At the Building Sustainable Communities conference, accelerating the development of leaders, was the topic of a three-way lunch, I enjoyed with Milenko Matanovic (Founder of the Pomegranate Center) and Michael Simpson (Founder of One Sky).

We were all curious about how to do that and what had worked in our lived experience as leadership development designers. Milenko related the story of the projects his Pomegranate Center undertakes with local communities in Issaquah Washington. He has found the magic time interval to be six months. In that time a group of previous strangers can come together, discover who has turned up, create a purposeful intention, and work together to produce a shared project outcome – usually a beautiful artfully embraced public space.

Michael talked about his life changing projects in Nigeria and El Salvador and other developing countries. Mike has found that by creating habitats for youth and communities, leadership can naturally emerge in the people who work together. One Sky helps communities develop their own capacities to respond to challenges as difficult as climate change (El Salvador) or youth leadership in face of war and environmental degradation (Africa).

In thinking about Integral City and how my work interfaces with Royal Roads University’s, School of Leadership Master’s Students, I offered the pattern that I had observed across hundreds of students of 50+ Thesis/Projects. Always students grow their leadership when they get in touch with their values and passions and create an action research project where those qualities contribute to the resolution of an organizational or community challenge.

After sharing stories of building place, building community and building capacity, Michael, Milenko and Marilyn (!!!) were able to see the design pattern that was common to our three worlds of leadership development experience. The ingredients we had independently discovered, for developing leaders are these:

  • WHERE: select an organization or community sponsor as the “vessel” or “container” for your leaders to develop within
  • WHY: the community, nation, or organization has a challenge that needs addressing, a problem that needs solving, a blockage that needs overcoming, a creation that needs expressing
  • WHEN: choose a focused time frame – six months is doable and provides rapid feedback
  • HOW: work together in action research, action learning mode so that everyone learns and develops leadership by doing
  • WHO: leaders need themselves, peers and a community, sangha or cohort to work with. This triple level of engagement with Self, Others, and Community/Place enables self-organizing initiative, learning partnerships and minimum critical structure.

That was the alchemical recipe of Time, Place and People that lay at the core of our leadership design methodology (and incidentally the perennial Master Code of the Integral City: Take care of yourself, Take care of each other, Take care of this place). It seemed a most nourishing dessert for our shared repast of leadership tales. We hope you are nourished too?