Become a catalyst of good work and unite with others committed to making our organisations a little better!

the alchemy of transformation

Before delving into your concluding reflections, it could be valuable to explore the video below. Heidi Gutekunst (CEO of Amara), Simon Western (CEO of ANC and Eco-Leadership Institute), and JB Dernoncourt (former CEO Carrefour Romania, Founder Agbaa) share their insights on the essential components for transforming organizations positively, drawing from their own experience. This narrative might offer inspiration for you to embark on your own exploration and transformative journey!

personal, organisational and spiritual transformation

(Click on the icon to watch the session)

Heidi, Simon, and JB exemplify, through the sharing of their personal and life stories, the significance and, at times, the challenges of shedding flawed societal and self-expectations. They illustrate the responsibility associated with assuming leadership roles and using positive "transformative" power in organisations. Yet, their individual journeys vividly bring to life the interconnectedness of personal, organisational, and spiritual transformation.

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Share your insights and make them personal

Learning Journey

To culminate your journey, you will craft a compelling narrative that presents your selected organization as a Change for Good (CFG) exemplar to a jury of experts. Additionally, you'll engage in personal reflection to assimilate your learnings throughout the course and consider how to cultivate your own leadership and help your own organization to become a "Force for Good". Finally, we want to collect your ideas aimed at the improvement of the course, and your lessons learned from your quest to be passed on to the next cohorts of good organisation hunters!

To prompt your introspective journey, we invite you to engage in an "inner conversation" that delves into your own motivations, beliefs, and choices, and that explores your relationships and organisational roles.

Conversation topics:

A) Self-awareness and Evaluation: Who are you becoming through work?

Discuss with yourself how practically wise your own approach has been to date.

B) Relational context: How are you embracing your relationships?

Which are the areas that might need work?

C) Institutional context: How can you overcome those challenges? Who can help you?

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

D) Negotiate your role as a leader: Who do you want to become? What is your next step?

Throughout the conversation, think about your personal identity - who are you and who do you want to become? Reflecting on any gaps between your actions, emotions, behaviours and who you would like to be can give you a better understanding of the challenges ahead. What would you need to do in order to step into power with wisdom, compassion, and a sense of justice? How can you commit to become the best leader you can be? What does that mean in practice?

Bringing it all together: Leadership Roles, Wisdom and the Future of Work

personal journal: Leadership formation

The Inner Conversation

"What is the good life? Good questions, good friends, good work, good money. In this order." ― Bill Torbert

Who shall I become?

Once upon a time, a monastery had fallen upon hard times. Only the Abbot and few monks were left, all of whom very old, and their order was dying out. Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery stood a little hut that an old Rabbi from a nearby town used as a hermitage. One day, the Abbot decided to visit the Rabbi and seek his advice.

The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated: I know how it is. The spirit has gone out of people and nobody comes to the monastery anymore. He and the old Abbot wept together, and spoke quietly of deep things. Eventually, the Abbot asked: "Have you no advice to save our monastery?” “No, I am sorry" the Rabbi responded "I have no advice to give. I can only tell you that the Messiah is one of you.” 

When the monks heard the Rabbi’s words, they exclaimed: “The Messiah is one of us? Here, at the monastery?" Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course – it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. Certainly he couldn’t have meant Brother Elrod – he’s so crotchety. But then Elrod is very wise. Of course he didn’t mean me – yet supposing he did? Oh Lord, not me! I couldn’t mean that much to you, could I?” 

As they contemplated further, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect. And on the off-chance they might be the Messiah themselves, they began to treat themselves with solemn respect. Suddenly, when people visited the dilapidated monastery, they sensed the aura of solemnity and respect permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends. Some younger men began to engage in conversation and after a while, one asked if he might join. Then another and another. And within a few years, the monastery became once again a vibrant community of light and love.

In essence, are we so different from those monks? The undeniable truth is that each of us carries the generative power of a uniquely special human being. Together, we possess the collective ability to breathe life into our own metaphorical monasteries. Much like the Rabbi's order, we are all on a quest to create something meaningful—something that holds significance for customers, society, and ourselves, even in the face of formidable challenges. We have the capacity to undertake this journey with joy and energy, embracing opportunities for learning, growth, and flourishing. Moreover, each of us can emulate the Rabbi, becoming a source of light for those around us. In every sentence we speak and every gesture we make, we face a choice: to be courageous, selflessly giving to others, fostering profound connections and unlocking new possibilities, or succumbing to fears, habits, or imaginary barriers that separate us.

