The reason we have interest in Next Generation Leadership is because the last generation of leadership interpretations were inadequate. They didn’t deliver the goods of enabling actual leadership and leadership results, however captivating the leadership framework and stories.
Leadership is a field that needs some clarity and usefulness where we outgrow our appetite for “next generation leadership” because the last generation didn’t produce satisfaction and effectiveness. We need an understanding of leadership that is fundamental, clear, observable, necessary, executable, rigorous, and learnable. We need an interpretation that brings us closer to the “eternally valid aspects” of leadership, regardless of culture or historical era.
Leadership, as with any other field of human endeavor, is a field of distinctions, practice, and discourse. As a discourse, leadership shows up for us based on what story and distinctions we have for it, and these shape and enable the actions we take as leaders. Our personal discourse of leadership may be rich and enabling, or sparse and remote. For many people “leadership” is just a word that names something that is not clear, a bit mysterious, but seems important. They lack the distinctions to see, learn, or carry out effective leadership, though they do experience occasional moments where it seems to happen anyway.
Leadership draws tremendous attention with many books, programs, and approaches, as we try to explain, show, inspire, and enable effective leadership. The wide diversity of interpretations and approaches is also a symptom that we don’t have a clear shared interpretation of what it is. We don’t have, for example, such a wide diversity of interpretations for basic chemistry– it’s pretty settled as a field of understanding, interpretation, and practice. We still lack such a foundational understanding of leadership. The diversity of approaches to understanding leadership is reflected in a wide diversity of business leadership programs, business management courses, executive leadership programs, and offers of leadership coaching.
“Generative leadership” is the name of the field that has been focused on developing just such a fundamental set of leadership interpretations and practices, to find identifiable fundamental structures and regularities of the ways that effective leaders observe, act, and generate results. We don’t believe that generative leadership is the only, final, or right interpretation of leadership, but rather that it provides a fundamental and permanent dimension of leadership interpretation that addresses what is missing in the mainstream common sense. It provides a focus on what is fundamental and non-discretionary about leadership and also provides a frame which allows for variations in style, culture, situation, and historical moment. It acts as a foundation and cross check on other interpretations to increase the value they can provide by addressing the generative aspects of: what is observable, executable, learnable, and produces leadership outcomes.
The roots of generative leadership extend back into a discipline called ontological design, developed by Dr. Fernando Flores, and it is related to the field of ontological coaching, developed by Julio Olalla. The discipline draws from many other fields including neuroscience, linguistics, somatics and embodiment, …