The Issue:

Leaders persuade others to take risks. And, they take very big risks themselves. Leaders assure others. They calm anxieties. They make decisions. Paradoxically, sometimes they influence others to rein in their impulsiveness. They are sometimes willing to "keep their powder dry," and wait for a more auspicious time to act, even when their emotions propel them to "do something!".

Leaders help others understand the future. They look at the conditions of a particular situation through a holistic lens. They see the big picture while others are hypnotized by the pixels. Comprehending context, they know how to mobilize human energy, technology and other assets in a strategically intelligent way.

Sometimes, leaders have an uncanny intuitive sensibility that points them toward the right course of action while others are still trying to figure out the options. They are intense, direct and, often, charismatic in front of an audience. Many are very funny and charming. Occasionally, some are distant and mysterious.

In our demanding, complex, confusing and turbulent world, few leaders seem to have staying power. Those who had the "answer" when the Dow seemed destined to hit 32,000 are no longer relevant as the markets teeter on the verge of a crash. Some of the "geniuses" of two years ago can be seen on television currently "taking the Fifth" in front of Congressional committees. Leaders with courage, integrity, focus, and intelligence are in short supply. In virtually every domain of life, the positive power of optimistic leadership is being drowned out or muted by mediocrity, cynicism, materialism and the hawking of the quick fix. From every corner of the world and in many, many different types of endeavors one hears the anguished cries for more and better leadership. How can these calls be answered?

The Programs

Many believe that leaders are born and not made. And, in fact, as in athletics, there are many examples of "naturals," i.e., men and women who simply seem to master system forces and mobilize others without a great deal of conscious effort. Certainly, good genes, caring parents and a creative educational background are sometimes more than enough for people who become strong leaders.

On the other hand, many people grow into their capacity to exert leadership. Many who manifest little leadership capability in one situation display enormous talent to inspire and coordinate others when they face a different set of challenges. (And, conversely, some who are good leaders in one context, fail miserably in another.) Many people who are already good leaders benefit from structured and intentional reflection on their current practice. And, leaders frequently collide while pursuing differing and/or competing goals and strategies, bruising themselves and their followers. These conflicts can be particularly painful when good leaders represent different components of the same larger system. What might be good leadership in a narrow context turns out to be limiting behavior in a broader one.

New Context's leadership development programs concentrate on three interrelated competencies:

• Systems Thinking
• Interpersonal Skill
• Creativity

Exercised in an integrated way, these skills create "systemic partnership." Partnership exists when people who are part of a system are truly in support of each other, both in the way that they work together and regarding the mission of the work itself. True leaders, in our opinion, are people who create systems in which partnership is a deeply ingrained characteristic of the culture of the organizations they steer.

All of New Context's programs are related in some way to the acquisition of the skills needed to build partnership at all levels of organizational life. On a number of occasions, we have created integrated leadership development programs. Mindfulness is a core principle of our programs. Being mindful of (a) people - their needs, their strengths, their vulnerabilities and aspirations - (b) relevant trends and data, and (c) one's own inner life are keys to great leadership.

With this focus on the enlargement of consciousness as a priority in leadership training, here is an example of what one set of components that New Context might integrate into a model leadership development program might look like:

Introduction of the concept of partnership through the Organization Workshop. Via a richly textured simulation, the Organization Workshop provides a "whole systems" overview of the dynamics of organizational life. It provides leaders with a unique perspective on the interaction between the various components of that social system called organization. The Organization Workshop helps leaders to understand that much of what seems to be intensely personal in organizational life is really systemic, i.e., driven by forces that are built into the very nature of organizational structure. This insight provides leaders with leverage: the stresses and needs of people in different parts of the whole can be addressed more skillfully and in a more thoughtful and coordinated fashion. The framework provided by the Organization Workshop has many features that can be elaborated through individualized coaching and through work with internal human resource organizations.
2) Not Your Old Mental Model? introduces some profoundly important building blocks to enhance creative thinking. ÊIn this workshop, the critically important concept of "limiting mindsets" is explored in depth via a set of applied exercises that direct participants toward their own ways of thinking about their organization and their personal thoughts about organizational problems and how to work with others. The leadership slant of this program emphasizes the importance of helping others to see their own mindsets and to understand their limits. This workshop can also be a springboard for a wide variety of other creativity training offerings from New Context, such as The Idea Factory, FutureTense and Personal Mastery and Team Learning, an intensive three day program co-designed by New Context affiliate, Mark Horowitz.
3) A Collaborative Approach to Conflict creates an educational forum through which participants can really dig into how they "tick". Using powerful tools such as the personal learning case, leaders can learn to "slow down" their responses to stressful situations in order to get a fuller picture of the facts and opinions at work and generate a richer set of action options. A number of leadership groups have used the personal case methodology to explore "action dilemmas" in a way that leads to a much higher level of learning at both the personal and organizational levels. An action dilemma is one where a response is required but every possible response has unintended and unexpected consequences. The skills at self-reflection taught through this program help participants both to minimize these unintended consequences and to be less reactive when they do occur. As with the other components of this program, Individualized executive coaching can take participants into a depth understanding of their ways of dealing with others, especially when they are in conflict with others or facing an internal conflict.
4) An Introduction to the Fifth Discipline is a program conducted in conjunction with New Context affiliate, Rick Karash, a close associate of Peter Senge's who has taught systems thinking throughout the world for over twenty years. Rick is incredibly skilled at helping people and groups understand their "maps" for comprehending any type of situation. He is a master at "causal loop diagramming" a key systems thinking tool that participants can use to identify relationships between forces and factors that develop over time. With this insight, leaders are in an improved position to take high leverage initiatives that address the root causes of long-standing problems rather than reacting with short term fixes. As with the rest of the New Context consortium of affiliates, Rick is also available for Individualized executive coaching and for focused follow up consultation of all sorts.
5) Customized conferences designed and implemented by the participants is another component of New Context's leadership development curriculum. The content of the program is contingent upon the needs and objectives of the leaders involved in creating it. New Context consults to the participants in the program regarding the scope of their effort and how to create an event (or series of events that will meet the specifications for success. In one instance, the leadership of a large scientific research organization created a "science show" to showcase a particular type of technology. The technologies highlighted represented a set of inventions that required various scientific disciplines to work together more closely. The conference was a terrific success and resulted in both more meaningful conversations on cross-disciplinary cooperation and in the institutional influence of the leaders who backed the program in the first place.
6) Individualized executive coaching is typically an important ingredient of New Context Consulting's leadership development programs. In many instances, New Context's personnel will have one hour phone consultations with each participant in the process between every component of the training program. In some cases, participants may meet with New Context team members on a number of occasions to work on specific issues related to systems thinking, creativity and/or interpersonal competences that come up during the course of the series of workshops.

This model program is indicative of New Context's approach to leadership development. However, it is not an exhaustive representation of the frameworks and tools that are available to clients working with us. Successful leadership development programs require a long-term investment, a significant degree of customization and the careful assessment of each componentÕs contribution to the program's overall objectives. The specifics of the design would entail a close working relationship with representatives of a particular client system.