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Brief Encounters - Relational Leading
MSc in Relational Leading - Update
Taos Workshops
Taos Europe Workshops and Friends Workshops
Free Download Books
International Certificate Program
Relational Leading
Masters program in
Relational Leading

Accepting applications for the next cohort beginning
Sept. 2015.

relationships and conversations that make a difference

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Taos Institute Publications
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clinical supervision
A Student's Guide to Clinical Supervision

U & Me: Communicating in Moments that Matter
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Relational Leading
When Stories Clash: Addressing Conflict with Narrative Mediation
The Appreciative Organization

Social Construction: Entering the Dialogue

Healing Conversations Now: Enhance Relationships with Elders and Dying Loved Ones

Positive Family Dynamics: Appreciative Inquiry Questions for Bringing Out the Best in Families

DVD - Fusion of Strength: An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry by David Cooperrider
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AI Practitioner - Special Video Issue - A Must-Have for AI Practitioners
Practicing Relational Ethics in Organizations
Developing Relational Leadership
Retiring but not Shy
Retiring But Not Shy
Ordinary Life Therapy
Hedtke - Bereavement
Bereavement Support Groups

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Ideas, News and Resources
October 2014  
We hope you enjoy receiving our newsletter which includes constructionist ideas and practices as well as news and resources from the Taos Institute.
Brief Encounters from the Taos Institute

As a way of sharing constructionist ideas, the Taos Institute shares each month an idea or experience that might be an inspiration for you and others.  


This month we invite Ginny Belden-Charles to share thoughts on.....    


Relational Leading: New Lenses for Co-creating Our Future


by Ginny Belden-Charles

When I first read about 'relational leadership' in my Ph.D. research, I recognized words that resonated deeply.  As an organization development practitioner, my focus has been to understand the systemic and collective processes that support effective results for my clients.  I had an uneasy, if not downright hostile relationship with the term 'leadership'. It was a term that conjured images of the 'in charge', 'power-over' individual who leads through command and control.

Today's complex and global conditions have made transparent the limitations of that old view of leadership. Thorny social and environmental problems cross hierarchies and resist individualistic solutions.  And yet our deeply held assumptions of heroic and bounded individual leadership continue to shape our organization structures, systems, and processes.

"Relational leading" names something fundamentally different for me. 'Relational' is about connections, what happens 'in between'.  Moving from 'leadership' to 'leading' is a shift from noun to verb, from person to action.  It evokes connection and collaboration.  Underneath, there is an even deeper shift; from a worldview that is about knowing and controlling to the processes for collectively co-creating a better future, together.  I am intrigued by how we can expand our images of leading, and what that might look like in action.  Here are four new lenses for describing leading as a relational act and a few examples from my work for how the practices might look in action:

Distributing Influence: Leading includes a collection of varied tasks and behaviors that collectively enable a team or group to achieve their goals, i.e. visioning, organizing, nurturing, strategizing and integrating.   Rather than seeing these as centralized in an individual (i.e. leadership "competencies"), these are activities that occur in a flow of various contexts throughout a team and organization. How can we strengthen this distribution of leadership throughout the organization?  By seeing, acknowledging and giving credit to many different types of leadership work?  A creative team I work with lost their director and were invited to temporarily self-manage their work as a team. By identifying, sharing and rewarding the leadership work throughout the team, plans to replace the leader have been indefinitely suspended and the team is getting excellent results on their own.

Facilitating Conversations: Leading can be viewed as helping others to lead themselves.  How do we create a positive context in which commitment and accountability are nurtured?  What questions do we need to ask ourselves?  What conversations need to be convened?  How do we encourage different perspectives to be shared?  A leader in the organic food industry wanted to bring women leaders together to address the challenges facing the food system in North America.  With a design team, we spent 9 months to frame a convening of 140 diverse leaders from across the sustainable food industry.  A core focus question was developed:  "How do we need to be together differently to create a healthy food system for our children and grandchildren?"  Over three days together, the group engaged in a series of conversations that resulted in 7 provocative propositions for being together differently across sectors and how these propositions could be developed in their respective work projects.  
Creating Meaning:  Leading can be seen as a collective practice of meaning-making, through our discourse, our narratives, the stories we tell ourselves, and the images and symbols we maintain.  Achieving coordinated and coherent action across diverse stakeholder groups cannot be mandated. It comes through creating a shared sense of meaning. Reflexive practices that support meaning-making can range in scope from a simple team meeting debrief to a multi-faceted process for organization culture change.  One example of culture change occurred in a publishing organization whose staff was debilitated by conflict. We held a meeting to explore what was happening. They found an image for their conflict: organizational "ghosts" whose appearance was being fueled by triangulated conversations. By agreeing on and practicing new communication guidelines, they restored their culture to one of healthy disagreement within one year.  

