Getting Started in Creating a Culture of Leadership using Open Space Technology

One of the best ways to create and nourish a culture of leadership is to use meetings as a catalyst. A fantastic method for carrying out interactive, highly participative meetings in which people experience their own leadership is Open Space Technology. I have favored the use of this meeting method since 1992 when I was an early pioneer with this work. I celebrate 25 years of incredible results from facilitating thousands of OST meetings!

Formal leaders who have an interest in nourishing a culture of leadership begin the process of moving towards a leadership culture from different starting points. Sometimes they want to go slowly, a little at a time. Sometimes they want to go big for a change in the interior terrain, a culture change as quickly as it is possible to make the leap from the existing culture to a culture of leadership. I like what the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron advises about all things in life “Start Where You Are”. And so, in creating a culture of leadership, we simply start where we are, and wherever the formal leader feels comfortable to do so.

Now, back to Open Space Technology and using meetings as a catalyst. We recommend including an Open Space Technology meeting as early in the shift towards creating a culture of leadership as possible. For a leader who needs to go slowly, kind of like just putting a big toe in the bath water to feel the temperature, the meeting may include just a few people, maybe even only senior staff. It is rather a small space to open, and yet it works just fine. There is no predetermined agenda and the theme is likely to be something like ‘issues and opportunities for creating nourishing a culture of leadership’. An agenda will get developed quickly, with topics created by those gathered in relation to what is in their hearts and minds for moving forward. Conversations happen for each of the topics, notes are taken, and recommendations are made.

The leader who wants to go big from the start and get on with creating and nourishing a culture of leadership quickly, will invite the maximum number of people possible, ensuring a maximum mixture from all groups within the organization who have a stake in its well-being. The number of people is usually limited by the number of people that the chosen venue can hold. In large organizations, the number is usually in the hundreds. Again, no predetermined agenda and a similar theme to the one mentioned above for the small group. The agenda gets created fairly quickly, which is surprising considering the number of people. The agenda is a good summary of what is in the hearts and minds of the people in relation to creating a culture of leadership. Conversations happen for each of the topics, attended by those who most care about that topic. Notes are taken, and recommendations are made.

People feel engaged. They are part of co-creating the organizational culture. They offer their leadership, feel a shared sense of vision, have the experience of important communication about what matters, and get to some idea of how the shift to a culture of leadership could be managed.

Open Space Technology is a great meeting method for movement forward in creating a culture of leadership. If you are thinking about getting a culture of leadership moving in your organization, don’t worry about how big or small a step you are ready to take right now. Remember, you need to start where you are. And no matter where you are, using this meeting method will be of good service to you.

Are you ready to take some steps to create a culture of leadership? Does it help you to know that you don’t have to take too big a step at once if you are not ready or to take a really big step if you are ready to do so?

Birgitt Williams
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Birgitt Williams is an international management and organizational solutions consultant, author, meeting facilitator, teacher, keynote speaker and executive coach. Her business focus is to create inspiring work environments that are highly effective in achieving their purpose and fulfilling their vision.

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