The real reason leaders don't use participatory practice

leadership learning edge makes me think story goes to work Jun 14, 2023

Interested in the real reason leaders don't use participatory practice with their people?

Just before I left for Sweden at the end of May to co-host an in-house Art of Host training, I interviewed my friend and long-time CEO Phil Cass. I wanted to know both how he had come to participatory practice as a leader, and why, although so many leaders inherently know that participatory practice gets results, so few use it. (see the full interview here:

His own change of leadership style came with the challenge of a staggering loss. More than $40 million worth of loss. His mentor finally got him to see that his way of working was simply NOT working and something new way needed. It was a challenging change, but one he says was well worth making.

So why don’t more leaders work this way? He told me two things.

A long time ago he realised what was underneath the lack of engagement was the fear of losing control. If you want to work in a participatory style, then you have to value people’s input in a tangible way. You have to let them experiment, dream and have different ideas about how to do things. You have to realise you don’t have all the answers, especially in complex situations and especially where emergence is needed. You have to learn to trust the group.

But there’s more…

Underneath this fear of losing control, deep down, leaders know that this way of working will result in them falling in love with their people and that, eventually, they will be heartbroken as things change and people move on. This is a fact of life.

But as Phil says, the idea of separating mind and heart as more rational or more businesslike never worked anyway. This way people show up with more of themselves and more of their skills and talents. No wonder they had virtually no turnover.

He said he also realised recently that working this way takes process skills and almost no leadership training prepares you for working in a participatory way. We want to do it, but we don't know HOW. Art of Hosting is one of many practice fields that can help.

Here’s a recent post about the impact of the in-house training:

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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