Our wish for you is the courage to open your minds and hearts, approaching life with compassion, bravery, and wisdom, striving to make your own life and the lives of those around you as "good" as possible.

✿ Self-awareness and Evaluation: Who are you becoming through work? (slide 1)

Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won't be interrupted. Take a few moments to center yourself through deep breathing or meditation. 

The rapidly evolving world often brings about moments of dislocation for individuals. It's easy to feel disconnected from our selves and our purpose in the world. So, the task is to uncover or rediscover your true values, identity, and a sense of belonging in your inner landscape. It is important to note that our identity is not a fixed entity waiting to be discovered within us. Instead, the "self" is an ongoing and dynamic process of creation and recreation. It requires continuous reflection, courage, action, and creativity to shape and reshape our sense of self.

  • Consider your own actions, beliefs, and values: Critically evaluate them in light of your deeper understanding of the societal narratives and social structures you are exposed to. What matters to you and why? How much have societal expectations and norms shaped your own identity and role? 
  • What is your desire? What grounds and anchors you? What brings contentment and meaning to my life?
  • What patterns do you repeat that inhibit personal growth? What brings you energy, creativity and joy?
  • Reflect on the learning journey during the course: What did you learn about yourself, your team and good leadership? 
  • Discuss with yourself how practically wise your own leadership approach has been to date

One interesting concept that is relevant both for individual and organisational development is so-called "triple-loop learning". It is an advanced learning model that goes beyond traditional single and double loop learning. In triple loop learning, individuals not only assess and adjust their actions (single loop) or question and change underlying assumptions and strategies (double loop), but they also examine and potentially transform the very learning and problem-solving processes they use. It involves a profound reflection on the governing identity and principles that guide an individual or organization, challenging and modifying fundamental assumptions to achieve transformative change and continuous improvement.

✿ Relational context: How are you embracing your relationships? (Slide 2)
Connect to your inner passion, connections, and appreciation for life. 

  • Are you able to experience and express a full range of emotions? Explore any inner sadness or grief and approach parts of you that feels vulnerable or frightened. 
  • Sense into your emotions and relationships. Are you capable to connect with others on a profound level? How are you showing up in the world and how do others see you? What are your relational strengths and weaknesses?
  • Explore your key interpersonal relationships, both at university, work and in family and social life, and both past and present. What reference groups are you part of and why?
  • Discover any patterns and internal scripts that are triggered when you interact with (certain) others. Which patterns do you wish to change?
  • Discuss with yourself which areas might need some work

✿ Institutional context: How can you overcome those challenges? Who can help you?
Explore the boundaries you face in your role. 

  • What are the inner boundaries you are setting and holding?
  • What are the outer or relational boundaries in your role at work? 
  • How effective are these boundaries in order to allow you to develop and expand your impact? 
  • What would be needed to expand your boundaries or confront any challenges? What would you need to let go?
  • Discuss with yourself what you would do if you weren't afraid

✿ Negotiate your role as a leader: Who do you want to become? What is your next step?

In our contemporary society, most adults strongly associate their identity with their occupational roles—a stark contrast to historical perspectives:

  • In antiquity, physical labor was often disregarded as unworthy, with figures like Thomas Aquinas favoring contemplation and asceticism in the service of God.
  • The Middle Ages witnessed a shift where work, in addition to sustaining livelihoods, became a means for inner growth, fostering goodness, and pursuing beauty in community and service to God.
  • The Reformation elevated work further, intertwining the goodness of individuals with the success of their endeavors, framing industriousness as a service to God. Idleness became sin.
  • In the 20th century, with ever diminishing emphasis on God and goodness, work's purpose evolved to prioritize success and prosperity, often becoming an end in itself. In capitalist societies, people are there for their work, not the other way around. Seniority and salary are equated to self-worth and social standing, creating a culture that celebrated hard work as instrumental to financial and social success.
Sadly, the triumphant rise of work over the centuries came at a cost. In the pursuit of ever-increasing profits, individuals are often reduced to mere "resources," viewed as cost centers on corporate budgets and commodities in global markets. Deeper meaning and community spirit are sacrificed on the altars of material wealth. As J. K. Galbraith noted, we often have "private opulence and public squalor." While global financial markets are thriving, the incomes of ordinary workers stagnated or declined. Worst of all, individuals are transforming themselves into "happy slaves," chasing financial freedom and becoming self-optimizing mini-capitalists in the relentless pursuit of successful careers.

