Mindful Leadership

Ritchie-Dunham, James L. 2014. Mindful Leadership. In Amanda Ie, Christelle T. Ngnoumen, and Ellen J. Langer (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, Volume I, First Edition. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester.

Leaders face great uncertainty in addressing social change.  Langer’s approach to mindfulness suggests three leverage points leaders can use to embrace this uncertainty.  We use the case study method to show how these mindfulness insights were applied in four case studies of leadership.   We use the mindfulness lens to diagnose each leadership situation and suggest a mindfulness solution.  We translate the mindfulness solution into organization practices, which we use to resolve the four cases.  These include the importance of new perspectives in an electric company, new categories in a school board, new information in a textile company, and the use of all three in a statewide project.  Click on the article title or here to access the article.


Guest post — Reflections on “Homo lumens” post

Guest post – Jim Throneburg, founder of THORLO

I love the observation in the “homo lumens” post, but I have a couple of things I think are a little misleading by making it seem that the cost of engaging people is low. I have to challenge that, on principle.

I distinguish between the “cost” of a salary and the “investment” in supporting growth and development. As far as the cost of the salaries of the people engaged, I agree with the point you make, there is little to no difference in this cost. And this misses the significant investment required to support the on-going growth and development for both the individual and the group. This can be significant, such as the time spent in dialogs, workshops, and coaching-feedback sessions, which for us easily reaches 10-15% of the individual’s salary. This investment is not little, as your blog suggests.

And, by focusing on the cost plus the investment, one can then ask about the return on this investment. Here I agree with you. The net result, the “synergistic savings,” can be huge. For example, we saved over $5million from just such a shift in agreements for a group of 50 people. So, if you take the net effect of the synergistic savings into account, I agree with what you say.


previous post on “From Human Resources to Homo lumens”




Radio Interview on HV Survey Research

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

ISC President Jim Ritchie-Dunham was interviewed on the radio today (March 14, 2011) about the harmonic vibrancy survey research by John Schmidt, of the Global Transforming Ensemble.  You can download the 57-minute interview from John’s Internet-radio talk show ZOOM’D Leadership at (http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/52588/harmonic-vibrancy).

El Liderazgo Consciente (Mindful Leadership)

Future-cast Series — Sharing upcoming publications

Langer, Ellen J., & Ritchie-Dunham, James L. (2014). El Liderazgo Consciente (Mindful Leadership). En C. Díaz-Carrera & A. Natera (Eds.), El Coraje de Liderar: La Democracia Amenazada en el Siglo XXI. Madrid: Tecnos.

¿Qué entendemos por “liderazgo consciente” o “mindful leadership”? Liderar implica generar un sentido compartido que impulse los cambios necesarios para enfrentar problemas difíciles. La consciencia, como la definimos en nuestra investigación, consiste en detectar lo nuevo. Cuando estás consciente (mindful), buscas el cambio y lo aceptas.  Tanto si lo aceptas como si no, la vida es cambio. Dada la realidad del cambio, es mejor saber lidiar con él que tratar de evitarlo o ignorarlo.  Por lo tanto, el liderazgo consciente tiene que ver con la utilización de procesos conscientes enraizados en una cultura también consciente. Y ello con el objeto de detectar la incertidumbre y sacarle partido.

Este capitulo aplica la amplia investigación de Langer al contexto del liderazgo consciente aprovechando tres experiencias de liderazgo que hemos tenido con ejecutivos. Este diagnóstico sugiere una solución consciente y unas prácticas organizacionales. Veremos tres casos en donde se aplica esta solución.  Así, comprobaremos la importancia de estas nuevas perspectivas en una empresa proveedora de electricidad; de las nuevas categorías en un consejo escolar y de la nueva información en una empresa textil.

Mindful Leadership

Future-cast Series — Sharing upcoming publications

Langer, Ellen J., & Ritchie-Dunham, James L. (2014). Mindful Leadership. In C. Díaz-Carrera & A. Natera (Eds.), El Coraje de Liderar: La Democracia Amenazada en el S. XXI. Madrid: Tecnos.

