The Co-active leadership model holds that leadership is multi-dimensional, and that you can lead from self, the front, the back, the side, and the field. Of all the leadership stances, the notion of leading from the field fascinates people the most.
To lead from the field refers to becoming fully aware of the energy of the social field, and to respond to it both intentionally and without attachment.
It requires two activities
First, you must be able to read “a field”. But what is a field? A field can be a breakfast or board room you’re in. It might be a conversation or an argument, a team or a market environment. To read the field, you must first detach yourself from your own desires, emotions, and reactions. In short, you must “empty yourself”. In the resulting unattached way of being you’ll be able to receive information. Theory U defines this receiving activity as observing with fresh eyes and ears. Observing involves listening deeply to what stakeholders are saying (or not saying), doing (or not doing).
Second, you act on the information you’re observing. You interpret the data and then follow your urge to intentionally say or do something so as to shift the field. And you only do that if you think that it’s in need of and ready for that shift. If you will, you run a little experiment and then observe how the field responds. And that’s when you are in fact resuming your first activity of reading the field.
The key to leading from the field
What I’ve discovered in my personal Co-active® Leadership learning journey is just how important it is to empty yourself if you want to read the energy of a room and then lead that room from that energetic field. As soon as you long for something specific to happen or not, you’re stuck in your inner echo chamber. Stuck with your judgments, you’re closing your eyes to what’s going on in the field around you. That’s why you need to do the inner work. It allows you to uncover your blind spots, to face your fears and to see your own ignorance.
Inner work pays off with dividends. Imagine yourself leading from the field. Whatever happens out there, you’re at choice. When you’re able to sense the field, you can intentionally shift it – or yourself – in order to adapt to the needs of the hour.
You don’t need answers. All you need is the capacity to stay present and keep listening.