Organic Models of Leadership

The past two weekends I hosted two General Assemblies for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Mexico City and San Antonio.  They are an international and intercultural community working in education, healthcare, literacy, and social justice.

They committed themselves to developing an “Organic Model of Leadership” 4 years ago and have been living into what that means.  Within the community they named principles or values for how they work together:  Participation,  Relationships,  Co-responsibility and accountability,  Corporate unity,  Multiculturalism and Formation (continue growing).

Working from a Livings Systems Model

We explored several aspects of working within a living systems model.  First is the nature of change.  We explored the dance between Chaos and Order – and the challenge of finding the new forms of organization that serve the mission as the community and world changes.  The need to be adaptive as part of this dynamic.  This is the The Challenge of Walking the Chaordic Path. The congregation had let go of many of the formal control structures and thus  had experienced the “chaos” that comes with this type of change.  They are committed to creating structures that are alive and helpful!

Different Forms of Leadership for different challenges

As we organize for the challenges we face, different challenges will need different forms of leadership.  Some challenges require us to call a circle – or council – and deeply listen for what is needed.  Other times we need to organize for action and have a lead coordinating our activities (hierarchy).  Bureaucracy comes in when our complexity grows to  the place we need clear roles and very coordinated activities.   We are also all learning the power of networks and what can self organize through Networks.     What forms of organizing serve a particular challenge or mission?  What do they need in different places and situations?  (See Organizational Paradigms).

This comes together in an interesting way for the Sisters of Charity.   They have the Global Leadership Team which is overseeing the full congregation – they are the “Stewards of the whole” — Naming where we are going, Connecting important efforts, Nourishing different teams and efforts, and telling the story of how they are living the mission and addressing their core challenges as a congregation.  They help to see that the leadership is coming forward for important endeavors in the life of the community.  Always inviting more participation and co-leadership.

Taking Responsibility for What We Care Most About

Our key question was how do we organize in service to the mission? Amplifying the things that are working, and adapting where it is not.  With the mission of the community at the center they are exploring new organizing patterns.  They have committees who hold leadership for key areas such as bilingual, formation, peace and justice, etc.  The names are brought forward from the community and is held in an international and intercultural manner.   Other Life and mission circles help hold the local responsibilities for the community and are forms of feedback and participation.   They also have bureaucracies in place to run particular institutions.  This multidimensional and emerging model of leadership with purpose/mission at the center has been called in the Art of Hosting Community the The Fifth Paradigm.

We met during the afternoon in Open Space to discover “what are the important conversations we need to be in to support the mission and the well being of the community.”  – through the open space we experienced the “organic model” at work as we organized around our passion/diversity and took responsibility for the things we cared most about.

They are on their way to discovering the next generation of the Organic Model.  I look forward to staying connected in their learning journey.

My co-hosting partner in this endeavor was the gifted Maria de Los Angelas Cinta who is part of the World Cafe Community.  What a gift to design and host these gatherings together with the leadership of CCVI.


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