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Michael Marlowe

Shared Leadership
Sharon, Connecticut




What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?

“How are the children?"

I believe that there are no leaders without communities, and there are no communities without children. Therefore, my underlying question concerns the children, connections and what we create together.

What is your personal experience of collective wisdom in groups?

Last summer I published “children and leaders”. This photo essay book captures messages of collective wisdom about the nature of the relationship between these leaders and children and the great potential this connection holds for healing on the planet. As the book was being birthed, I sensed it is both a culmination of my years of working with the wisdom naturally present in groups and a commencement of new work awaiting attention.

My most recent experience with collective wisdom in groups is supporting Mitch Saunders in developing a wonderfully reliable process to invite collective wisdom to emerge. Under a grant from the Fetzer Institute Mitch studied the process of how social innovations emerge and distribute. This led to a process named Wisdom Labs – now called Action Learning Labs. It is one of the most efficient methods to invite collective wisdom to emerge by sensing emerging possibilities in the field. What is exciting about Mitch’s work is that he has developed a form which can be used in a wide variety of business settings and is accepted by most people.

Since I was 18 years old. I have had the opportunity to first learn about group dynamics and then ‘unlearn’ them. This ‘unlearning’ has allowed me to directly experience how and when collective wisdom emerges in groups. My first experience was in sensitivity groups, followed by Tavistock Training, then T-groups and Training Groups pioneered by my long term friend and colleague Ron Short. All of this would lead to many years of collaboration with Peter Senge to create large scale change at AT&T. Our goal was to create learning organizations. We used systems thinking and mental models to invite collective wisdom to emerge. I codeveloped the first year long training programs for teaching people to facilitate dialogue with Bill Isaacs and Mitch Saunders.

What is it about the work in this field that excites you and connects you to your own deepest self?

An ancient master was asked by a student. “What is the source of your wisdom?” The ancient master replied:

“You cannot find wisdom, it finds you. The search for knowledge is not a search for answers or information. It is a search for questions. There is nothing more precious than a good question. A good question can be your companion for a lifetime. You will never feel lonely. Good questions are very tricky. There is hidden underneath the question another dozen questions that sneak up on you when you are least expecting it. Before you realize it you are deeply immersed in curiosity. This of course is the key -?curiosity. Curiosity sets you on a path that wisdom frequents.“ There are vital questions calling for the consideration of the collective (How are the children? What are we choosing to create? What are we in the process of becoming? What do we need to heal?”

I am devoted to the search of good questions.

Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of what brought you to this work.

When I was 19 years old I realized that I had the gift of channeling spirit – which is another expression of collective wisdom. It would typically take the form of deep listening and hearing a voice or by automatic writing. I studied with a master for years to learn the difference between my inner voices and actually hearing spirit clearly. In my late 20’s after a period of coaching people via my channeling, I became attached to the “rightness” of what I would hear and after emotionally hurting a dear friend I stopped public work for over 25 years.

The next phase of my life would take me deep into the corporate world working initially in management development and then large scale change. I began with Rockwell Int. followed by Exxon, Bell Laboratories and finally headed up a consulting group of 15 people in AT&T. I worked directly with the chairman and executive committee. For the past ten years I have been in private practice working with Fortune 100 companies. I mention this to offer the contrast.

Several years ago I had a waking dream which I ignored telling me to begin channeling again and to record Seventeen Messages on Growth and Healing for individuals and the planet. I ignored this but it kept knocking and knocking. At this time the first ten messages have emerged and the information is in the form of a series called “Small Books with Big Ideas”. I have applied some of this material to leadership and have published “children and leaders” (see above, question 2). As well there is a draft of a new book called in-Spire: Inviting, Focusing and Sustaining Energy in Communities. It introduces spirit into the workplace in very practical and mainstream ways. For more information on this see Qualities of Shared Leadeship.

How would you like to be available to others in this field?

I would suggest several ways. The core of my work is available to support anyone’s work and is best used that way. For example, one of the small books in the series is available on a sliding cost basis and is called “Leaders and Listening.” It suggests that listening to individuals, teams and communities is the beginning of an invitation for collective wisdom.

I am also interested in coaching and mentoring people, involved in large scale change, who are part of this network. This is available by phone for free. For more background please go to my website Shared Leadership and see my bio.

Links to this site or others:

Shared Leadership

children and leaders

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