Leadership Development: Connecting with the Classics

Recently, I read several chapters from On Becoming a Person, a collection of lectures and essays Carl Rogers compiled in 1961 from previously written material. Rogers was a psychotherapist, but he suggested that much of what he had learned in work with clients could be applied in any relationship where one person is helping another to grow and mature.

Rogers emphasized the importance of being a true self. Elements of becoming a self include having a purpose in life, and being able to differentiate from the expectations others may place on you. This might mean not being brought down by another person’s depression, upset by another person’s anger, consumed by being relied upon too greatly, or dependent on the love or approval of another. However, identifying purpose and values does not equate with remaining in a fixed position. On the contrary, the well defined self is a person who can accept others for who they are, able to note and observe without judging and able to empathize at a very deep level without taking on the other person’s emotional state.

In the presence of a leader who exhibits these qualities, others are more likely to realize their potential. A psychologically mature leader is able to create an accepting climate in an work system. Under accepting and supportive conditions, Rogers predicted that people could become more responsible for self, more creative, and better problem solvers.

Rogers’ work has a timeless quality. In fact, the book is still in print, and an edition is available for the Kindle. A workplace with more mature leaders is bound to be a workplace that functions more effectively; a world with more mature leaders is bound to be a world with more creative problem solving and more empathy for others. Fifty years after publication, Rogers’ work still has much to teach us about leadership development.


Coming soon, more time for consulting to organizations!

I am excited by the prospect of spending more time consulting to organizations with motivation to build capacity, improve effectiveness, and grapple with transformational change. For most of my career, I have been engaged in organizational change efforts as a manager and leader. In addition, I have provided consulting services such as meeting facilitation, strategic planning support, leadership development, team building, and organizational design on an part time basis.

Now, I have the opportunity to focus on this important work. In today’s rapidly changing world, it is critical for organizations to cultivate thoughtful responsiveness, and develop capacity for continuous change. My approach blends natural systems theory, adult learning models based in neuroscience, and well-established organization development processes such as action learning. Although individuals and organizations usually have capacity for transformational growth and change within, sometimes it takes an outsider to recognize the potential.

Nothing is more satisfying to me than collaborating with other people to generate ideas for improvements to a work system, and making plans to implement them. My most positive consulting experiences involve working with leaders to plan meetings or other events that engage groups around particular issues. Although I may write a report with recommendations for action based on the meeting or event, those recommendations are the synthesis of collaborative work, not delivery of disconnected stock solutions from an outside “expert”.

If your work system seems a little stuck, or you could use an outsider’s perspective on a tough issue, I would love to hear your story. Perhaps we can collaborate on a strategy to unleash the potential from within and enable the people within your organization to enact transformational change.