Purpose Shared: Whole Person Leadership: Head, Heart, Body, Spirit

WPL Wordle.png

"The main challenge we are facing in the 21st century is a very busy brain." -Amit Sood, Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine; Chair of Mayo Mind Body Initiative

The 9/27/18 blog post featured the work of Dr. Sood. He notes that our brains and senses are inundated with information and demands that seem to take priority for what to pay attention to and how to act. But as human beings, and more importantly, as leaders, there is much more to be expressed as our authentic selves.

The six components of Whole Person Leadership—Purpose, Integrity, Presence, Resilience, Impact and Thriving—are key ingredients to success and fulfillment. These correlate with the concepts of trust/trustworthiness, emotional intelligence, physical well-being, spiritual expression, and professional expertise.


Being a "whole" leader calls on every aspect of our selves. It calls us to find the courage to bring all of who we are into everything we do: the brilliant parts, the messy parts, the parts we hide and the traits we feel most proud of. It offers the opportunity to connect more deeply to our power of purpose and lead more authentically from a whole person perspective, calling on all our senses and sensibilities.

Whole Person Leadership is built on your own personal values and life experiences, as well as understanding your strengths and growth points, hopes and aspirations. A focus on discovery of purpose and how to share our purpose is a great place to begin. Purpose is always about being is service to something larger than yourself: what gets you up in the morning and sustains you through the day? the week? the tough times?

What comes to mind as you think of all of what you have to offer? What does your head say? your heart? your spirit? Is anything missing?

The faculty of Whole Person Leadership for Women is hosting 2 Zoominars on Whole Person Leadership. We’d love your input and ideas.

If you’d like to explore more about Whole Person Leadership, join us for an upcoming Zoominar on October 17 or November 2
[45-minute Zoom + 15 minute Q&A]

Click here to register or contact Patricia @ pneal@centerfpl.com

Purpose Shared: Gratitude: How to quiet your brain


"The main challenge we are facing in the 21st century is a very busy brain. ..."

We are repurposing this blog post from 2013. It is still pertinent today, possibly more than ever.


I loved this interview. Dr. Sood speaks to the power of gratitude.

Mayo Clinic stress expert Dr. Amit Sood joins The Daily Circuit to discuss the steps he recommends to lower stress and enjoy the holidays. Sood's upcoming book is "The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living."

• "The main challenge we are facing in the 21st century is a very busy brain. We're all overextended. I'm sure you have more than 20 passwords. You have perhaps a dozen or more bills to pay. Our ancestors didn't have that."

• "The three most important things in holidays are relationships, relationships and relationships. Binge on quality time with your loved ones.... Don't fall off the wellness and budget bandwagon. And do something to honor the tradition. This is a time of hope. This is a time of forgiveness. This is a time of gratitude. Be extra kind to yourself."

Purpose Shared: CPL Fall Presentations


Purposeful Leadership is purpose shared. We are sharing the Center for Purposeful Leadership message* at these great programs and conferences this fall.

*Our Vision: A Purposeful Leader in every organization creating thriving cultures of purpose, trust, respect and collaboration.

A Journey of Purpose, Renewal & Thriving for Women
October 2018-March 2019

Patricia Neal with Vivian Jenkins Nelsen, Kimberly Kristenson-Lee, Lynn Nelson, and Claudia Eisinger welcome women leaders from across the country to participate in this unique program.

Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators
November 2-4, 2018

At the upcoming NCDD Conference Craig Neal will be participating in the D&D Showcase focusing on Healing the Divide.

The Art of Purposeful Leadership: Trust and Leadership
December 4-6, 2018

On 12/4 Patricia Neal and Vivian Jenkins Nelsen will co-convene a potent afternoon workshop.

A Purposeful Gathering of Humanity
November 7-9, 2018

At the upcoming Fusion 2.0 Conference in Minneapolis, Craig Neal will convene a Learning Lab: The Art of Purposeful Leadership: The Future Leader.

Purpose Shared: A Life's Purpose Realized: 1963-2013 to 2018


"I knew my life would be forever changed. I hadn't bargained on transformation in its very essence."


