Eldership as the New Leadership

Nelson Mandela Eldership

Eldership as the New Leadership

by | 12 Mar 2019 | Leadership, The Grey Matters Network Blog

According to this model of adult development, less than 10% of our leaders have the developmental capacity to match the complexity of the issues they face, and that includes President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May. This mismatch, which gets resolved at the next stage in our or their development, looks more like Eldership than Leadership.

In so many respects, it has never been a better time to be alive. Modernity has made us healthier, wealthier and living much longer. Modernity’s gains, however, have come at a cost. New and different issues have arisen that are global in origin and systemic in nature; globalisation, global climate change, global population expansion, global migration, human longevity, the threat of nuclear war, the disruptive impact of biotechnology and artificial intelligence and the absence of global governance.

None of these issues can be solved by nation states alone nor can they be fully appreciated from anything less than an Interdependent level of consciousness, and that’s where Eldership comes in.

Unpalatable as it may seem, out of 18,000 surveys of leaders/managers/consultants in Europe and America over the past few decades, 34% profile at a Dependent level of consciousness (associated with Reactionary leadership), 56% at an Independent level of consciousness (associated with Pragmatic leadership) and less than 10% at an Interdependent level of consciousness (associated with Transformative leadership).

Why is this such a problem? Because the complexity of the issues we face are manifesting at a level of consciousness above that of the capacity of our leaders to respond. We experience this as a leadership crisis, but really it is a development crisis. Too few of our leaders are operating from an Interdependent level of consciousness and that’s where Eldership can help. Eldership is leadership at the next stage.

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How much better off would we be to have Eldership as our model of good leadership, rather than the more conventional management orientated definition we have now? Eldership would start by asking, what is our vision and what contribution do we want to make, in its broadest sense? The vision for an organisation or a society is what intention is for us. It addresses the ‘why’ question; why are we doing what we are doing?

Strategy comes next.

What structure or plan do we have to translate that vision into a reality? Then comes the implementation, the actual doing of what is required. As the old saying goes, “you can’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind”. Finally, there is the ongoing review or feedback, which tells us, whether we need to change what we are doing (single-loop), what and how we are doing it (double-loop) or what, how and why we are doing it (triple loop). More ethical, responsible, grown-up ‘Eldership as leadership’ quite naturally integrates these four territories of experience (vision, strategy, implementation and review). Conventional leadership misses two of these; it confuses a strategy for a vision and responds to feedback by ‘doubling up’, we’ll go on as we were because we said we would.

Eldership transcends the doing to which it adds a vision to underpin it and an ongoing inquiry that enables it to remain on track……

This blog is an extract from a longer piece called “More Eldership, Less Leadership, Please” which discusses the issues in more depth and outlines the model of adult development applied in this study.

Author: Dr Edward Kelly is the founder of The Third Act.  He is also a member of an international network of leadership facilitators known as the Action Inquiry Fellowship.

Dr Kelly spoke at The Grey Matters Network event – The Untapped Market Potential on February 7th, watch his speech here

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