Holistic Leadership and Governance Dynamics – going Deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
“Holistic leadership and governance dynamics”. That’s a mouthful!
This pattern as it’s expressed in the heart is a sort of catalog of things that would go under “holistic leadership and governance dynamics”.
But there is a fundamental thing going on here that I want to point out first. It underlies a lot of the items in the list given in the pattern’s heart: The main intention and function of wise leadership and governance is to liberate and develop the capacities of individual and collective life to serve individual and collective life. This is intimately related to the prime directive dynamic, of evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole of behalf of the whole.
This kind of leadership and governance operates in the context the well-being and evolution of larger living systems we’re part of. And there’s a funny way in which, if you really take wholeness seriously, there are free resources in and all around you. You don’t have to push or micromanage so much.
Perhaps the best and most familiar example of that is synergy. You put things together in ways that yield more – more production, more aliveness, more strength, more whatever – than when you put them together in another way. In other words, the same things in one arrangement deliver more than those things in another arrangement. The arrangement itself makes the difference. There’s nothing materially or energetically added, just the pattern.
So this is very interesting. A simple example of it is if you have three metal rods and you weld them together into a triangle, you get more strength than if you welded those same three rods into any other arrangement. You can build bridges based on that principle. The triangular form of three lines generates power that isn’t there in any other arrangement. The arrangement itself adds something that is free.
And life has many ways that serve life in that way. Another classic example of synergy is water. Hydrogen and oxygen are gases at room temperature. And they have certain characteristics in that state. But when you put them together in a particular configuration, you get water. What the hell is going on there? Water seems so different from hydrogen and oxygen as we usually think of them. And it’s just that arrangement of those same things that so radically changes how they show up.
And permaculture offers another archetypal model for holistic leadership and governance. You have a site that contains a bunch of particular plants, some stones, the lay of the land, the weather, whatever… – and you’re going to help them be more productive. So you put some ducks in the garden to eat the snails that are eating your lettuce, and so on.
There’s a story of a permaculture guy who built a house around a boulder. He had this big boulder on his property that was the size of a semi truck. There was no way he was going to be able to remove that boulder. So he build a house that had a big living room right over the boulder, which had south facing windows so the light from the window shined onto this boulder which then warmed up and became this free heater in the winter.
How do you arrange things together so that they generate more? Here you have one of the basic underlying principles of wise democracy and co-intelligence and other models of reality and guidances like that. You see people in conflict, people who are different, who have different needs, who have different assumptions, whatever. They’re involved in a situation or in an issue domain where things need to happen. And what we see when we look at them is they’re fighting, their life energy is invested in undermining each other. And all that caring, all that money, is going down the drain.
We watch that in politics, the way it’s set up. You know, people care about things, but they care about them differently, so they’re using their energy to stop each other. But what would happen if you could actually find ways to line up even parts of that energy so it was going in the same direction, you would have incredible resources to deal well with the whole realm.
There’s lots of the patterns that have to do with that. So we can be aware of these dynamics. Again, we can tap into the prime directive – evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole. You are trying to organize a community or trying to solve a conflict or you’re trying to make an organization that works well or you’re trying to solve a social problem. Each one of these is a “whole scene” with many players and factors going on in it – many parts of the organization, many different parties involved in the situation….
“Parties” is such a great word, so clarifying from a holistic perspective. We have “party” instead of “holy”. We have different “parties” (or parts) involved in a conflict, or in a political domain. And as a holistic leader or governor, your job isn’t to say what’s supposed to be done and get people to do it. Your job is to make things into more of a synergistic whole – to have the parties become “holy” – that is, to be conscious parts of the whole that are moving together so they can move together consciously and well. So then, how do you do that?
Well, for example, many conversational technologies like deliberation, Nonviolent Communication, World Café – these are all ways to bring diverse people together to deepen, to go to a deeper place and see where the common ground is. (The Groundedness and Generating Shared Orientation patterns fit in here.) Where are the the places where their life energy becomes aligned so that they can move ahead together?
And that potential capacity is there in all systems, all situations, all people, groups, communities, societies, crises… so holistic leadership and governance is tapping into the fact that the whole and wholeness is always present and there are ways to access it for wisdom and resources to deal with the situation.