Hence, this might be a fruitful moment for reflection on the meaning of work for you, and its significance for your own (moral) identity. As Manfred Kets de Vries once aptly stated, meaning is the "difference between making a living and making a life." To orient ourselves and our organizations sustainably toward good  work, we must be willing to question our own deeply ingrained beliefs—about the purpose of work, and ultimately, about the purpose of our lives.


Below you can also find a few blog posts that dive into our evolving thoughts around these concepts

good leadership
Why Good Leaders Constantly Hit The Wall… when their organisations are not ready for change
Stop The Suffering: Good Organizations Wanted!

Have you ever noticed that those few leaders who earnestly seek to develop themselves and their teams often get frustrated, give up and leave? In spite of everybody crying out for more “agile”, “empowering” and “responsible” leaders? I will suggest the challenge is systemic: the maturity of an organisation can never transcend the maturity of its leaders… and its teams.
(4 min read)

CC10 transformation
Our Immoral Obsession With “Authenticity” And The Perils Of Self-Actualisation

In this ever more uncertain and dangerous world, where traditional values and communities are being eroded, and external change is constant… or so the story went… we can only truly rely upon ourselves. Hence, to master the rugged seas of postmodern anxiety and realise “our best self” we have to embark on a quest for authenticity. Successful living means to connect to our very “essence” and live in accordance with our “soul”. Of course, most of this is fiction…

CC11 leadership

In spite of millions of hours spent on corporate coaching in the last few decades it appears that neither the world has become much wiser, nor that our societies or organisations are flourishing more.

CC12 leadership development
Embracing the Good Life in Times of Constant Change: In Defense of Stoicism (& Philosophy in General)

What do you want from your life? Rather than encouraging us to ask such deeper questions, it seems modern culture provides an endless stream of distractions to successfully evade them. Our contemporary society not only lacks those famous ancient academies of philosophy, but is devoid of any relevant living tradition of wisdom.

Curious to read more about our ongoing inquiry? A good place to start is our blog with all recent leadership articles and posts.

knowledge expeditions

Discover New Puzzle Pieces of Wisdom On A Search For Eureka Moments!

Curious to watch more interviews? Jump to the Leaders for Humanity series for all our exciting interviews with some of the greatest minds of our time.

Materials marked in  dark purple  are foundational. Those flagged in light purple are for in-depth exploration.

Tools for Self-Reflection and Development

In this section we would like you to reflect about your work, your workplace, and what it enables you to become, adopting a number of different lenses.

✿ Depth analysis: your identity and purpose
This is an excercise to become more reflective on action: The Ladder of Inference describes the thinking process that we go through, usually without realizing it, to get from a fact to a decision or action.
This is an excercise to become more reflective in action: "The four ‘territories of experience’ include: 1) the outside world, 2) one’s own sensed behavior and feeling, 3) the realm of thought, and 4) the realm of vision/attention/intention. These four territories of
experience are not mere analytic categories, but rather are all phenomenologically accessible territories of experience that exist
simultaneously and continuously (see discussion of how each of us in our own firstperson research can test this fundamental claim, and that can potentially yield data and feelings of fit (consonance) or of incongruity (dissonance) as they become known to an acting system (through its assonance) in real time."

