Women's Emerging Leadership

“The philosophical underpinnings of the way we have organized reality no longer hold. …The world is outgrowing the dualistic constructs of superior/inferior, win/lose, good/bad, and domination/submission. …Breaking through in their place are equality, communion, collaboration, synchronicity, expansiveness, abundance, wholeness, mutuality, intuitive knowing and love…readying us for a fresh in-breaking of the Reign of God.” Pat Farrell, OSF

Our turbulent times offer us opportunities to take a fresh look at how we live and how we aspire to live. We have identified a new way of leading as an important component in shaping a better world because current models of leadership in our governments, institutions, organizations and businesses are not effective in solving complex problems in a way that serves the common good.

In the forefront of this emerging leadership movement are women religious who have evolved their communities’ structures and practices from hierarchical to inclusive, contemplative and collaborative.

Peter Block, renowned author and consultant on transformational leadership, sees women religious as providing an alternative model to our current culture. Addressing them, he said:

“You are a role model of what leadership and imagination can look like in today’s violent, poverty-stricken world. You aren’t afraid of feminine power and not afraid of imagination. So, if anyone asks what the future of leadership for the rest of us looks like, I am looking at you.

“We see glimpses of the future in the way you lead collaboratively, the way you care for the common good, in your hospitality to the stranger, in your nonviolence. You are unshakeable. … You have chosen to live communally, and in an alternative economy. You have the experience and wisdom that is most needed in the world.”

The practices that support a new way of leading are not limited to women religious. They can be adopted by individuals, communities and organizations alike. They include:

  • Be intentional.
  • Commit to both individual and communal contemplative practice.
  • Engage in dialog from a collaborative and contemplative stance in which we take a “long loving look at the real.”
  • Develop a comfort with “not knowing” and approach problems with an openness of Beginner’s Mind.
  • Recognize that, as Nancy Sylvester of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue, points out: “violence comes from certainty and believing there is only one answer.”
  • Offer radical hospitality to the stranger and the seemingly strange idea, recognizing that our diversity enables a fuller way of seeing into the complexities of a situation and choosing an action that is holistic.
  • Develop resiliency as women in a yet-to-be inclusive world.
  • Deepen our capacity for love, which enables and is supported by all these practices.

We believe these practices both support individuals to lead from an inner truth of the self and facilitate creative systemic change toward the common good.

That which is created is new, born of a deeper wisdom, for the greater good, beyond the capacity of individual vision, and toward the emerging future. The ways in which we take up leadership and membership are interdependent.

Emerging leadership, then, is both a new way of leading as well as the ability to allow leadership to emerge from new and unexpected places.

Emerging leadership speaks directly to the complexities of contemporary problem-solving, relationship building, decision-making, diversity appreciation, ethics and conflict resolution but is little understood and seldom practiced in organizations in the larger world.

Through our Emerging Leadership program, we propose to:

  • Cull the learning from emerging leadership/membership methods and practices,
  • Share it with other organizations and leaders
  • Engage in a collaborative effort to discern and refine their practical application to a larger, diverse audience
  • Offer additional programming in specific practices that support a new way to lead.

This is why in September 2014, we launched our Emerging Leadership program 2014, with a call to women who have been identified to us as Prophets of Hope.

“Reaching beyond the horizon of present expectation and imagination, willing to go beyond the boundaries of their lives/selves to make an irrevocable passage into a new place, a new way of ‘being’ in the universe, these prophets of hope stand open to receive the unimaginable future to which God is alluring us and more: they actually serve as the doorway to it.”
—Constance Fitzgerald, O.C.D.

Our intention is to convene with other “prophets of hope“ to learn about new ways of leading that are emerging around the globe; to engage with participants’ experience and creative imagination; and to reflect, explore and begin to sense what is emerging toward a new way of leading and being.