Nine Characteristics of Generative Leaders

Dave Pendle
Regenerate The Future
9 min readJul 20, 2021

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Introduction
This article is my first full public exploration of the ‘Art and Practice of Generative Leadership’. I have written elsewhere on Medium regarding the notion of Leadership as Practice. In this article I outline an evocative synthesis, for those individuals who recognise that most mainstream recognitions and constructions of leadership are deeply flawed. That the ecosystemic crises that humanity currently faces, necessitate the activation of the highest leadership potentials of individuals, collectives as well as systems, to navigate a way through the emerging epoch of disruption

As far as I know Generative Leadership is a relatively novel term to apply to this field so it is always good, to begin with dictionary definitions;

Generative — having the ability to produce or originate; “generative power”; “generative forces”

Definitions of Leadership abound, but I prefer a meaning derived from the Old English/Anglo Saxon word;

Laedan- To lead to bring forward or to travel

The combination of the two words to me is pertinent, because humanity stands at an historic crossroads. Our continued existence on the planet, is dependent on all concerned and caring people, to endeavour to be original, fully, alive, creative beings who intend to bring forth, a saner epoch for humankind, irrespective of background, formal or official position, talent or specific skillset.

To put into practice, to research, explore and co-create this embryonic approach to leadership and it’s development. In March 2021, I launched ‘The Art and Practice of Generative Leadership’ a sixteen week course offered in partnership, with the online vertical education institution Campus CoEvolve. The course set out to provide a series of frames or lenses, where anyone who cares about changing the world can, commence a learning journey towards a more impactful fulfilling and meaningful life. Also with the aim of developing a committed degree of action confidence to engage in more significant work, or achieve other intended beneficial community or regenerative impacts.

A prerequisite for this kind of learning journey is, that prospective participants are also conscious enough to know, that radical systems change begins with the first person singular or the self. Having an open mind heart and will, they feel the compulsion to, fully explore and develop their capacities as a leader. While doing so it becomes possible for leadership to become their natural self expression. The curriculum is a fairly unique synthesis of my own learning journey of leadership discovery and founded upon more than 40 years of sometimes intense discipline, practice and self enquiry. Plus years of field experience in the non profit and government sectors, leading organisations to improve the life chances of young adults who where facing exclusion from sociey

As a general principle I am not a great fan of models, maps or highly structured approaches in the field of leadership study and development. I believe in the end, they can abstract and distract attention and intention away from the most critical developmental challenges of the age. Models and maps to me are normally very reductive of the complexity of the problems facing humans across the globe. Nevertheless I have on this occasion, contemplated my experience and outlined nine potential characteristics of Generative Leaders.

Nine potential characteristics of Generative Leaders
I would caution the reader not to read what follows as a checklist, or an explanatory manual, of how to arrive at measurement or milestone of generative leadership development, more to see each outline as a poetic prompting of the possible. The characteristics outlined are more contemplative nuggets, to revisit and to check resonance and new meanings, each time the piece is read and reread. The intention henceforward being to enable each reader to formulate and create their own unique synthesis of the capacities involved in generative leadership and it’s development.

Kosmic Creativity
Generative Leaders drink deeply from the well of Kosmic creativity and in doing so align themselves with creative powers of the universe. A core capacity that they cultivate, is to draw upon the ontological and existential foundations present throughout all human experience. They experience themselves as expressions of the big bang, the evolutionary impulse, moving through time toward more expansive complex and inclusive expressions of harmony and integration.They are evolutionaries and as such are emotionally and psychologically adaptable to the demands of the life conditions within which they are situated and saturated. Generative Leaders act with a deep time perspective in mind and as such, are in touch with the totality of existence as as living system, including the it’s immense unfolding scale and the immeasurability of the whole universe.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Grounded in Source
Generative leaders are also deeply aware of and informed by, the almost inscrutable essences or mysteries of life. The silence of the mystics and revelations of the saints, the radical, compassionate, life friendly creative Source conditions out of which all life emerged. They have realized the primal ever present origin, the undying, never born, underlying consciousness that informs every living being and all matter in the cosmos.

Source also contains what might also be termed the soul of the world, which harbours the collective yearnings and longings of humanity for a more beautiful planet. The generative leader’s sense of self as Source channels transfers and shares, the universal energies that reside in the heart of every human. Thus generative leaders thrive, as they emit, transmit and impart from Source, knowing that expressing true essence provides both a transpersonal and existential trust in life

Easefulness
Generative Leaders are deeply at ease in themselves, they have self knowledge that is anchored beyond the relative, attuned to timelessness and drawing upon eternity. On the other hand they have access to the revelatory knowledge, that all challenges, problems, hardships, suffering and trauma inherent in an embodied lifetime, cannot disturb or displace this primal apprehension. Thus they continually inspire themselves and others, through their infectious lightness of being, propelled by the endless interplay, between formlessness and form and the expressive dance of a fully engaged life that is a byproduct of this perpetual dance.