✿ Personal analysis: your strengths and weaknesses
Conduct the VIA Survey and develop a plan how you can use one of your bigger strengths every day for the next month. In the early 2000s, something groundbreaking occurred in the social sciences: Scientists discovered a common language of 24 character strengths that make up what’s best about our personality. Everyone possesses all 24 character strengths in different degrees, so each person has a truly unique character strengths profile. Each character strength falls under one of these six broad virtue categories, which are universal across cultures and nations. See the full character strengths list here and learn more about each one.
Reich character analysis was created by Wilhelm Reich, he is considered the Western originator of the science of Body Mind Psychotherapy. Freud and early psychologists discovered that there is a childhood developmental process that is now known to be windows of plasticity in the brain where the developing child has their beliefs, feelings and attachments to parents, others, and objects influenced in a positive or negative way. Wilhelm Reich explored, analysed, and first proposed working archetypes of 5 key types of individual personality groups develop from this process, where developmental arrest occurs.
We propose that leader character development arises from using accommodation learning strategies of crucible experiences, paired with assimilation learning methods of critical reflection, and further developed through equilibrium learning strategies where students can incorporate new information and work toward their personal character growth. While numerous teaching approaches can be used, we describe an experiential course, codesigned with members of the Canadian Forces, using these learning strategies to foster leader character development.
Transference is subconsciously associating a person in the present with a past relationship. For example, you meet a new client who reminds you of a former lover. Countertransference is responding to them with all the thoughts and feelings attached to that past relationship.

✿ Relational dynamics: your attachments and relationships
The Practice of Self-Management is a handbook that offers tested lessons, meditations, and daily-life practices to anyone who seeks to become a more centered, present, and authentic individual, both at work and in life in general.
If we define violence as causing harm to ourselves and others, then much of the way we communicate with each other may fit this characterization. All human beings have an innate capacity for compassion, but it is easy to become detached from this capacity in our pursuit to get our way. But when we get our way through fear, guilt, shame, or coercion, we are just as likely to suffer as those who give in to our will.
People vary considerably in how secure or insecure they feel in their relationships with others. For example, some people might feel relatively secure in their relationships with others, whereas other people might be more concerned about whether others truly care about them. Psychologists refer to these individual differences as attachment styles, and this application is designed to assess your attachment styles across some of your close relationships.
A simple exercise to develop greater awareness of how we show up.
The Johari Window improves self-awareness and mutual understanding between individuals within a group. It is particularly helpful for leaders who want to understand how people perceive them. It was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles. The model was first published in the Proceedings of the Western Training Laboratory in Group Development by UCLA Extension Office in 1955, and was later expanded by Joseph Luft. The model name is derived from combining the two names Joseph and Harry.
“Transactional analysis is the method used to analyse this process of transactions in communication with others. It requires us to be aware of how we feel, think, and behave during interactions with others.” It recognises that our personality is driven by different ‘ego states’, first mooted by Sigmund Freud. These are the systems we use to interact with others. The initial proponent of the model was Eric Berne, He was born in 1910 in Montreal, Canada, and received an M.D. and C.M. (Master of Surgery) from McGill University Medical School in 1935. His studies took him in a different direction to Freud, but the ego states provided a firm foundation for him to develop his theories of the ‘Parent, Adult and Child’ states.