5 years ago, my letter was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Today, more than ever, there is a need to call our purpose into action. May Dr. King's life be a powerful inspiration to express the purposeful leader in each of us. This day 55 years ago is a constant reminder of why I do what I do. 
Your reflections and comments are welcome.

Letter of the Day (Aug. 27, 2013): On the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

I was a 17-year-old self-proclaimed “jock” from suburban New Jersey when a friend asked me to join her synagogue on a civil-rights march in Washington. With parental support, I ventured forth.

Our bus arrived early, so I walked along the reflecting pool to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I witnessed the preparations and eventually the speakers and singers, and ultimately saw the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver the “I have a Dream” speech.

Separated from my group and hemmed into place by the crowd on the steps, I knew my life would be forever changed. I hadn’t bargained for transformation in its very essence.

As King spoke, I turned away to the watch the sea of people spreading across the mall and beyond, and I fixated on a man in a black suit, black tie and hat with a sign that I believe said “We Shall Overcome.”

My lasting impression was this man and others dressed in their elegant best, with tears streaming down their faces, smiling and saying “amen” after each phrase. I knew at that moment that my life’s work would be for the sake of service to a dream of a better world.

CRAIG NEAL, Minneapolis

The writer is cofounder of Heartland Inc., a social enterprise organization, and is a former publisher of Utne Reader magazine.

Virtual Collaboration and Convening: 2 New AoC Trainings

Art of convening training

"Virtual collaboration is fast becoming the norm. Are you ready?" (Harvard Business Review, 04/24/18).

Whether you are leading a virtual collaboration or a weekly team meeting, an Art of Convening Training adds a powerful skill set to any facilitation or gathering.

Explore the art, science and application of convening and purpose practices to transform the way people meet and gather.



Jul 11, 25, Aug 8, 22, Sep 5                              Sep 12, 28, Oct 10, 24, Nov 7, 21, Dec 5

8:00am-9:30am Central US                               7:00pm-9:00pm Central US  

$199 by 5/15/18                                              $595 early bird by 7/15/18

2 payments of $100                                          6 payments of $100


The Purposeful Warrior: A Conversation with Meg Wheatley

Who Do We Choose to Be?
Leadership and the New Science

Meg Wheatley has been a seminal influence on CPL since the publishing of her book, 'Leadership and the New Science', followed in 2002 by 'Turning to One Another'.

As a Conversation Starter at our Thought Leader Gatherings, Meg brought a provocative yet compassionate message on leadership. In addition, her books were foundational texts for early Art of Convening Training's.

This interview allowed us to catch up on her new book, 

Who Do We Choose To Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity. 

We saw it as an opportunity to bring together our work on activating purpose, as purpose shared, and her work "to reclaim leadership as a noble profession that creates possibility and humaneness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil."

In a time of unprecedented volatility and disruption, Meg's fierce commitment to defining the new warrior as present and compassionate is what is needed today. It was a thrill and honor to be with Meg again.

 [Click to Watch Full Interview]

[Click to Watch Full Interview]

Craig on tough situations when convening/hosting a meeting!

 Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

During a recent Art of Convening Training, some potent questions about convening skill and strategy were asked. In this video, Craig addresses some of them. (some are listed below)

Craig Neal

<•> When leading a work meeting, if there is an argument or discussion that has not been resolved, should we allow time for further discussion to have a harvest or find inspiration or follow the agreed upon timeline?

<•> What if I’m not leading/hosting/convening? (I'm just a participant)

<•> When leading a work meeting or conference, if participants start arguing or loudly disagreeing, what shall I do?  How do I keep inner calm and access my true power?

<•> Would you share some examples of how to respond when people challenge you during your convening?

Let us know your thoughts!

Purpose Shared: Igniting a Purpose Revolution

 Photo Credit: Daniel Scotton

Photo Credit: Daniel Scotton

"There are good companies out there, and a lot of work needs to be done by companies to tell their authentic story and build a firm relationship with customers based on who the company is..."

