Place Makes the Leader
What is place-based leadership?
I’ve been asking that question since May of 2010, when I was invited to a dialogue session around the subject.
Since that time I’ve been asked to give numerous presentations on place-based leadership, and at first I was nervous about it. Though I had found the subject compelling, it seemed wispy – not tangible like strategic planning, organizational design, or action research.
My fears were unfounded: people consistently resonated with the concept of place-based leadership in a multitude of ways; some even saying the experience was "life changing." One organization in particular, The Green Ribbon Initiative (GRI), whose purpose is to educate and create awareness of a unique ecosystem called the Oak Openings Region, shifted their entire mission and strategy in light of engaging in conversations around place-based leadership.
What they’ve discovered is that place is not separate from us, but part of us. And at the deepest level of who we are, we are integral to place. In many cases, the environment surrounding us matches the way we feel about ourselves inside, matches our cultural norms, and matches how we choose to relate to one another and Earth.
So it may be worth asking: how does place impact your organization?
Some questions to consider: is your office configured in a way that will support engagement, creativity and collaboration? Has the built environment you work in impacted the natural environment you live in? Is it an environment that seems “sick,” or encourages health?
How do you engage with the environment you work in? Do you notice it at all? Leading from a sense of place means understanding that it becomes a place because of our engagement with it, our perception of it, through our being here; and then asking ourselves: What kind of place are we crafting or giving shape to? What is our impact on this place? What developing processes can help people discover place and enhance the experiences they have in it?
Michael Jones posed that we are used to the artist or the architect making place visible, but how about the leaders? Place-based leaders bring alive the energies of an organization or community by taking into account their unique characteristics as a source of belonging, veracity, spontaneity, and inspiration. How does place support our relationships with others so that we may appreciate each other’s gifts and hear each other’s stories? How can place hold us or support us in what we are trying to achieve, even in damaged or unnatural places? How congruent is the place around you with your deepest values or the purpose and values of your organization?
These questions are merely seed for place-based leadership to grow out of. My hope is that people and organizations will become aware of the powers of place and create their own strategy in service to place. How do places you have experienced in your life affect you as a leader?