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Staying Alive In Complex Challenges Of Leadership And Organizations

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All the classical lists of tasks of leadership, such as inspiring, delegating, empowering, feedback, etc., are actually subsets and direct results of these. If we, as coaches do not understand and see the context our clients are operating in, we cannot help them see it for themselves, resulting in a “blinds coaching blinds” situation. Given this environment of leadership, we can easily see why basing our coaching on off-the-shelf tools and techniques that I described in the beginning of this article will be not enough to support our clients to survive, and then thrive in their role as leaders.

Our developmental task as coaches to leaders is not very different from the leaders’ task: We need to develop our ability to see many sides of a dilemma, our capacity to stay present with systemic complexity and chaos, and our strength of mind and heart to be with the seemingly unresolvable challenges of the client to such a degree that we will not prematurely trying to take sides, bring structure, or provide solution oriented techniques.

Doing any of these, trying to move to solutions and order prematurely, without staying with the client and their dilemma in a way that creates understanding and awareness is actually an act of abandoning the client, even though we are trying to help. And this is exactly what our clients are also doing to themselves and sometimes others in such situations: Moving too quickly to structure and solutions, and as a result abandoning themselves and/or others. As such we should assume the role of awareness agents, rather than change or solution agents. By this way we can really live up to the coaching axiom that says “we see our clients whole, resourceful and capable”.

To be able to do this, we need to learn to see ourselves in systems. We need to understand our own habitual patterns, such as the five hindrances. We need to manage our own five hindrances as coaches, as they will also drive us the same way they drive our clients. Otherwise, there is no way but we will go back to our familiar and safe tool set from our coach training that is supposedly geared for change and solution. This is much less than what our clients want and need from us.

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