I first got to know John Izzo in a tent on safari in Tanzania. Our 3-week journey led us to one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa. Our leader was none other than our mutual mentor, Richard Leider, the "Pope of Purpose." John had already established himself as a global leadership author, speaker, and consultant. Little did I know that 11 years later CPL and John would be joining Richard in a global purpose movement, and John would write a defining book called The Purpose Revolution.  - Craig

The Purpose Gap

Dr. John Izzo


What is the Purpose Gap? It is both an opportunity and threat in the business world today. It exists because there a distinct difference between what people desire and hope for, and what is actually being delivered by businesses and organizations. Today a purpose gap exists for both employees and customers.

Seventy seven percent of employees say there is matters a great deal to work for a company they believe in and a job where they have a sense of purpose. Fifty percent of Millennials would take a pay cut to work for the right company, and almost forty percent cite purpose as the main driver of their engagement and retention at work. Yet the vast majority of people, 75%, say that they don’t work for this type of company- that the company they work for mostly cares about profit and its own self-interest. Therein lies the purpose gap for employees.

Customers around the world are asking for more purpose than companies are delivering. Eighty percent of customers globally want to buy from companies that they believe are doing a good job in the world. Yet they feel confident that only 6% of the companies they do business with are actually good. In other words, they have a deep desire to buy good, but have no idea if the companies that serve them are good or not.  There are good companies out there, and a lot of work needs to be done by companies to tell their authentic story and build a firm relationship with customers based on who the company is, and what positive good it achieves.

My co-author Jeff Vanderwielen and I talk in The Purpose Revolution about how companies who close the purpose gap are going to

be the real winners. As employees and customers, we want more. The companies who listen and really deliver are going to be the ones we choose to work for and buy from. The Purpose Revolution is here. Are you ready?

Watch my Izzo on Purpose video to find out more about The Purpose Gap.

More here: https://drjohnizzo.com/purpose-blog/purpose-revolution/the-purpose-gap/

Craig Neal @ Fusion 2.0 Conference: Leading a Learning Lab

 Photo Credit:  Fusion2conference.com

Photo Credit: Fusion2conference.com


Exciting news!

Craig Neal will be leading a Learning Lab @ the Fusion 2.0 Conference

The Art of Purposeful Leadership: The Future Leader


11/7/2018, 11:20 a.m.-12:35 p.m.

Get registered to join him! group rates are now available. Bring your teams. For the best rate, register now while the preview rate is still in effect. 


Great Meetings - The Recipe: Part 2

 PHoto Credit: Daniel Scotton

PHoto Credit: Daniel Scotton

Any convened meeting, gathering or even a conversation has at its core practical ingredients or “principles” that are essential to the creation of a safe and generative engagement leading to powerful outcomes that engage everyone.

As the convener, you have the unique role of creating the recipe then to lead or facilitate people through the engagement AND to introduce the essential ingredients that will inform and assist in achieving the desired outcomes.


Any great meeting like a recipe only uses the best ingredients:

Starting with positive intent, the convener approaches each engagement as an opportunity to create possibilities. Suspending certainty allows for what we don't know to come alive.  We then listen for the wisdom in each voice and understand that slowing down the conversation will allow the spaces for creativity and innovation to occur. By hearing all the voices and perspectives we invite diversity and inclusion into the conversation. Then by looking for new ways of thinking and being, we are open to surprises and to new possibilities.

Great Meetings - The Recipe: Part 1

 Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

The Convening Method is much like baking a cake. Purpose is the flour, convening is the yeast. Convening activates purpose. The ingredients, all added at the right time, consciously tended in a step-by-step manner, can be successful time after time.

The recipe for convening transformational meetings follows a path:

  1. Start with a clear purpose and success factors. A two-sentence statement will do.
  2. Your agenda comes next. It will embody your purpose along with what you are to do together to reach your success factors or intent.
  3. Your invitation simply outlines what you are to do together that integrates purpose and intent.
  4. Giving thought and consideration to the space in which you meet is often neglected. Think what would stimulate and enliven the attendees beyond all the necessary materials.
  5. In creating safe spaces for authentic engagements remember the cultural norms and what agreements you wish to have to allow people to settle in and feel safe.
  6. Once in the meeting, how many times and how many ways can all the voices be heard to allow the opportunity for full participation?
  7. Essential conversation is the result of the preparation you have put into the first 5 steps of the recipe. Here we are aware of mood and level of connection each has for engaging in the agenda. Has the space been created for mutual trust and respect?
  8. Calling for a commitment to action brings clarity to what has been agreed to. A commitment to action invites responsibility, accountability, and commitment to an individual and collective way forward.