✿ Network analysis: your opportunities for impact
Take a look at the table (from Huta (2016) "Eudaimonic and Hedonic Orientations: Theoretical Considerations and Research Findings) and reflect on the content of your current work. How well does it allow you to develop eudaimonia? What could you change in your current role to create better conditions for eudaimonia? What other jobs could you strive for in your current environment to create better conditions? And how could you create better conditions for your team?
Job crafting is the process of employees redefining and reimagining their job designs in personally meaningful ways (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). These changes, in turn, can influence the meaningfulness of the work. By meaningful work, we refer to work that employees believe is significant in that it serves an important purpose (Pratt & Ashforth, 2003). In this chapter, we aim to explain how job crafting can be a powerful process for cultivating meaningful work experiences. We begin by summarizing insights from theory and research in the growing literature on job crafting, then give recommendations for how job crafting can be used in organizations, and conclude with promising areas for future research and practice on job crafting.
To understand the basis of Appreciative Inquiry it is useful to look at the meaning of the two words in context. Appreciation means to recognize and value the contributions or attributes of things and people around us. Inquiry means to explore and discover, in the spirit of seeking to better understand, and being open to new possibilities. When combined, this means that by appreciating what is good and valuable in the present situation, we can discover and learn about ways to effect positive change for the future.
Organisational Constellations helps you discover and explore entrenched patterns inside your organisation. Negative patterns such as gender inequality, destructive conflict, bullying, communication breakdown, and lack of engagement; and positive patterns such as co-operation, collective decision making, empathy, and self-management.
Originally developed in the context of family therapy, system constellations are introduced using an organisational learning and system theoretical framework. Constellations are systemic group interventions using a spatial representation of the system elements. They correspond to deutero-learning processes and use higher-order systemic thinking. Several company cases are analysed where constellations were used to overcome organisational defensive routines of the participants of a change process. The analysis shows how a certain set of systemic principles, which is identified, is at work in situations where organisational defensive routines block learning and prevent the creation of sustainable solutions. It is shown that system constellations can help organisations deal with complex management situations.
This article reviews the history, foundations, development, and position of systems psychodynamics scholarship in organization studies. Systems psychodynamic scholarship focuses on the interaction between collective structures, norms, and practices in social systems and the cognitions, motivations, and emotions of members of those systems. It is most useful to investigate the  unconscious forces that underpin the persistence of dysfunctional organizational features and the appeal of irrational leaders. It is also well equipped to challenge arrangements that stifle individual and organizational development

✿ Responsible Leadership analysis: your capacity for practical wisdom
The transformation of individuals and organizations is increasingly expressed as a strategic reality and intent by users of leadership development services (Harvard Business Publishing, 2018). The field of vertical leadership development (VLD) focuses on the semipredictable patterns of transformations in the ways people think and act in increasingly more complex and integrated ways (action logics) and is well-suited to interpreting, encouraging and measuring this new reality of strategic transformation.
It’s the question missing from so much of leadership development: “What kind of leader do you want to be?” We facilitate and encourage self-awareness among up-and-coming leaders (what kind of leader you are), get them to map their journeys so far (what has made you the leader you are), share knowledge and ideas (what kind of leader you should be), and help them acquire new skills and adopt new behaviors (this is how you can become that kind of leader). But we don’t focus strongly enough on arguably the most central components to successful leadership – leadership intent (the kind of leader you want to be) and impact (the legacy you want to leave). As a shorthand, I refer to these two components, combined, as your “leadership footprint.”
In the article above you find a good excercise for becoming aware of your journey. Please complete the reflection on page 285.
The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics website offers thousands of pages of material in many fields of applied ethics. If you are after a specific topic, the best and fastest way to find information is through our search feature at the top right on every page.
On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.

Recommended Book Shelf: Self-reflection and Personal Leadership Development

Wisdom Of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

Alan Watts

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Lif

by James Hollis

A Guide for the Perplexed

by Ernst F. Schumacher

Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism, david norton

by David Norton

Man's Search for Meaning

by Viktor E. Frankl

Radical Hope

by Jonathan Lear

Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience

by Mary Midgley

Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-worship

by Paul C. Vitz

A Way of Being

by Carl R. Rogers

Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text

by Simon Western

The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy

by Irvin D. Yalom, Molyn Leszcz

The Heroine’s Journey

by Maureen Murdock

What You Can Change. . . and What You Can't

by Martin Seligman

King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

by Robert Moore, Doug Gillette

Systemic Coaching and Constellations

by John Whittington

How Coaching Works: The Essential Guide to the History and Practice of Effective Coaching

by Joseph O'Connor, Andrea Lages

Reflective Practice and Personal Development in Counselling and Psychotherapy

by Sofie Bager-Charleson

The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action

by Donald A. Schön

The Different Drum: Community-making and peace

by M. Scott Peck

What Got You Here Won't Get You There

by Marshall Goldsmith

Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization

by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

by Eckhart Tolle

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

by Daniel Goleman

Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

The Master and His Emissary

by Iain McGilchrist

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Deepak Chopra

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

Are You Ready to Succeed?

by Srikumar Rao

Primed to Perform

by Neel Doshi, Lindsay McGregor

Total Workday Control

by Michael Linenberger

Humble Leadership

by Edgar H. Schein, Peter A. Schein

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, Kaley Klemp

The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results

by Stephen Bungay

Atomic Habits

by James Clear