how to lead from the front

20th May 2019

How would you describe your leadership?

It might be leading your family, your own business, your creative process, in an organisation, a personal goal, just getting yourself through life as an adult – you are already a leader.

I know it took me a long time to be able to stand comfortably and unapologetically in my own power because all I had experienced was leadership that needed power over others to survive.

But as thoughtful, engaged, often intersectional, politically aware, values-led folks we see the way that white-man-blue-suit-big-job kind of leadership is so bloody destructive – for our fellow humans, animals and our planet.

We know we have to do this in a new way.

But there is no well-worn path for what it means to lead collectively, inclusively, with empathy and uncertainty. We are making our way in unfettered territory together.

If we are going to survive, we need to develop a new kind of leadership.

This cannot be mastered with information and motivation (or privilege and connections for that matter).

The gap between where we are now, and where we want to be, requires what is known as Adaptive Leadership.

This term was first coined by Ron Heifetz, a Harvard researcher. Heifetz offers that complex challenges cannot be solved by known solutions.

Everything that our world requires of us right now, is a complex challenge!

This means that we somehow have to step out of the paradigm we exist in, in order to see what else is possible, what else might be true (it’s why adaptive leadership can feel a bit like ‘taking the red pill’).

As Adaptive Leaders, we are dancing on the edge of what we know, what we expect, what we consider true, what we do by default.

It’s where we experiment, where things might go wrong, we might feel incompetent or fearful, we might feel our expertise and security challenged.

It sounds like a party, right? To be honest, it sounds like any random Tuesday to me 😉

But embracing adaptive ways of leading, means we get to tap into something real. It’s how we develop a way of being comfortable in the discomfort of uncertainty.

When we accept that we are always in a place of learning, we accept that we don’t have to know all the things, instead, we cultivate trust in our ability to respond creatively to what is here, now.

Here are some ways adaptive ways of leading is beginning to show up*:

  • Servant leadership – we serve the collective mission (Extinction Rebellion is based on this model where anyone who wants to serve the mission of climate emergency is welcome).
  • Contribution leadership – we contribute what we know to the collective body of knowledge, no one has to ‘know the most’ (writing content for your business over a period of years, decades).
  • Emergent leadership – everyone possesses leadership that emerges in specific contexts most suited to their skills and resources (school children protesting instead of attending school on Friday).

What kind of leadership could you experiment with?
How might you take the red pill and step outside of the existing paradigm?
How can you redefine your relationship to power, in order to claim your own?


*with thanks to Mr P, and his MBA who contributed to these ideas over breakfast.



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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