In Part 1 we gave you the recipe or the method. In Part 2, next week, the yummy ingredients!

3 Most Common Convening Questions (when the meeting goes off the rails)

 PHoto Credit: Daniel Scotton

PHoto Credit: Daniel Scotton

The consistent themes for why people enroll in the Art of Convening trainings:

  • their meetings, retreats and even conversations are totally not working,
  • or
  • they realize things could be a whole lot better, better efficiency, better buy-in, aligned outcomes.

1. The #1 common question is “How do I handle the person who dominates the meeting?” or “the non-stop talker” or “the bully.”

2. A 2nd common question is: “How can I make a difference if I’m not leading the meeting?”

3. The 3rd most common question: “How do I get people engaged to participate in the meeting and get aligned? When we walk out the door, the real meeting begins in the hallway.”

Click here to read how Bob successfully addressed some of these questions in his organization:  http://conta.cc/2EqHA4R

We will offer our learnings in future posts.

Five Most Common Convening Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

 Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

"Convening is about being open to relationship rather than closed. It is a challenge to choose to stay connected and open when our lives and schedules are full and our time is precious."

By Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Craig and Patricia Neal have been organizing gatherings and meetings for decades across the nation and have a pretty solid idea of what works and what doesn't. However, even seasoned conveners still make mistakes when bringing people together or forget what really matters.

In this entry, Patricia and Craig list the Five Most Common Convening Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them):


1. Not "Staying Connected": Convening is about being open to relationship rather than closed. It is a challenge to choose to stay connected and open when our lives and schedules are full and our time is precious. Stay connected by knowing who you are and how you want to be in relationship with others. You always have a choice when you walk into a meeting: do you want to be connected, or stay closed? Choosing connection can lead to collaboration, creativity, purposeful outcomes.

2. Fearing Rejection: The fear of rejection can derail our ability to extend a wholehearted and sincere invitation. Invite often - for all kinds of things - and experience acceptance and rejection as others’ freedom to choose rather than a personal success or failure. We often think that colleagues are too busy to talk beyond the cursory business at hand, but when we persevere, people are grateful for the opportunity to catch up and reconnect. Our fear of rejection, rather than rejection itself, was holding us back.

3. Making Assumptions: We say “assume and doom.” When we assume others know what a gathering’s all about, we put our gathering squarely in the realm of the unknown. Make the purpose and desired activity for a gathering as clear and explicit as possible - even if it seems unnecessary. At one important meeting, knowing we had only an hour, we jumped right into the action items. We neglected to set the context, assuming we were all on the same page. At the end of the meeting, people had different understandings of the purpose of the meeting and were not aligned in a commitment to action.


4. Reluctance to Impose Our Will on Others: “You’re not the boss of me!” How often have we said or heard words like that? But providing structure, environment and terms of engagement is a crucial part of convening. People need structure. If there is no structure, people look to create it. At a recent family gathering, we felt we should not be too controlling, but this led to a lack of clarity in stating the terms of engagement or agreements for a discussion. Everyone jumped in, in their own way, with cross-chatter and began talking over one another. It would have been better to state our expectations ahead of time to enable all people to be heard.

5. Impatience and Judgment: The compelling desire to “Just get on with it!” can rush us obliviously past the most important pieces of wisdom and capability present in our gathering. Remember, anyone included is equally important and essential. At the beginning of most meetings we do a check-in to hear from everyone. This one time we were 15 minutes late. we suggested we skip the check-in and move right into the agenda. Halfway through the meeting we realized we didn’t have everyone’s attention and didn’t have the necessary alignment to make important decisions we were there to make.

There are actually four other scenarios that generate obstacles for effective convening but we chose the five most common. What do you think? Did we choose the five most common? Do you have any feedback or ideas for us?

Stay tuned for the next article on 5 Things that Work and Matter.

Talent Revolving Door? The Soft Stuff is the Real Stuff: 3 Steps to Engagement

 Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

"Patricia and Craig recently presented at GTS Government IT Symposium, Dakota County employee development, Work/Life Expo for Women, and other venues with the focus of purpose, leadership, connection, engagement."