Deep Listening
Generative leaders are accomplished listeners paying attention to the emergence of possibility. They are able to put their ego or small self aside, to make space and listen to what is happening around them. They listen to their heart, their mind and soul both with ease and attention. Whilst being able to attune to, empathise with and appreciatively respond to others, while supporting their growth and evolution. They draw upon the generative power of listening from source, to express and bring the good, the true and beautiful into being. Generative Leaders continuously practice and improve the multidimensional access that deep listening provides while Listening from Source to Self to Other to System and to Planet. Cycling through these perspectives, Generative Leaders develop their ability to respond from a place, that enables, the realisation of new potentials and possibilities wherever they are situated.

Photo by Manuel Cossio on Unsplash

Integration and Wholeness
Generative leaders aspire to integration, integrity, wholeness and evolutionary coherence through a lifelong journey of committed practice and exploration. Attuned to the nested wholeness of their own embodied manifestation and its situatedness, within larger systemic wholes, they always try usher in higher levels of resonance and integration, wherever they are present. Deeply in sync with the intrinsic holarchical structures and patterns of living systems, they endeavour to open self, organizational entities and systems to express this, essential universal property of wholeness.

Generative leaders act from a living systems perspective and encourage all elements to act and promote, the health and flourishing of the larger network or whole. They recognise that their ability to provoke and evoke this integrity, is founded upon their own unyielding journey of ever expanding magnitudes of wholeness.

Photo by Mockup Graphics on Unsplash

Healing and Being
Generative leaders, in their words, deeds and behaviours demonstrate a fluent and conscious relationship between their woundedness, pain trauma and all forms of self limitation. This is achieved through rigorous self enquiry and honesty. Recognising that healing, restoration and recovery, are always a work in progress. They open themselves to encounter the existence of suffering, in all its forms. Through working on, their instinctive reactions to fight, fly or freeze in the face of these challenges, endeavouring to be fully present and experiencing that moment with all of their being. They use the fuel of discomfort, pain, paranoia and anxiety to broaden their soul and deepen their relationship to life.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Learning from the Emerging Future
Generative Leaders demonstrate transparency and lucidity due to their realisation of the permeable substance of self. Thus they are untethered enough from personal and cultural history to continually engage in self transformation. In doing so they become acutely aware of the limitations of learning and leading, based exclusively on the past, especially in this disruptive age of impending systems collapse. Their refined sensemaking abilities, enable them to use their full bodily intelligence, to engage in possibility realisation, while activating their own and other’s potential.

In embracing risk, exploring the edges of their potentialities, generative leaders are unafraid of failure, which only adds more fuel to their insatiable desire for learning. They also are accomplished practitioners of attuning to and sensing into the emerging future as a pathway, towards catalysing the paradigmatic transformation that is so desperately needed in all systems across the planet. Compelled by the pull of the future, the emergent, the latent and liminal, they are harbingers of the more beautiful world, that is wanting to be born in the midst of the darkness and flux of this moment

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Activates Collective Potential
Generative Leaders always attempt to activate the dormant or latent capacties of the groups fields or systems within which they engage. Conscious of the phenomena of social fields, interbeing and intersubjectivity, they aim to cultivate healthy spaces for others to bloom and thrive. Energised by the leadership superpower of ‘leading with’ as opposed to the stifling conventions of ‘power over’, they recognise that collective growth is a healthy oscillation between individuation, autonomy, dissent, collaboration, mutual support and collective growth.They also intuit that expanded capacities for inclusiveness and unity, are the subsoil out of which the unprecedented collaboration and cooperation with the energetic renewal of collective resources, will arise to hospice declining ecosystems over the whole planet

Photo by Brian Ceccato on Unsplash

Narrative Creation
Generative leaders have a strongly cultivated and embodied sense of Deep Time, Big History, or the evolutionary journey that enables them to sensemake and outline emergent narratives that contextualise and to a degree explain, the various likely breakthroughs and systemic collapses of this civilisational epoch. Weaving tales that are deeply inclusive, they consistently emphasise and appreciate, the unique nature of the age, while encouraging the flourishing of the good the true and the beautiful always, ever evoking the unprecedented, in a collapsing world,

Photo by Amos from Stockphotos.com on Unsplash

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The Art and Practice of Generative Leadership Course

My integrative course is designed to open participants’ perception to generatives ways of knowing, doing and being and thus develop their capacities for leadership of self, others and organisational entities or systems. The current moment of global systemic crises necessitates an awakening of a significant number of individuals to their highest potential as well as catalysing their ability to evoke and provoke this in others.

The spring 2021 course is already completed nevertheless you can register an interest in future learning journeys here ; https://campus-coevolve.org/the-art-and-practice-of-generative-leadership-2/

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About the author Dave Pendle; I am synthesising almost 30 years experience in non profit enterprises with over 40 years of deep personal development experience. Passionate about enabling others’ sense of fulfillment, impact and trust, to engage wholeheartedly with inspiration and commitment to 21st century work and life.

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Dave Pendle
Regenerate The Future

Navigating this civilizational moment of disruption to usher in the more beautiful world…