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Is this one more description of leadership? Or are we onto something here? Is there a new type of leadership for the 21st century?

Where are the people with the imagination to deal with the unknown, able to engage people across historic and often immutable boundaries, and with the savvy to align existing structures with new and emerging ones? Who are the people who can make a difference by fostering social learning in today’s increasingly complex and uncertain environment?

At this year’s BEtreat workshops we focused more than usual on this kind of leadership. It seemed to resonate.

In our work we have observed many people taking up social learning leadership. One key observation is that they display seemingly contradictory characteristics. To engage BEtreaters in reflections on their leadership, we have put our observations on this diagram. Its axes represent what looks like paradoxes. We’ve noticed that good social learning leaders (or leadership teams) embody both ends of each axis. They manage to live with the tension; they embody the paradox. By rating themselves on each axis, participants were able to see the shape of their profile as social learning leaders, and even to think about who else should be on their team.

For us this is a work in progress, so don’t be surprised if it looks different when we next see you. And whether it resonates or you have suggestions or a different experience, we’d be glad to hear from you.