70% of American workers don’t feel secure in their job and with their company/organization.

What most want in life was to be “valued” as an “individual”.

An avalanche of research shows the most common reason talent walks out the door is their manager who is either micromanaging, not recognizing others’ contribution, and/or disengaged. More research shows that a sense of purpose and related skillsets are essential for authentic engagement. How are the two connected?

GTS Government IT Symposium

Patricia and Craig recently presented at GTS Government IT Symposium, Dakota County employee development, Work/Life Expo for Women, and other venues with the focus of purpose, leadership, connection, engagement. The “soft stuff”, the “touchy-feely” stuff. Right? Well, to quote Seth Godin* in a recent blog post, “Let's stop calling them the 'soft skills'.” 

What is at the heart of the matter? Your values as a leader are on show with every action. The “Talent Revolving Door” is a direct indicator of values of the


leader and/or the organization. Authentic engagement is an attractor and creates greater ease of communication and delivery because it builds trust. Trust is everything.

Organizations are scrambling for value-add for their product or service, differentiators to attract great talent, and increased productivity to do more with less. Authentic engagement is not only an expression of leadership values, but creates the conditions for collaboration at a truly different level.

HR is now recognizing that hiring for emotional intelligence skills is crucial to an individual’s ability to integrate into and connect with your culture, build trust, and deliver results. It is a key indicator of success.

Here are 3 steps to engagement:

  1. Commit to building authentic engagement as a skill set
  2. Commit to practice
  3. Commit to measure progress

1. Building authentic engagement

What are the essential elements? Engagement is more than creating exciting events or one-time recognitions. Fundamentally, engagement is about connection. The ability to connect with others in a way that lets them know they have been heard and you are seeking to understand and clarify what is needed, is foundational to building trust. In order to do that you must build the "muscles" of purposeful leadership: purpose, emotional intelligence, conversational intelligence, convening intelligence. 

2. Commit to practice

Just like an athlete building new muscles, building new skills requires practice, practice, practice! Learn, Practice, Repeat!

Some of the tools and concepts CPL employs include:

  • 9 Steps to Collaboration from The Art of Convening (CPL)
  • Conversational Intelligence Assessment (CPL)
  • Trust Changes Reality (Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser)
  • The Business Case for Trust (Vivian Jenkins-Nelsen)
  • More resources listed below

3. Commit to measure: informal and formal ideas

  • Give people stretch assignments and new opportunities to contribute and learn. This shows you have paid attention enough to measure their current condition, progress and can identify opportunities for them to grow.
  • Recognize and reward your people for their contributions.
  • Walk the floors to initiate regular conversation.
  • Convene virtual “town hall” conversations for new ideas.
  • Pulse Surveys. Short, frequent surveys are a great way to maintain a consistent pulse on the vibe in your office.
  • One-On-Ones.Another great way to measure engagement is through one-on-one meetings with employees.
  • Stay/Exit Interviews.


#Talent #AuthenticEngagement #Purpose #PurposefulLeadership #Collaboration

Trust Changes Reality TheBusinessCaseforTrust Convening wheel ConversationalAssessment

Work/Life Expo was an impactful day

"Creating a New Story for Work/Life: No More 'Business as Usual'"


Vivian Jenkins Nelsen and I really enjoyed participating in a fantastic day of visionary and practical stories and learning experiences at the 2017 Work/Life Expo. Our workshop topic was:

"Be a Purposeful Agent of Change in Your Organization: E.Q. for Leaders". We covered a rich list of topics from "The Business Case for Trust," one of Vivian's favorite subjects to the ROI of Purpose and Engagement for powerful collaboration. Contact us if you'd like to know more!

"At the heart of the matter is purpose. Recent research shows that a sense of purpose, not a specific set of characteristics, is the key to successful leadership. How do purpose and emotional intelligence work together? How do you find or align your purpose with your leadership? How can this transform your leadership and your team or organization? Thriving cultures create higher ROI and engaged people. Engagement is about linking life's purpose with work that matters. Engaged people are happier, more alive, productive and collaborative. Having a clear purpose is the key to successful leadership and thriving organizations."



