568: Leading from the Roots with Dr. Kathleen Allen

In today’s episode of the As Told by Nomads Podcast, join me and my guest, Dr. Kathleen Allen, as we talk about self-organizing towards purpose. Dr. Allen is a management consultant who has helped organizations employ nature-based methods to enhance employee engagement and strengthen leadership. Today, she shares with us her journey from working in higher education to starting her consulting business. Dr. Allen is also the author of the inspiring book Leading from the Roots, which is now available for digital download on her website. Feel free to check it out!

Self-organizing Towards Purpose

Dr. Kathleen Allen believes that self-organization is the secret sauce for healthy organizations. For, in nature, everybody takes the initiative and self-organizes—tree, birds, and ants— everything evolves. But nature as a whole holds self-organization in a somewhat loose kind of container, which Dr. Allen would refer to as purpose. When nature has a purpose, it creates conditions conducive to life because its purpose is life. And based on Dr. Allen’s experience, organizations that have a strong “how do we thrive 100 years from now” kind of mentality are the ones that succeed. Hence, self-organization requires a purpose. We do not have to work eight hours in our seats to be productive. We just have this organic flow that allows us to balance ourselves while getting the job done. In turn, organizations should reward people’s diverse ways of cooperating towards their purpose instead of facilitating a zero-sum game.

About Dr. Kathleen Allen:

In her consulting practice, Dr. Kathleen Allen specializes in leadership coaching and organizational change in non-profit foundations, small to mid-sized businesses, and higher education institutions. She has written and presented widely on leadership, human development, and organizational development. Dr. Allen is also a skilled facilitator of organizational change and organizational development. Her works encourage shared ownership of project results, long-term sustainable change for the organization, and increased staff members and leaders’ capacity in those organizations.

Dr. Allen has written many articles and contributed to various books, including The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-first Century (Pearson, 2012) and Innovation in Environmental Leadership: Critical Perspectives (Redekop, Gallagher, & Satterwhite Eds., 2018). She recently wrote Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World, which firmly anchors leadership in nature’s soil. The book has a foundational leadership framework that challenges 20th-century views and utilizes leadership concepts universally applied to all contexts.

Outline of the episode:

[03:34] Dr. Allen’s life growing up and how burnout led her to change career paths.

[05:37] How she came up with a nature-based methodology to management and leadership.

[08:59] Defining organization as living systems rather than rigid structures.

[12:34] How to start a movement through creating authentic engagement and leadership.

[15:37] Organizational photosynthesis and the different forms of human energy.

[20:00] How cooperation encourages diversity and, in turn, keeps an organization alive.

[24:38] Understanding the new generation of workers through self-organization.

[28:11] Characteristics that can help you self-organize towards purpose.

[31:19] How COVID exposed the fragility and degeneration of the current systems in place.

[35:16] The promise of a regenerating economy through the adaptive cycle and eventual resistance.




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