Mindfulness, Sensemaking, and the Development of Wisdom Leadership

Monday, 30 October 2017: 1:35 PM

Daniel J. Pesut, PhD
Katharine Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership, University of Minnesota School of Nursing, Minnepolis, MN, USA

The purpose of this presentation is to describe and explain the value of mindfulness and sense making as a means to develop leadership wisdom. Innovative approaches to leadership development note the gap that exists in current models that focus on horizontal development, that is tools and strategies that build competencies, and rather than vertical development that focuses on mindset and sensemaking. Mindful leaders grow and develop in their sense making capacity when confronted with disorienting dilemmas and complex situations in which old patterns of problem solving and thinking no longer work for new challenges given competing perspective and polarities that need management. Adaptive and generative systems need mindful leaders who understand the importance of sense making and knowledge transfer as well as the difference between horizontal and vertical leadership development. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey (2016) note adults develop through time and move through three development stages they call socialized mind, self-authoring mind, and self-transforming mind. (Rooke & Torbert (2005) have identified seven developmental stages of meaning making and action logics: opportunist, diplomat, expert, achiever, individualist, strategist, alchemist and ironist. Each stage has a set of characteristics and implications for leading and managing. Nick Petrie (2014) suggests there is a need to shift leadership development programs away from the acquisition of skills and competencies (horizontal development) to vertical development in which a leader’s sense and meaning making abilities are advanced to support more sophisticated ways of thinking. Often developmental strategies include more attention to inquiry, mindfulness, self-regulation of emotion, and affect that leads to elevated sense making experiences that promote integration, collaboration and transformation of systems. A focus on the vertical development of leaders is more likely to cultivate wisdom. This presentation will outline three primary conditions and a number of strategies to support mindfulness, sensemaking, and vertical development of people in service of building wisdom leadership capacity. These perspectives are particularly relevant to system approaches to improving quality and safety in health care in which just implementing tools and strategies are insufficient to fully change the environment; safety culture requires a change in mindset and sensemaking from vertical development in wisdom leadership, as introduced an a case exemplar.