We covered trust, EQ/emotional intelligence, CI-Q/conversational intelligence, neuroscience of connection, purpose, purposeful leadership, engagement, meeting design-- an amazing amount of information in a short amount of time.

Advancing Your Convening Skills

by Rachel Harris

 Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Once you have gained and practiced the skills from the Art of Convening, the learnings and processes don't stop! Leadership is an ongoing learning process full of new information every day. Convening skills support engaged, effective leadership. In order to see the most improvements in your convenings, how do you continually advance your skills? It's always about intent; sometimes it takes a little extra courage. Below, we provide insight to an encounter with one of our clients and how we helped them further their convening skills.

A client contacted CPL for a consultation on developing and conducting a meeting for 300 people.

This client had previously taken the Art of Convening Training and heard about the concept of suspending certainty. He inquired about how to practice suspending certainty in an upcoming meeting for an international audience. 

Here is what he learned: Practicing suspending certainty is one of the subtle methods that greatly advances your convening skills in conversation. Within the Art of Convening training, we employ these techniques for suspending certainty.

  1. Listen for the context and value of the conversation.
  2. Be Inquisitive. Notice and utilize opportunities to ask for clarifying questions before responding with an answer.
  3. Be patient. One of the ways to practice suspending certainty is to think about the times when you are asked a question and notice if you have any tendencies to respond quickly with an answer. Sometimes the person asking a question, in fact, wants to be listened to while they talk out loud and come to their own conclusion. 
  4. Set the tone of the meeting withagreements. Create an open floor; invite attendees to notice judgments and speak for their self. Invite attendees to discuss and voice their opinions. 

Incorporating these practices will assist you in adopting suspending certainty in your meetings and conversations. These four steps will also help to improve the value of your meeting by creating an open environment where your attendees feel welcomed. A welcoming setting creates a platform more people to engage and discuss.

Are you looking to improve and advance you convening skills? Check out CPL's training programs here to get started today. 

#PurposefulLeadership #Purpose #Leadership #Convening #ArtofConvening #Engagement

2017 Center for Purposeful LeadershipThe Art of Convening

Crossing Paths with Margaret Wheatley

 Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Purpose Fellow, Margaret Wheatley

by Craig Neal

On Tuesday, I attended an amazing gathering with Margaret Wheatley and Barbara McAfee. Meg is a catalyst of new thought and profound action; Barbara is a cross-pollinator and joy-bringer. 

Patricia and I created a traveling conversation with Meg back in 2002 and 2003 to support her newest book and its powerful premise that we are all change-makers. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. On Tuesday, Meg spoke to her latest book: Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality | Claiming Leadership | Restoring Sanity

Meg: “When Turning to One Anotherwas first published in 2002, I made a rash statement:


‘I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again.’ I still believe this. I still believe that if we turn to one another, if we begin talking with each other – especially with those we call stranger or enemy – then this world can reverse its darkening direction and change for the good. And I know with all my heart that the only way the world will change is if many more of us step forward, let go of our judgments, become curious about each other, and take the risk to begin a conversation.”

A poem by Meg that has been shared many times in our Art of Convening Training programs:

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.

Ask: “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.

Notice what you care about.

Assume that many others share your dreams.

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

Talk to people you know.

Talk to people you don’t know.

Talk to people you never talk to.

Be intrigued by the differences you hear.

Expect to be surprised.

Treasure curiosity more than certainty.

Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.

Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.

Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.

Real listening always brings people closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.

Rely on human goodness. Stay together.

Thank you, Meg and Barbara, for a great gathering and even better conversation. Conversation and engagement with one another creates a community of purpose and provides a way to grow with one another. Take advantage of this weekend and engage with those around you! 

The Nature of Leadership, Engagement and The Art of Convening

 photo credit: Daniel Scotton

photo credit: Daniel Scotton

"Convening leaders create and manage the social space within which citizens get deeply engaged. Through this engagement, citizens discover that it is in their power to resolve something or at least move the action forward."

Last week's blog interview with Bob Nordquist demonstrated the impact of convening when one is willing to take a big risk based on being in touch with core purpose. In Bob's case, it was the courage to risk his credibility by introducing a new business meeting design based on collaborative principles.

