To get to the bottom of this question, we initiated a "Conscious & Responsible Leadership Journey" – and together with a group of like-minded people, we went through Otto Scharmer's "Theory U" process.

Although we were not yet affected by the Corona pandemic at the beginning of 2020, we had long felt that it was time to bring a new awareness of leadership to the world. We want to play an active role in bringing more responsible changemakers to top positions, who radically reshape business and administration – instead of just pushing careers and numbers through their work. And of course we want to implement this great intention as effectively as possible.

Time for the "SDG 0": Consciousness

We are convinced – it is exactly this quality of consciousness that we need as leaders in the 21st century in order to be able to work together in a self-organised way and giving orientation to others. To create a culture of "we" in which the individual feels seen and a group creates innovation together – "Stronger together".

For years, we had both been deeply involved in this work of consciousness, because for us it is a basic prerequisite for personal and systemic transformation and for achieving the 17 sustainability goals. And we were already a little bit familiar with the "Theory U". So it was obvious for us to use this method to answer our question: To make contexts of leadership more tangible in different systems and to break down the complexity of our concern. And ultimately to generate ideas for project prototypes.

A journey into the depths of the "U

We designed a multi-stage journey using materials from Otto Scharmer's Presencing Institute – and we needed a larger team to conduct the individual workshops. After careful pre-selection, we were able to recruit this team quite quickly with the help of our networks: People with a background in business, consulting, science, international organisations and politics.

However, we would hardly have thought it possible to imagine the enthusiasm with which this group would accompany us for about 5 months – and beyond that, grow together. And this despite the fact that our joint journey through the U process took place at the exact time of the spring lockdown, so that we unceremoniously carried out many elements that were conceived as "offline" methods as Zoom calls instead.

Step by step we guided the group and ourselves through the different phases of the Theory U:

Crossing the threshold and going into the future - the Theory U
Crossing the threshold and going into the future - the Theory U

In concrete terms, this meant reorienting our listening. Looking at and exploring relevant systems and actors in the present without judging them. To sharpen all our senses, and not only use our intellect. To let go of old thinking patterns. To look inside ourselves and sense what the best possible future needs (from us). To generate options for action, and to select the most suitable and promising from these options. And then, in smaller teams, to take simple, initial steps towards implementing the prototypes.

"It is not so much a question of changing the existing, but of focusing on new areas." - Participant
One of the few in person events organised in times of Corona
One of the few in person events organised in times of Corona

The future that wants to emerge

The joint trip with the Theory U was a turning point for us. It generated  connection with ourselves, within the group, with the future, with the often neglected sources of higher knowing, as well as to the external, to all other parts of the system in which we move. And this has enormously expanded our understanding and our fields of action. It has also strengthened our intention and spurred our motivation. Connecting in all directions was the key.

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. - Roald Dahl

In retrospect, the joint execution of the individual workshop elements, especially in the middle of the first Corona lockdown period, was also for us an immersion in what leadership in the 21st century is also about: flexible design and new technologies. Thinking outside the box and calling on opportunity intelligence. Being able to give and accept feedback. Collaboration and co-creation at eye level with all participants. Situational leadership and effective use of the expertise and wisdom within the group. Trust, enduring uncertainty, and daring the unpredictable with courage and confidence.

Collaborated and co-created unkown gifts from the universe.
Collaborated and co-created unkown gifts from the universe.

Creating something new together

We are telling you about these experiences with the exciting and profound method of the Theory U to invite you to try it out yourself and thus solve your own complex problems, initiate transformation and actively shape your future. You can do this both as individuals for yourself and in your larger context.

The journey through the "U" is definitely worth it! For us it generated two great, previously unforeseeable prototypes (experimental models), the implementation of which is now driven forward by the energy of the group. Both have to do with the theme "connection": connection with each other and connection with nature.

We are already very curious about what will be created. It is as if we have now got two little snowballs rolling, with which we will continue to grow together.

© Cynthia Magana/Unsplash
© Cynthia Magana/Unsplash
"It was an enlightening journey that confirmed what we already suspected. Thank you for bringing this group together to experience and get to know Theory U better - I look forward to more!". - Participant

Experience it yourself

The Presencing Institute offers the opportunity to take the Theory U as an online learning MOOCin an annual cycle, first individually and then as a larger team: u.lab 1x and u.lab 2x

Irina and Julia also offer two free one-hour zoom meetings to share their experience with Theory U in more detail and to answer questions. In German on: 20.11.20 at 12:30 pm. For registration click here. In English on: 27.11.20 at 13:00 pm (both are time zone Central Europe). For registration click here.

About Julia and Irina

Julia offers coaching and organisational development with the Center for Greater Good Leadership. More information and Julia's mail contact can be found here:

Irina will accompany you on your personal Conscious Leadership & Purpose Journey - virtually and together with others. You can find more information and the email contact to Irina here:

Julia and Irina will be glad to support you and your team in your own journey.

We thank Julia and Irina for this guest contribution!

And in line with this, we would encourage our readers to read the exciting interview with Vanessa Cox on the subject of Purpose, in which she explains why today's managers need a sense of purpose more urgently than ever.

all pictures: © Julia Juergens