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When I prepared to teach leadership, I faced a pedagogical bind: I needed to determine which learning tasks will get across the material effectively to other adults—who are not necessarily less “leaderful” than me—and what content to select.  I knew what I didn’t want to do: that was teach leadership “in the third person,” through mere descriptions and explanations or five-step slides. And I struggled with how to create a space for my students where leadership was lived in the first person rather than studied like a theoretical concept…

Then the light bulb went on.

I am a passionate World Café host and from its practice I learned the art and value of hosting conversations that matter. So when asked to design a leadership course, I decided that, rather than teaching or preaching, I would rely on evoking, naming, reminding, recognizing, questioning, acknowledging, and affirming.

I stopped asking “how can I teach?” and instead started asking “what if leadership is already in the room, and my work is to give it the space and freedom to manifest itself?”

Thank you World Café for 20 years of collective impact and for clarifying for me that leadership development is an inquiry into our collective and personal agency; and that “big” questions and a hospitable space have the power to create for a community the “holding environment” for the difficult work of “not knowing” required to generate new beginnings.

What could a World Cafe’ do for developing the collective leadership of your organizational community?