CPL friend and mentor, Peter Block speaks eloquently about the courageous nature of leader as convener in the piece below:

Leadership is Convening

The following is an excerpt from Community: The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, May 2008. 

In communal transformation, leadership is about intention, convening, valuing relatedness, and presenting choices. It is not a personality characteristic or a matter of style, and therefore it requires nothing more than what all of us already have.


This means we can stop looking for leadership as though it were scarce or lost, or it had to be trained into us by experts. If our traditional form of leadership has been studied for so long, written about with such admiration, defined by so many, worshipped by so few, and the cause of so much disappointment, maybe doing more of all that is not productive. The search for great leadership is a prime example of how we too often take something that does not work and try harder at it. I have written elsewhere about reconstructing a leader as the social architect.

Not a leader as a special person, but a leader as a citizen willing to do those things that have the capacity to initiate something new in the world. In this way, leader belongs right up there with cook, carpenter, artist, and landscape designer. It is a capacity that can be learned by all of us, with a small amount of teaching and an agreement to practice. The ultimate do-it-yourself movement. 

 Community building requires a concept of the leader as one who creates experiences for others––experiences that in themselves are examples of our desired future. The experiences we create need to be designed in such a way that relatedness, accountability, and commitment are every moment available, experienced, and demonstrated. David Isaacs of the World Café calls this “relational leadership.”  

This concept of leadership means that in addition to embracing their own humanity, which is the work of every person, the core task of leaders is to create the conditions for civic or institutional engagement. They do this through the power they have to name the debate and design gatherings. We use the term gathering because the word has different associations from what we think of when we say “meeting.” Most people do not even like meetings, and for good reason. They are frequently designed to explain, defend, express opinions, persuade, set more goals, and define steps––the result of which is to produce more of what currently exists. These kinds of meetings either review the past or embody the belief that better planning, better managing, or more measurement and prediction can create an alternative future. So the word gathering is intended to distinguish what we are talking about here, something with more significance than the common sense of the meeting.  

Engagement Is the Point

Leadership begins with understanding that every gathering is an opportunity to deepen accountability and commitment through engagement. It doesn’t matter what the stated purpose of the gathering is. Each gathering serves two functions: to address its stated purpose, its business issues; and to be an occasion for each person to decide to become engaged as an owner. The leader’s task is to structure the place and experience of these occasions to move the culture toward shared ownership.  

 Photo credit: pexels.com

Photo credit: pexels.com

This is very different from the conventional belief that the task of leadership is to set a vision, enroll others in it, and hold people accountable through measurements and reward. Consider how most current leadership trainings assert the following:  

  • Leader and top are essential. They are role models who need to possess a special set of personal skills.
  • The task of the leader is to define the destination and the blueprint to get there.
  • The leader’s work is to bring others on board. Enroll, align, inspire.  
  • Leaders provide the oversight, measurement, and training needed (as defined by leaders).  

Each of these beliefs elevates leaders as an elite group, singularly worthy of special development, coaching, and incentives. All of these beliefs have face validity, and they have unintended consequences. When we are dissatisfied with a leader, we simply try harder to find a new one who will perform more perfectly in the very way that led to our last disappointment. This creates a level of isolation, entitlement, and passivity that our communities cannot afford to carry.  

The world does not need leaders to better define issues or to orchestrate better planning or project management. What it needs is for the issues and the plans to have more of an impact, and that comes from citizen accountability and commitment. Engagement is the means through which there can be a shift in caring for the well-being of the whole, and the task of a leader as convener is to produce that engagement.

The Art of Convening

The shift is to believe that the task of leadership is to provide context and produce engagement, to tend to our social fabric. It is to see the leader as one whose function is to engage groups of people in a way that creates accountability and commitment. In this way of thinking we hold leadership to three tasks:  

  • Create a context that nurtures an alternative future, one based on gifts, generosity, accountability, and commitment. 
  • Initiate and convene conversations that shift people’s experience, which occurs through the way people are brought together and the nature of the questions used to engage them.
  • Listen and pay attention.   

Convening leaders create and manage the social space within which citizens get deeply engaged. Through this engagement, citizens discover that it is in their power to resolve something o