Participatory Leadership

Participatory Leadership, also referred to as The Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter, is an approach to social, organizational, and systems change that deepens a group’s collective engagement, wisdom, and capacity to act wisely in our rapidly-changing, complex world.

In contrast to working with technical problems where solutions are already known, Participatory Leadership is particularly helpful for addressing novel, complex problems. Participatory Leaders know that complexity can only be understood through the diverse perspectives of the many rather than a few.  By exploring diverse perspectives with deep curiosity, richer insights about what’s possible are surfaced, which in turn deepens everyone’s commitment to seek a solution together.

To surface greater collective insight, participatory leaders engage with others in dialogue-based methods such as Circle, World Café, Open Space Technology and Pro-action Café. These methods allow everyone to move beyond problem-based, either/or thinking to possibilities-based inquiry that leads to breakthrough insights and innovation.

Participatory Leaders also welcome everyone’s gifts and contributions, knowing that people support what they help create. Through Strategic Dialogue, we realize we have the wisdom and resources needed to create the desired change. By connecting people and deepening engagement through Strategic Dialogue, Participatory Leaders create the conditions that result in more effective patterns for thinking, learning, and innovating together.


The way to heal a living system is to connect it to more of itself.  – Humberto Maturana


A life-affirming leader is one who knows how to rely on and use the intelligence that exists everywhere in the community, or the school, or the organization. And these leaders act as hosts, as stewards of other people’s creativity and intelligence…leaders these days need to be the one who convenes people, who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in processes where our intelligence can come forth. So these kinds of leaders do not give us the answers, but they help gather us together so that together we can discover the answers. – Margaret Wheatley