Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Global Leadership Development: A Lived Inquiry

Even since I was asked to design and teach a course in the MA in Leadership Program at Saint Mary's College in 2002 entitled, Global Contexts for 21st Century Leadership, I have been exploring the topic of global leadership and how to develop it in people. This exploration is an example of a lived inquiry. Lived inquiry is a term borrowed from John Heron that represents the process of integrating learning and inquiry in the midst of one’s everyday practice. In a lived inquiry, everyday action and experience, such as teaching a course, interactions with people, even reading a book, becomes both a source of learning and expression of one’s learning.  In this way, one learns through everyday action, not just in formal learning situations.

In the case of my ongoing lived inquiry in global leadership development, what I have learned over the past eight years gets applied in my courses and in my interactions and leadership development work with people working in today’s global world.  And equally important, these experiences become sources for deeper learning. Key to lived inquiry is a practice of reflection and engaging different ways of making meaning of that experience. In other words learning is ongoing, e.g. in perpetual beta. In this way the question of what is global leadership and how best to develop it in people keeps getting asked, which seems to be appropriate for such a complex and dynamic topic.

Just this past October, I presented a paper entitled Global Leadership--A Perspective in Progress at the 12th Annual International Leadership Association Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. The paper focused on what I had learned from the experience of teaching the course Global Contexts for 21st Century Leadership. In this course students are introduced to two generative maps.

The first is complex systems theory (CST) in the first half, and in the last half this theory is applied to organizational life and leadership, and to the topic of globalization, emphasizing the global economy, and its interrelationships with the global ecology and culture.   CST provides a conceptual framework for understanding the global reality in new and generative ways.  It allows people from across a political spectrum, and from a variety of sectors to engage this very complex and highly contested phenomenon in new and generative ways. In other words, it provides a complex map to better understand and navigate this rather complex territory.  Here are some examples of what the students learned from employing CST:

“The thought that nothing exists in isolation…and it reminds me that whether I feel it or not, I am a living part of many networks.”

“Whereas it is easier to form an opinion about globalization when it's causes and affects are fragmented and isolated…, if we are to learn anything from systems thinking it is that everything is interdependent…”

“I am much more aware of something larger than myself.”

Even though CST is introduced as a map for making sense of the complex world out there, I think one can see from the quotes above that the results of this newly acquired cognitive framework, expands one’s consciousness as well. In my next  post, I will present the second map discussed in the paper, one that helps students make sense of, and navigate, the complex reality in here. 

So in thinking about the leadership development, and global leadership development in particular, as an ongoing lived inquiry, everyone's experience and learning becomes useful sources of data.  Please share your thoughts and experiences on the question of what is global leadership and how should it be developed?