Embrace Emergence:  Leading can also be viewed as the conditions we create for embracing uncertainty and encouraging improvisation. These are strategies for seeing, reinforcing and disrupting organizational patterns. They include processes to surface differences, amplify what is working well, strengthen relational reciprocity and encourage and reward experiments. A board I worked with was bracing itself to get through a big decision in which they had deep differences.  By first listening to each person's view without debate, they surfaced the areas in which they had agreement, disagreement and the differing assumptions at play. From this clarity, they were able to identify information they needed and a process to come to consensus.

I invite you to add your lenses and practices to this beginning list.  How might relational leading images and practices help us co-create better futures for our organizations, our communities and our planet? 

MSc in Relational Leading  - An Update


What if by some miracle we woke up 2 years from now and realize we'd co-created a circle of relational practitioners that was truly amazing and highly respected? That our work together unfolded gracefully and with purpose? What would be the signs that this had transpired? What steps did we take along the way? What were the attributes we held close to our hearts?


These are a few of the questions emerging from the students in their first round of learning partner dialogues. Their questions evoke excitement and possibility for the launch of our learning journey. They affirm our invitation to examine the aspects of relating that are key to engaging, organizing, sustaining and creating the activities of people working together. We are exploring:

  • How social construction can inform leading as relational processes and practices
  • How the process of meaning making is central to organization functioning
  • How collaborative practices can help strengthen engagement and inspire innovation
  • How a systems and process view of the organization informed by complexity theory can support coordination and ethical action
  • How as relational leading practitioners we can apply these new insights to everyday organizational challenges in ways that address individual, organizational, community and environmental/global needs.
We are exploring partnerships and learning forums that will expand our reach and enrich our learning together. For example, Ramboll Attractor Courses is now offering a Danish entrance into the program for 2015 that will add opportunities for face-to-face dialogue in Danish. We appreciate your continued help in spreading the word about the program to prospective students and partners.
For more information:
Our core faculty members (pictured above) met in NYC this month. We celebrated our launch, brainstormed ideas for the program, and attended the "Performing the World" conference together.
  • Social Construction and Research Practices | March 27-29, 2015, with Sheila McNamee and Marco Gemignani, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

For information visit: 


More workshops will be listed soon.


For details and a listing of more workshops, visit our website.

Taos Institute Europe Workshops and Events:


For details visit:   

    - Contact the presenters to register for these workshops:
    • Collaborative and Dialogical Practices in Action | Oct. 25-26 with Harlene Anderson, Spain  

    •  Collaborative-Dialogue Coaching: A Workshop for Mental Health Professionals who want to Expand and Revitalize their Practice and Income | Feb. 5-6, 2015, Houston, with Harlene Anderson and Diana Carleton  

    • Advanced Intensive Narrative Therapy - May 25-29, 2015, Tuscany, Italy, with Jill Freedman and Gene Combs


    For details see: 


    Sponsored by the International Certificate Program in Collaborative Practices:


    For details, registration and more workshop listings, visit our website.

    The Taos Institute is a sponsor of the: 36th Annual Meeting of The Society for Descriptive Psychology
    October 23-26, 2014 - At the American Mountaineering Center, Golden, Colorado
    - See more at:
WorldShare Books WorldShare Books 
Free Download Books - Check it out - More free books are available all the time!


Sharing Ideas and Practices From Around the World


The Taos Institute offers free-of-charge books for downloading to your computer or favorite reader. Our ultimate aim is to offer books in all languages. Like all the Taos Institute Publications, WorldShare Books represent significant contributions relevant to social constructionist theory and practice. More books are being added all the time. Check them all out!   

NEW Book available now:  




All books are available in PDF format. Visit WorldShare Books

International Certificate Collaborative Practices is an international learning community and network. 


Sponsored by Taos Institute and Houston Galveston Institute


To find a program in your part of the world, take a look at:


The Taos Institute's mission is to bring together scholars and practitioners concerned with the social processes essential for the construction of reason, knowledge, and human value.

We are committed to exploring, developing and disseminating ideas and practices that promote creative, appreciative and collaborative processes in families, communities and organizations around the world through a social constructionist lens.

We look forward to your participation in the dialogue.


Dawn Dole, Executive Director
The Taos Institute

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