Positive Impact Blog

Thought provoking insights for change makers

Safe and powerful learning environments

The basic requirement for developing these leaders is a framework that addresses the whole person and that creates the needed openness and support for them. As such, education must provide the fertile grounds that allows for profound personal and professional development. Students and participants, irrespective of their age, will need a serious amount of personal courage to confront their fears, to let go of the views they hold on the world and on themselves and to drop the mask of a so-called educated perspective. Daring to let go of the roles we all hold requires a safe space. Developing and exploring both an inner attitude that is connected to our inner self and an outer attitude that reflects a truly human view of compassion requires a learning environment in which making mistakes is considered progress rather than failure.

Developing a safe and powerful learning environment requires a shift from knowledge teaching to sharing the journey of learning. It forms the entry ticket for transformational learning and involves the ability of the facilitating teacher to hold a safe space within which the greatest potential can emerge. Creating this kind of safe environment requires the facilitator to master the following competencies:

  • Relate to each student with personal authenticity, not pretending to have competencies or knowledge that one lacks. This learning-oriented attitude on the part of a professor can set the tone that it is acceptable not to take the risks that learning entails.
  • Be comfortable with an appropriate degree of self-disclosure, thus paving the way for disclosure on the part of students to more fully discuss the challenges they are facing and the feedback they receive.
  • Make the participants’ needs a priority and demonstrate acceptance of the students’ current abilities both academically and in terms of their leadership development.
  • Live a nonjudgmental attitude as a needed form of support. Be non-prescriptive (as a professor) in class discussions.  Good facilitators do not tell participants exactly what to do, but rather ask (both directly and indirectly) that participants take responsibility for their own development in many ways.
  • Provide a process that places participants in the position of deciding what the information means to them and how to best integrate that into their learning and development. While this process can benefit from coaching and mentoring, it should not be one that gives students all the answers.[1]


[1]            King, S. & Santana, L. (2010). “Feedback Intensive Programs” in Van Velsor, E., McCauley, C., & Ruderman, M. (Eds.) Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development, 3rd Edition.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.


Fixing the game by Roger Martin

Another fine book by R. Martin and finally a concrete review of the financial system and crisis, the flawed underlying assumptions and how we can correct a system that has gotten way out of hand! A must read for anybody who wants to understand on what hinges our world right now!

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Recognizing the need to unlearn

We need to recognize that unlearning is equally important as learning. What we have learned in the past may represent a serious impediment to being able to become the kind of leaders the world needs. As a result of fractioning business out of its context and separating business functions into separate divisions, we have created operating modes in business that represent serious limitations to a more holistic approach, whereby business defines its role as contributing to the well-being of society and, by extension, to all living beings in this world. We have learned to negotiate hard, of winning through cut-throat competition, of either rendering our consumers dependent or seducing them to consume more “stuff”. We have learned to pay employees, suppliers and partners as little as we can get away with and to charge our customers and clients as much as we can. We thereby have created a cage which prevents us from connecting to any desire to do good or to offer our energy and efforts to a greater good. Freeing ourselves from the many written and unwritten rules in business is an essential starting point to enable leaders to connect with their hearts and souls, to stop and to listen, and as a result to liberate their desire to do well by making a positive and relevant difference.

Above and beyond these rules and regulations, we have created important walls of protection. We are so scared to be touched (more figuratively than literally) that we have created very strong mental control mechanism that allows us to go through a day without getting too overwhelmed with everything we are confronted with and are asked to digest, starting with the news in the morning, to mildly dissatisfying personal relationships at work to sorting out kids back home. Most of us are in survival mode. We have shut down everything within us, besides the few vital areas that are required to get us through our daily life. If we expect future leaders to address their fears and deconstruct these walls of protection, we need to offer them an alternative that works. Such a process starts by recognizing the fear within the person in front of us. It requires us to see where the other person stands and to acknowledge his fear by offering a hand to take a step outside of it by providing the needed support. Without this support personal transformation will not be possible. Daring to be touched and knowing how to enter into resonance with himself and the world, are the key fundamental ingredient for any future leader that will act for the world and the societies it includes.