with the same care and place a checkmark by those that strike a resonant note, or are at least intriguing, for you personally.
Box #1 Assumptions
  • Leadership can be described in terms of individuals applying special knowledge and skills.

  • Knowledge and skills can be effectively imparted through formal training.

  • Formal training is an effective means of developing leadership.

  • Leaders are individuals. Focusing on the development of individuals is the optimal approach to their development.

  • Some people have potential—others don't. It is important to single out those with really high potential and give them lots of developmental opportunities.

  • It is important that developmental approaches be easy to manage.

  • Training, especially by outside sources, is very easy to manage.

  • Systemic change initiatives (E.g., building specific new organizational capacities, restructuring, merging, centralizing, decentralizing, or re-engineering) are experienced as disruptive to normal work. Therefore, it is optimal to tackle these systems change initiatives as special projects.

  • Since systems change work is so complex and disruptive to normal work it's best not to involve the people who are doing the real work of the organization until we know exactly what we want them to do.

  • Systems Change Work is different from leadership development.

  • "Core Work," i.e., working on quality of community, quality of relationships, and developing inner mastery is soft, wimpy—definitely not "real work"—not a part of developing real leaders.

  • It is important for leaders to be able to "motivate" and otherwise manage the behaviors of "their" people. Leadership development programs ought to equip them with those skills.

  • Concern for the world outside the organization's boundaries ought to be focused primarily on customers and competitors. It's vital not to get distracted by external issues that don't directly impact near term results.

Box #2 Assumptions
  • An organization consists of a dynamic web of agreements and relationships in support of a common purpose.

  • The quality of leadership within an organization is interdependent with the nature of those agreements and the quality of those relationships.

  • The quality of an individual's leadership might best be measured by the capacity for leadership that is developed in those she "leads." Said differently, you might measure an individual's effectiveness as a leader by the nature of the agreements, the quality of relationships, and the sense of purpose grown within her sphere of influence.

  • Leadership is a social act. Leadership development is inherently a social process. It is learned very naturally through experiencing leaders in action, in consciously taking the risk of being a leader no matter what your position; and in getting clear feedback and coaching from those affected by those actions.

  • These natural processes of developing leadership can be greatly accelerated when context, infrastructure and guidance are all designed to promote and support these natural processes.

  • Leadership development is most efficient and effective when it is woven into those social processes that make up an organization's normal operations.

  • We humans are blessed with an enormous potential to contribute. We are much more than we think we are. We each have unique gifts to give. Providing people with the opportunity to discover their true work and to give their unique gifts is one of the greatest contributions a leader can make for those he serves.

  • Discovering your true work is vital to tapping into your potential for leadership and individual contribution. Organizations that become masterful at matching the true work of its members with organizational needs will have a significant performance edge over those that don't.

  • Every organizational challenge/crisis can become a wonderful opportunity to develop organizational capacities and individual capabilities.

  • Approaches to learning, development and change that go for the multiple and multiplying benefits of wholeness have the potential to become generative, i.e., to become self-improving, self-regulating, self-propagating and even self-evolving. Generative approaches, by definition, yield extraordinarily high True ROIs.

  • People have an innate yearning and capacity —
    to make a difference
    to contribute
    to collaborate
    to support one another
    to experience community
    to develop high quality relationships
    to learn
    to grow
    to excel
    to be a part of something larger than self
    to lead and to follow
    to make the world a better place to live
    to be all that they can be
    to leave a legacy

    All of this is our true nature. All of this is inherent in our wholeness. In many ways, our traditional organizing structures and processes can be blocks to our realizing our natural wholeness. There is a virtually unlimited source of human energy and innovation that is available to us—individually and as organizations—as we learn to unleash our full potential and access this wholeness.

  • Evolving truly generative approaches to developing leadership learning and change capabilities will become increasingly important to business strategy development. It can become a sound high-leverage investment with huge organizational resilience and sustainability payoffs.

  • The work of transforming leadership and the work of transforming organizations can be visualized as the two wings of an eagle. Setting out to transform one without transforming the other is like trying to fly with only one wing. You tend to go in circles and never really get off the ground.

  • Organizations are living organisms and follow the principles that guide all of life throughout our planet. Organizations are not machines. There is much waste and suffering when organizations are designed and operated as machines.

  • It is possible to achieve the same efficiency, resilience, effectiveness, beauty and freedom in our organizations as we find throughout the rest of nature. Nature mastered the art and science of metamorphosis eons ago. We can learn to tap the same genius that brought us that transformational miracle.


Box #1 Assumptions — If most of the beliefs listed in Box #1 seem to be operational within your organization, you have a lot of company. The good news is that there is tremendous potential for improvement in the effectiveness of its approaches to leadership development.

Each of the Box 1 assumptions has some validity. However, when these assumptions dominate an organization's strategy for developing leadership, the following kinds of results are common:
  • Mostly, not much changes. We keep on keeping on.
  • Change tends to be incremental and to reinforce a clockwork view of organizations and people, no matter how "enlightened" the content of a particular approach.
  • Developmental work and developmental workers tend to be marginalized.
  • These assumptions become self-fulfilling.
In general, fragmented approaches to development, learning and change tend to be self-referential, sometimes disempowering, often energy draining, usually distracting, and only marginally valuable, even when well executed. With those kinds of results it's a no-brainer to abandon such initiatives when times get tough. Perhaps the biggest reason for their recurring popularity is that they are easy to imagine, to plan, to implement, and to manage. Fragmented approaches offer the illusion of minimizing distraction from "real work."

Box #2 Assumptions — If you're intrigued by the assumptions listed in Box #2 you have a much more expansive developmental playing field to explore. This set of assumptions is more aligned with the developmental ideal we're labeling as "generative capacity-building."

Although the cultural and organizational shifts implicit in expanding from Box 1 to Box 2 assumptions may seem over-whelming, the rewards from such a metamorphosis can indeed be as dramatic as the caterpillar-to-butterfly miracle.

Just as our Wholeness Lenses open up new design space, Box 2 "designer beliefs" can open up new possibilities for those committed to shaping more generative leadership development strategies.

If you're interested in exploring what it might take to actualize Box #2 Assumptions within your organization, checking out Generative Capacity-Building — The Offering would be an appropriate next step.

Believing is seeing

The extensive array of beliefs, principles, lenses, models, stories, etc., featured in this web site are "gear" for the "designer of infinite games"—all design tools to help the architect of generative learning and change strategies.