Leadership Experience

I’ve spent the last week or so totally immersed in the redesign and expansion of OpenSpaceWorld.org. The new site will debut in another week, but the learning is already going live.

After 6.5 years of building and managing the site, mostly solo, I’ve created a wordpress-based weblog and am inviting a number of others to co-author and ultimately co-manage the site. Working at the edge of this shift, it’s clear to me that I really don’t want to “let go of control.”

What I do want to do is share my experience and expand awareness. I know much about the site, how it’s built, how it runs, what is possible. It’s this awareness that I really want to expand, to invite others into. I have no need to control decisions, but I do have some sort of inner drive to share what I see and what I know. Then we, whoever comes into the working group, can make decisions together.

So often we criticize a leader’s “need for control” without distinguishing a (perhaps deeper) need for sharing experience and knowledge about the work. Notice that the latter (sharing) requires that a leader’s experience be met by a follower’s respect and attention, while the former (criticizing) implicitly assumes that the leader has nothing special or advanced to share. Of course, the sharing also requires that leaders actually do bring some depth of experience.

All of which has me wondering… Is the churning and flattening of organization crushing experience, eldership and learning? Are we inviting expanding awareness or just working to stay in control? What’s your experience?

4 Replies to “Leadership Experience”

  1. Michael,
    I have been enjoying reading your blog. And now that Chris Corrigan and Wendy Farmer-O’Neil have gotten me so turned onto blogs, just today I got a feedreader.

    Wendy told me about how she was collaborating with you in the reworking of OSW. I think it’s wonderful that you are redoing the whole site.

    I don’t know if there is any way I can help. I did tell her that I was interested in helping out.

    My own personal interest in this process is to then get ideas about the design of OSW for Runet.

    At some point, I would love to have a phone conversation with you. I have missed you at the two OSonOS’s I have attended at very much appreciate your contributions to os and ost.


  2. On the money my friend. THis is a critical tension between letting go and abandonning. I would say that invitation is most powerful whenit acknowledges the experiences and frees people in the room to be able to draw from that experience. So in corporate OS events that looks like leaders going to customer service people for stories, or young recruits going to old timers for advice, or younger managers going to more seasoned, but lower ranked vets for wisdom. OS does flatten so much as it loosens. The connections that are placed by arbitrary sturcture can come undone in OST and people find themselves exactly where they need to be.

  3. Yes, yes, Raffi… join the fun!

    And Chris… that’s exactly the tension, between letting go and abandoning. And what I think we so often risk abandoning, or sometimes might try to deny, is experience. The rich, full, roundness, slowness, and depth of experience. Some of that experience is uncertainty and confusion, some of it satisfaction and pride. These things aren’t always readily admitted and acknowledged, I think, because “leaders” aren’t supposed to be confused or take personal credit. The real challenge, it now seems, is for leaders to open space for themselves.

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