“Become a sensei for others,” he responds without missing a beat. “There are many whom you can inspire with your passion for healing that-which-is-not-well in human interaction all around us.” He spreads his hands wide, palms facing upward. “The writing does not matter; nor do the letters you will acquire after your name. To inspire others to perceive, to question, to contemplate, to reflect, to respond—to think new thoughts about all they may have seen for years throughout their lives but too readily accept or ignore. Those are the important matters to which you must now turn your attention. This thesis is done. Now you must begin.”The universe tends to respond to such requests in unexpected ways. Defying all conventional logic (but what else is new?) I have been offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a collaboration that will bring a new graduate program into being at the recently accredited Adler Graduate Professional School, (tentatively to be called) a Master's in Leadership and Organization Development, and Coaching - M.LODC, pronounced "melodic," as in "creating harmonious organizations. As we are right at the beginning of this adventure, whatever exists so far is contingent, speculative, aspirational, and - at best - cast in jello, so to speak.
There are quite a number of leadership-focused master's degrees, and several master's programs in organization development. What strikes me about them is that, although there are OD courses in the Leadership programs, and vice versa, there seems to be a distinction between them - a separation of sorts - born in the disciplinarity emanating from the prior cultural epoch about which I write. It is almost as if we take for granted that capital-L Leadership in some ways stands apart from the organization, in the sense of the leader of a parade standing out in front of, and distinctly separate from, those marching behind.
Over the past few weeks since I was offered (and accepted) this great opportunity, I have been wrestling with the questions of our nascent program's values, tactility, and worldview; in other words, its ba. What I think will distinguish the program we are developing from others that nominally offer a similar focus is a fundamental philosophy that organizational leadership has no meaning without the context of organization development. By this I mean that contemporary leadership does not stand on top of, in front of, or in any way apart from the uniqueness that is the organization-in-relation, that is, the valence-conceived instance of an organization. Contemporary leadership must be thought of as being embodied and enacted by process-and-people throughout the entire organization among all its member constituencies, integral to its continual emergence and autopoiesis. In this sense, leadership development and organization development are one and the same, enabled by approaches to individual and collective coaching that are not simply tied to sports-metaphor-laden, rah-rah, motivation-of-the-minute.
We welcome collaborators who feel a passion for this particular philosophical grounding to participate in our program's development (including course development) over the next few months. We will eventually be seeking core faculty, and thereafter (that is, once the new program is accredited) students interested in a very humanistic, relational, and constructionist approach to a Master's degree in Leadership and Organization Development, and Coaching. If you are interested in any aspect of participation - as collaborator, potential faculty, or future student - I invite you to connect.
Let the adventure begin!
Update (12 October 2011): We are holding a series of Conversation Cafés between now and early November to gather the thoughts and insights from the various constituencies that would participate in, and contribute to, this degree. More information is here.