A Case Study in Collaboration: Whole Person Leadership for Women

 by Patricia Neal

by Patricia Neal


"What is most exciting is that even though there are clear outcomes and objectives for the program and each session, we also know that this is a dynamic and emergent process"


As Oprah said beautifully at the Golden Globes recently: "A new day is on the horizon [for women]." Now is the perfect time to explore and bolster whole person leadership for women.

A year ago, Rachel Harris had the idea to renew an offering for women leaders from 2008 as a way to explore what Whole Person and On-Purpose Leadership means in the world of life and work for women leaders today.

What it means to be a woman at work has evolved significantly since 2008 to include an understanding that to be a great leader, integrating who you are with what you do is crucial. Additionally, the definition of "leader" has expanded beyond a title to include situational leadership that calls on not only functional capacity, but capacity for authentic engagement and collaboration. Perfect opportunity!

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What began a year ago as an endeavor of 2 expanded in scope and capacity with the addition of Center for Purposeful Leadership team members as content contributors, and so much more...

With the addition of this dynamic team, what has transpired is a collaboration of spirit and expertise. I presented the initial concept and inspiration as a basic framing. Since then, each team member has assumed a role of stewardship and primary contributor to design from not only their area of content expertise, but from many-decades-real-time experience with the challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace, as well as their own personal and professional development.

This evolution to stewardship didn't just happen by accident. We utilize the principles and practices of convening to create a consistent structure, path and map to build trust and mutual respect, parallel to getting work done.

We follow the thoughtful 9 steps of the Convening Wheel as the structure of each meeting and conversation. At the center: the heart of the matter.

What is at the heart of the matter is always a crucial place to begin. So, what IS at the heart of the matter? First and foremost, we are colleagues that did not know one another before being introduced by CPL becoming trusted colleagues and even friends. What is crucial is a relationship-first orientation.

Next, in a collaboration structure that is developing quickly to meet the timeline of the work to deliver, there are some crucial constructs still being worked out:

  • How are all voices heard?  
  • How do decisions get made that honor each voice and expertise?
  • What are our individual and collective values?
  • What does excellence look like for each of us and for the whole team?
  • What do we agree are the "non-negotiables" for trusted participation and delivery of content?

We are "building the ship" as we design program and presentation together. We set sail next week on January 22 for the first of five Zoom video sessions and complete in May for a 2-day in-person Summit.

What is most exciting is that even though there are clear outcomes and objectives for the program and each session, we also know that this is a dynamic and emergent process: the learnings that emerge from each of the sessions and [very accomplished] participants will guide and propel us towards that final two days that will be more about co-discovery than about teaching and learning.

I can't wait to see what happens and who we will be by June 1!