This post was written by Marty Raphael, a Newfield graduate of the Coaching for Personal & Professional Mastery program and a Newfield Program Mentor Coach.

This is an excerpt from Marty’s podcast, “Rethinking Leadership.” You can listen to the full episode here.

I think the most generative definition of a leader is someone who declares the shared future that other people follow with commitment—not just compliance, but commitment. Many of my clients are in that conundrum: how do we engender followership?

A lot of organizations are in dire resignation. People are showing up out of compliance more than out of commitment or enthusiasm. That’s why an effective leader needs to declare a shared future that has all the interests of his or her constituents in mind, so that when people hear that declared shared future they say, “S/He’s watching out for me, I can get on board with this and I’m in. I’m going to go the extra mile; I’m a team member, and I’m here.”

This definition of leadership is the one I like to hang my hat on because it’s vast in terms of the exploration of what it is and how to “do” that kind of leadership. It also has to do with linguistic, somatic, and emotional distinctions and with the soul of the organization.

This definition is also particularly helpful given the times we live in. We complain about how fast changes are coming at us every day, and the reality is that it’s not going to stop—it’s going to continue and it’s going to get faster. So, the clients that I work with are all reaching for adaptive methods for how to manage everything that’s coming at them and navigate it with some kind of elegance, order, and feeling of effectiveness.

The underlying issue is that leaders have to learn how to walk the path of unknowing. In the past, we had the luxury of knowing where we’re going and making five-year plans and ten-year plans, but that just is not the reality these days. There are so many disruptive technologies coming at us all the time that cause us to have to reboot, reset and adapt. So resilience is a central topic with my clients these days. How do you be resilient, how do you be agile?

A lot of people are resigned and have given up. They say, “I don’t know how to walk the path of unknowing. My organization expects me to know what the future is and how to deal with it, so I’m going to put one foot in front of the other, but I’m not always happy to be here because I’m not really inspired. I’m just kind of hanging on and it’s not that much fun.”  A lot of clients think they’re finding a business coach because they need to change their lives, or they need to choose a different route because their calling has exhausted itself and they think they have to look somewhere else.

Often what I find is that the resignation has within it a narrative of, “There’s no use, I’ve exhausted all my methods of adapting and my ideas about how to manage all of this, so I’m either going to give up or I’m going to find another way through this.” Through coaching, we come to other emotions that are more generative. Such as: maybe there’s a possibility… maybe if I don’t insist on knowing the future…maybe if I’m just present and I bring my body soul, heart, emotions, and mind altogether, maybe I’ll see something I haven’t seen before. And that always happens.

We say the Latin root of conversation is changing together so I think we ontological coaches can make the promise that when you leave a coaching conversation you are a different Observer. You’re not the same Observer that showed up at the beginning. And that’s very heartening.


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About the Author: 

Marty Raphael is an Ontological Business Coach and Consultant focusing on social and organizational change. She is also a published author, mediator and speaker on such topics as Global Ethics, How Coaching Impacts Leadership and Complexity and Emotional intelligence in the Workplace. She has been a mentor coach with Newfield since 2001 and a mentor coach with the Institute for Generative Leadership since 2008.

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