49 – Failing toward Ensoulment with Rob McNamara

49 – Failing toward Ensoulment with Rob McNamara

Rob McNamara is an author, leadership coach, advisor and consultant with expertise in adult development and human performance. Co-founder of consulting firm Delta Developmental and faculty member for the Ivey School of Business’ LIFT Advanced Coaching Program, he advises, trains, and coaches on a broad range of initiatives for individuals, organizations, and governments navigating complex, civilization-wide problems. In this emergent conversation, they explore the necessity to inquire into ways you are failing as a leader, rather than emphasizing expertise. Our insatiable human desire to acquire more – extracting of ourselves and our World. The gestalt of maturity through ensoulment, development and liberation, and Rob sharing his edge which leads to an emergent insight.

Listen in as they discuss:

  • [00:02:34] Rob shares how he listens for what is called for from him as he leads initiatives, and how the notion of calling is entangled with the notion of settlement. He pays attention to where he is losing and failing as a coach and advisor, rather than where he has expertise and mastery.

  • [00:04:05] How the context Rob works in is vastly more complex than any expertise he can construct, and how he is constantly in a transformative process where he is being undone and redone in ways that he is not in the driver’s seat in a traditional sense.

  • [00:05:50] Chela reflects on how there is modelling within this conversation of something different from conventional leadership norms, which are based on expertise and mastery. That leading with ‘where am I failing?’ as opposed to ‘look at all these things I’m doing’ is a new kind of leadership conversation.

  • [00:07:00] While there is certainly a need for deep mastery, learning, complexity and skillfulness – confidence to enquire into and embrace edges, limitations and failures as leaders is essential.

  • [00:08:26] How humans are incredibly capable of operating in the world, but the ferocity of our desire to acquire more is insatiable. Rob emphasizes the need to temper this desire for more and explains that this is why leaders need to have the confidence to inhabit their limitations and claim their inadequacies, as it helps to acknowledge and address the complexity of the human psyche and relationships.

  • [00:10:17] How incredibly wealthy and successful people are always trying to get more, but often find themselves stuck. He poses the question, ‘why are they chasing more when the fullness of the immediacy of the now could be more fulfilling?’

  • [00:11:39] As leaders, he invites us to be undone by our limitations and to do it together with our team, partnership, or collaboration. By failing together, we can reify, enrich, and potentiate the space of how we can actually change together in ways that are far more rewarding.

  • [00:12:16] How people with the highest measures of well-being are those who have gone through redemptive processes, where they lost deeper than they possibly could fathom. Leadership that has the courage and integrity to go through loss is what we need as a species.

  • [00:13:12] How extractive we are to our ecosystem in the pursuit of more, and that we are running up against our limits.

  • [00:13:55] Chela speaks to using nature, seasonality, and permaculture principles to reorient her own dying to herself – such as composting, entering into death spaces, and letting things go. How her clients, many of whom are busy women with children, are trying to find ways to bring their gifts to the world in a sustainable way while avoiding excessive extraction from the earth and their own bodies.

  • [00:16:40] Rob explains that ensoulment, development and liberation is it’s own vector of maturity.

  • [00:19:36] Chela speaks of experiencing herself getting graspy as Rob spoke about liberation and release. That the actual phenomenon of an arising experience of inadequacy and needing to go get somewhere was happening as he was speaking.

  • [00:21:42] Rob speaks to the gestalt of how we become more mature, not in any one particular way, but as a whole being. He suggests that some part of our awareness goes beyond grasping for more and begins to recognize the loss, gain, and liberation cycles of life.

  • [00:25:19] How organizations’ strategies can often be intoxicated with an acquisition for more, when strategy is inherently about loss. How the desire for more can end up crippling businesses because they spread too thin as opposed to doubling down, pooling resources and creating unique value.

  • [00:28:53] That often leaders can prefabricate their expertise into answers, instead of it being in an emergent dialogue around what’s possible. Without a lack of rich meaning and clear impact that both the leader, team and the World feel and recognize, the space ends up being filled with positionality and power dynamics.

  • [00:31:40] Rob speaks to one of his own leadership edges – his tendency to sometimes manipulate conversational spaces by asking questions he already knows the answers to, which can position him as an expert and give him power in a group setting.

  • [00:37:21] Chela speaks to the intention of her podcast – how she really had the question ‘What is Leadership?’. The dominant ideas of leadership including command and control which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. The podcast aims to explore other expressions of leadership and how individuals can lead themselves with authenticity and ensoulment, aligning with their calling and expressing it in the world.

  • [00:39:54] How Rob is practicing and working with his leadership edge – including being coherent with his curiosities, continuously learning and putting himself in relationships with experts to be continually humbled. He also picks up problems that are clearly out of his ballpark to grapple with and work with his clients to find solutions, rather than positioning himself as the person with the answers. This approach leads to genuine partnership and learning together.

  • [00:43:11] Rob shares how enlivening teaching is to him compared to what he experiences sometimes in the positionality and power dynamics entering organizations. The need to balance vulnerability with the need to build relationships with leaders and Chela’s reflection on Rob’s distinction between leading with vulnerability vs. leading with answers leads to an emergent insight for Rob.

  • [00:47:31] Rob reflects on what qualities of this conversation felt emergent.
  • [00:48:24] How leadership is one of the most cited but least defined terms.

  • [00:50:40] Chela inquires with Rob if he asks leaders if they are on a path of maximizing growth, especially in the context of the fact that the world is on an extinction path. She expresses her uncertainty about how to bridge the gap between short-termism and the need for a long-term perspective. Rob agrees that asking these questions is critical and mentions his pushback against short-termism in his work with leaders.

  • [00:53:50] Chela reflects on the challenge of staying present and sitting with the discomfort of not having all the answers in conversations, especially when discussing complex topics like the state of our species. She notes that our minds tend to want to have an answer immediately and habitually, but it’s important to resist the urge to exit the discomfort of not knowing and instead stay with it. She suggests that this is both a personal and collective practice that can help us navigate loss and uncertainty in wider contexts.

  • [00:55:00] Where to find out more about Rob.

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More from Rob

  • Train with Real Life Programs

    ‘All of the Real LIFE courses and workshops are based on the developmental proposition that bettering your skills in dealing with others is entirely dependent on deepening your relationship to yourself. And deepening your relation-ship with yourself is inextricably linked to how you develop your relationships with others and your work in the world.’

    Next training happening November 2023.

About Rob

Rob McNamara is an author, advisor, and leadership coach with expertise in adult development and human performance. He is a co-founder of the advisory firm Delta Developmental. Rob serves on faculty at the Ivey School of Business’ LIFT Advanced Coaching Program and is a former Harvard University Teaching Fellow. McNamara currently advises, trains, and coaches a broad range of initiatives for individuals, organizations, and governments navigating complex civilization-wide problems.

Find Rob here

I’m an Integral Master Coach™, Master Certified Coach, writer, mother & people lover. My gifts are centered around helping others to meet their calling and unleash their genius, on behalf of our shared world. Get to know me...