What do we mean by mindful leadership?  Leadership focuses on building shared meaning for the purpose of enabling change to deal with contentious problems.  Mindfulness is noticing new things.  When you are mindful, you are looking for change, and you embrace it.  Things are always changing, whether you embrace the change or not, so you are better off understanding how to deal with it, versus believing that you can hold it still or run away from it.  Putting these two concepts together, mindful leadership is about using mindful processes in a mindful culture to see, name, and work with uncertainty.

This chapter focuses the lens of mindfulness research on the context of mindful leadership through four stories of leadership.  We will use the mindfulness lens to diagnose each leadership situation and suggest a mindfulness solution.  We will translate the mindfulness solution into organization practices, which we will use to resolve the four cases.  We will see the importance of new perspectives in an electric company, new categories in a school board, new information in a textile company, and the use of all three in a state-wide project.

Strategic Clarity: Actions for Identifying and Correcting Gaps in Mental Models

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

Ritchie-Dunham, James L. and Luz María Puente. 2008. Strategic Clarity: Actions for Identifying and Correcting Gaps in Mental Models, Long Range Planning, 41(5) 509-52.

Whether you are making quick resource-allocation decisions alone or collaborating with your executive team to set organizational strategy, what you see, what you advocate, and what you ultimately decide are influenced by the map of the world you carry around inside your head. In some ways, this map or mental model is unique to you, as it was formed through your specific experiences and ways of engaging with the world. This article is based on a decade of research and fieldwork and is illustrated with multiple references to both large and small European and American organizations in the for-profit, non-profit, and governmental sectors. It presents five guiding questions that can help identify and correct gaps in managers’ mental models of their organizations. This approach enables managers to be clear about how to move their organizations in the desired direction, in order to achieve their goals. While useful for professional managers of complex systems, these questions are particularly applicable for leaders of civil society, governmental, and entrepreneurial for-profit organizations. The main contribution of this article is a framework of exercises based on the five questions that integrates traditional strategic dimensions and allows leaders to identify gaps in their mental models, resulting in more effective leadership and improved performance.

THORLO movie — Meet the People in the ISC Case Studies

Two blog posts today [“Living Ecosynomics” and “An Entrepreneur’s Vision“] highlight THORLO a very successful company living the principles of Ecosynomics.  You can hear the story in their own words through the video case study of this community ISC produced with Emmy-winning White Coat Productions., which you can view at ISC’s YouTube channel at (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx8T2T1Hr90).

Living Ecosynomics: Brand Stewardship at THORLO

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

Ritchie-Dunham, James, James Throneburg, and Michael Puleo. 2010. Living Ecosynomics: Brand Stewardship at THORLO, White Paper, Belchertown, MA: Institute for Strategic Clarity, October.

This is a story about a company whose idealistic and successful leader has long been engaged in re-inventing it as an American-based, community-rooted, sustainable manufacturer and retailer. Entrepreneurial leaders, at their best, are valued for a capacity to read the changes taking place in the world and respond creatively to open up new value creating opportunities.

Jim Throneburg (JLT), owner and CEO of THORLO, a well-known hosiery company in Statesville, NC, sensed several years ago that as he got older, he was facing a management succession issue not uncommon to entrepreneurial companies. After several failed attempts at stepping back and letting his management team run the business, transforming THORLO’s business model into a something that was high performing and sustainable became a very strong mandate. The main issue was that nobody, including JLT, was able to make explicit and put in practice what JLT knew how to do unconsciously – what he calls his unconscious competence.

THORLO: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of Sustainability

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

Leaf, Andrew, and Ned Hulbert. 2010. THORLO: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of Sustainability, White Paper, Belchertown, MA: Institute for Strategic Clarity, November.

