It takes courage to be an Edgewalker and to walk your own unique path. The pressures from society and from organizations to conform are tremendous. What helps people to resist these pressures and to stay true to themselves? Passion. Edgewalkers are passionate about something greater than themselves. They have some sense of purpose or mission that pulls them toward their own future. Edgewalkers have a calling, and they have the courage to answer that call.
When I wrote Edgewalkers, I believed that people who were Edgewalkers were a small percentage of the population. Most people are content to attend to the present day-to-day business of living, and some prefer to cling to an idealized past. Edgewalkers, I wrote, are more focused on the future. They want to know what trends are emerging. What lies just beyond the horizon? What’s the next new thing?
Several people have challenged me about this stand in my presentations and discussions. They tell me that people who do not see themselves as Edgewalkers feel devalued, and they may disconnect from the material that is being presented because it’s not relevant to them. They might feel that I am holding up Edgewalkers as the perfect type of leader. Concern was expressed that I might be that only Edgewalkers contribute anything meaningful to the organization.
At first I stood my ground and said that in my experience, most people are not Edgewalkers, and we don’t need that many Edgewalkers in the world. In fact, too many Edgewalkers in an organization can create chaos. However, it’s hard to think of an organization that has too many Edgewalkers. Most organizations try to rein in the people who are out on the leading edge, and tend to stifle their creativity and curiosity. My mission has been to help organizational leaders to see the value of their Edgewalkers and to learn how to utilize their unique skills and perspective.
In the book I wrote about five different organizational Archetypes of Change: Edgewalkers, Flamekeepers, Hearthtenders, Placeholders, and Guardians. I was thinking of each of these orientations as a pretty fixed personality type. This changed when I was discussing these five “types” with Lance Giroux who was interviewing me for his blog. Lance asked me if I was an Edgewalker in my organization, and I realized that I am very much an Edgewalker in my consulting business most of the time, but I played the role of Flamekeeper in my role as President and CEO of the International Center for Spirit at Work.
As founder of ICSW, it was important to me to keep to the founding vision alive and to keep the organization stable and fiscally sound. In my consulting business, I can be very entrepreneurial and creative, but in ICSW I tended to resist change that others proposed, unless I saw that it helped to carry out the core mission. At times, I had even taken on the role of Guardian, making statements such as, “If we cancel this event, we’ll lose credibility with our members, and it will be the death of the organization!”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that each of us has all these Archetypes of Change within us, and that we may find ourselves playing different roles in the different systems of which we are a part, and we may also find ourselves sometimes taking on Edgewalker consciousness in one organization and at another time perhaps moving into Placeholder consciousness in that same organization.
I am now seeing these Archetypes of Change as much more mutable and fluid. The challenge for each of us to is notice which form of consciousness or orientation to change we are in at any moment, and in different organizations. Then we can assess whether or not this is the most effective form of consciousness for that particular situation.
The two key questions you can ask yourself in order to get a sense of your form of consciousness at that moment are:
1. What is my time orientation? Past, present, future?
2. What is my orientation to change? Closed, open?
Then ask yourself, what is needed here?
Tell me, what do you think? Are some people just born Edgewalkers and show up as Edgewalkers wherever they are? Or do all of us have the potential for Edgewalker consciousness and just need the right circumstances for it to arise?
My book Edgewalkers: People and Organizations that Take Risks, Build Bridges, and Break New Ground, was published on October 31, 2006 and immediately was listed as number 5 on the Barnesandnoble.com list of Best New Business Books.
Why the excitement?
Perhaps because more and more people are recognizing that the old systems and the old ways of thinking are not working for us.
This blog is a place where we can explore this “Edgewalker” concept that seems to be showing up in many places at once. I invite you to dialogue with me about why Edgewalkers seem to be emerging right now, why we need them, and what organizations can do to attract and retain them.
If you would like to learn about upcoming Walking on the Leading Edge workshops, please visit the Edgewalker Website.