Becoming a Dynamic Whole

Development means growing and increasing in wisdom and capacity. I spend a lot of time developing senior leaders and I continually hear myself saying, “You need to see the dynamic whole, and you will see the dynamic whole when you become a dynamic whole.”
Often they greet this statement with a look of confusion. In conventional thought, we spend much time analyzing fixed parts linked in linear relationships. We also tend to see ourselves as a thing, a fixed entity. As we evolve into leaders, we become a dynamic whole and we begin to see the dynamic whole of which we are a part. Another way to say this is we can come to see ourselves as an eco-system that sees the eco-systems of which we are a part.
The term “eco-system” comes from the work of Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer. They see the eco perspective as an orientation that people take when they try to move themselves and others from an entrenched way of seeing to the embrace and enactment of the emerging future. It is a shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. They write:
This inner shift, from fighting the old to sensing and presencing an emerging future possibility, is at the core of all deep leadership work today. It’s a shift that requires us to expand our thinking from the head to the heart. It is a shift from an ego-system awareness that cares about the well-being of oneself to an eco-system awareness that cares about the well-being of all, including one’s self. When operating with an eco-system awareness, we are driven by the concerns and intentions of our emerging or essential self – that is by a concern that is informed by the well-being of the whole. The prefix eco- goes back to the Greek oikos and concerns the “whole house.” The word economy can be traced back to this same root. Transforming our current ego-system economy into an emerging eco-system economy means reconnecting economic thinking with its real root, which is the well-being of the whole house rather than the money-making or the well-being of just a few of its inhabitants….
The authors go on to indicate that in responding to the emerging future, judgments must be suspended and attention refocused. One must let go of the past and embrace the future that is trying to emerge through us. This is what they mean by “presencing” the future. We must become a manifestation of the future that is trying to unfold. They argue that it is perhaps the most important leadership capacity.

  • What is the implication of seeing self and others as fixed?
  • What does it mean to lead by presencing the future?
  • In your unit, is there a need for presencing the future?
  • How can we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

2 comments on “Becoming a Dynamic Whole

  1. To borrow a term from my misspent youth, “Right on!” This is precisely where we need to move leaders in their thinking if we are to have any chance of thriving, let along surviving into the not too distant future. I love the intersection of Dr. Quinn’s & Otto Scharmer’s thinking. Powerful.

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