This is a case history of classic entrepreneurial skills at work, of a company that has excelled at reading changes emerging in the world and responding creatively in order to open up unexpected opportunities.

Jim Throneburg (JLT, as he is known at THORLO), owner and CEO of THORLO, a well-known hosiery company in Statesville, NC, sensed years ago that coming events would present unprecedented challenges and possibilities for business and communities. He was convinced that the social and environmental challenges of our time could be effectively addressed by new, practical ways of designing organizations and carrying out work. Both his company and his career have been dedicated to creating those possibilities.

Innovating at All Three Levels of Perceived Reality Through Culture and Your Feet

In the next posts, I will share some innovations in agreements that work with abundance at all three levels of perceived reality.  THORLO is a small textile company in North Carolina (USA) dedicated to the preventive foot health of its millions of consumers.  THORLO’s high-tech socks are sold in dozens of countries around the world.  THORLO is exceptional not only for its unique hosiery products, designed to provide preventive foot care, but also for its innovative corporate culture.  From its founding in 1953, the company has expanded its original offer of outstanding craftsmanship and high quality, in an industry more typically focused on economies of scale, to include a focus on exceptional responsiveness to the consumer’s real needs.   From the start, THORLO’s leadership has understood that its success in delivering value depends on the commitment of all of its employees.  To that end, THORLO has maintained a supportive, collaborative culture even as the business has grown in size and dramatically increased the scope of its product lines.

THORLO’s business model transformation shows on-going surprising results in business performance decades later.  For example, recently THORLO has been able to reduce its workforce by 15% and its inventory by 30%, while maintaining quality, production rates, and delivery schedules.  THORLO has been able to maintain a gross margin on branded products that is 15 percentage points higher than its branded competitors, while its gross margin on commodity products is double that of competition.  The company has achieved these margins while retaining all production in the US at its North Carolina mill.  In fact, THORLO is one of the only hosiery companies still manufacturing in the US.

This is about THORLO’s culture and its observable outcomes.  Ecosynomically, what is the inner being that this outward success reflects?  Looking at how the THORLO leadership and its community sees success shows three different levels, as captured in the figure below.  The first level of success, which is clear to anyone in the organization you ask, is that of sustainable brand stewardship.  For the THORLO community, “brand stewardship” is their collectively defined term for the best foot health interest of the consumer.  Everything they do is measured against this single arbiter.  In addition, success is also measured through their ability to realize sustainable relationships, with all of their stakeholders.  THORLO has very clear, measured indicators for knowing how they are doing with their loyal customers, loyal employees, loyal stakeholders, and loyal shareholders, in that order of priority.  THORLO also has a third success indicator around realizing sustainable value for these same stakeholders.  We see that the first indicator encompasses the broadest, light levels of all five relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit), while the second focuses more on the verb levels, and the third assesses success at the noun level.

A deeper exploration of the actual practices within the organization shows how THORLO lives into the noun-verb-light levels of the heat map in the figure below.  In the “heat map,” green means the behavior is seen clearly throughout the organization, yellow means it is frequently observed, red means it is seen infrequently, and white means it is not seen.  In looking at the way the group looks at resources, organization, and value exchange, you can map these experiences at the noun, verb, or light levels.  This simple graphic tells a story of high efficiency and effective policies that reflect a healthy noun-reality, the way things look at a very tangible level.  We also see healthy expressions at the verb level, reflecting a liquid conversation across areas about the flows of strategic resources.  This figure also shows quite a few strategic processes at the light level, explicitly exploring the possibility in the short and long term throughout the organization.  All of this is interwoven very clearly in a process-structure that THORLO calls the integrated collaborative conversation, working the continuous transition from light-verb-noun-verb-light.

These two pictures provide a deeper story of how THORLO has been able to sustain its seemingly extraordinary outcomes.  It is how they come together as a company, the agreements they make, that allows this completely different, unexpected outcome.  These agreements are possible because of the way the community enters the world, its fundamental assumptions, its knowing about abundance.