EMILIE MOGENSEN attended STEVE MACADAM’s module as part of The Inner MBA, and she is deeply inspired by his way of building authentic communities. Steve is an MBA from Harvard, a Baker Scholar, and currently an independent director for Louisiana-Pacific Corporation and Valvoline Inc. In part 2 of the series, they explore the 4 phases of building authentic communities.
“The next Buddha may take the form of
a community – a community practicing understanding and loving kindness,
a community practicing mindful living.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
We are exploring Steve Macadam’s model on how to build authentic communities. The model is simple and based on 4 phases:
Phase 1, the pseudo community
Phase 2, the chaos community
Phase 3, the emptying phase
Phase 4, the authentic community
Phase 1, the pseudo community, is artificial, not real. Steve explains that this phase is often where most companies and organizations are stuck for long periods and some people seem to be okay there. But the bottom line is that the community can thrive much better, and some people break away from those communities that don’t offer space for authenticity.
This leads us to Phase 2, the chaos community, where a lot of people leave and some stay back, and often insist rather strongly on maintaining things “as they have always been.” We see this a lot in the world today, where the “great resignation” is a hardcore reality for many companies. People are simply no longer willing to put their jobs and positions above their personal well-being. I believe this is an unavoidable result of decades, even centuries, of the individual trying to fit in at any cost.
This fitting in often comes from a very strong need to feel a part of the group and not to stand alone, which is a very sweet and innocent quality of the human heart – the need to be with fellow beings and to connect. But the question to ask is: do we really connect? And do we really thrive if we constantly value the profit of the company, the peace of the room, over our inner most truthful need of being allowed to feel okay just as we are?
I am writing this article with a funny sense of insecurity, as I know the Heartfulness Magazine is a multicultural magazine, with readers from around the world, with different backgrounds, cultures, and religious beliefs. I respect this and want to honor everyone’s feelings. Some cultures believe strongly in putting the group’s needs over the individual, which a part of me does as well.
So why am I so drawn to Steve’s model? Because another part of me is truly thirsty to step into a new world and a new expression of myself: of being able to hold space for others, and not feel threatened nor hurt when someone holds a very different opinion than me.
It seems to be part of an evolutionary plan that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift. The fact that we have seen numerous communities breaking up, families breaking up, friendships breaking up, companies breaking up, shows me something is in deep transformation in our societal structures. We are in the middle of a collective “community of chaos,” phase 2.
We travel through Phase 3, the emptying phase, to move from chaos to Phase 4, the authentic community. Phase 3 is where Steve allows all the workers to express themselves, through listening to fairy tales and through mindfulness exercises. He emphasizes how important it is that the CEO, the leader, faces the people within a circle, sitting on a chair at the same height as the others in the group. A sense of equality must be present, so everyone can express their feelings and everyone can practice holding space for one another.
A sense of equality
must be present, so everyone
can express their feelings
and everyone can practice holding
space for one another.
This means to leave the thinking part of consciousness, and truly listen with the heart and the entire body. The heart holds our compassionate qualities, while our body is the container of a lot of hidden trauma. We tend to want to bypass the unpleasant feelings, as we don’t like to feel uncomfortable.
This is where “emotional intelligence” comes into the picture. Demonstrating emotional intelligence is actually very simple. It is the ability to stay present in our own and other people’s emotions and feelings. It is not about understanding them, and certainly not about giving advice. It is about being able to hold a certain tune of someone’s instrument, even though we might prefer to play on other tunes. It requires the confidence to be brave enough to allow the unpleasant stream of consciousness to move through the energy body, without holding onto it or pushing it away. It’s an exercise in letting energy move through the physical body and the energy body, and letting it go when it’s ready to pass.
I asked Steve to elaborate on the importance of strong and visible leadership in the emptying phase. He shares that it is crucial that everyone leads themselves from within, and nobody feels they are “being watched” by someone in power.
I ask a bit further, wanting him to share some insights about how important it must be to have very defined frameworks around this in a community. It is very sweet how Steve is really not into top down leadership, as one could imagine a CEO in a publicly traded US company could be. He emphasizes the importance of a free and open environment, where everyone can express their truth. However, he ends up agreeing with me that a skillful leader is required to facilitate these community meetings, where everyone can empty their inner feelings and share their truths.
He shares how we can benefit from being in a large circle, together, then some breakout sessions can take place. This is not something new in my own communities, and I have often felt it to be rather boring. Again, my impatient entrepreneur mentality! Steve shares with me that the typical entrepreneur is often the person who breaks out from communities. I resonate with that. Some sort of “don’t care, move on” thought pattern in my head.
It requires the confidence to be brave enough
to allow the unpleasant stream of consciousness
to move through the energy body,
without holding onto it or pushing it away.
It’s an exercise in letting energy move
through the physical body and the energy body,
and letting it go when it’s ready to pass.
A part of me is sad about this, because I truly wish to be a part of authentic communities, not just doing things my way. I feel split into these two sides. One is afraid to lose my go-getter power if I have to succumb to a group. It truly is faster to get things done on my own. Another part of me wants to be part of a group.
I ask Steve how to deal with this, and his answer makes so much sense. “This is exactly what you have to share in the group,” he says. I feel a strong sense of healing when these two rather different personalities in me meet and shake hands.
Most human beings are
people with strong intentions
for a better world, for compassion and peace.
And what a human heart needs most
is to feel allowed and contained
in whatever process it is going through.
Back to the emptying phase, our community meeting, and sharing in small groups. What struck me with Steve’s model is that he guides us to come back after the breakout session and share together in a slightly different way than I am used to. What we share in the plenum is not what we discussed, but how did it make us feel to share in the breakout session? What struck us? How did we feel sharing? What were we good at sharing? This is brilliant in my eyes! Because most human beings (at least the ones reading this magazine) are people with strong intentions for a better world, for compassion and peace. And what a human heart needs most is to feel allowed and contained in whatever process it is going through.
And who really wants to blame others? Not many! But sometimes we can’t stop blaming a certain person, a leader or a group, unless we are allowed to be acknowledged for the pain we have felt in the pseudo phase. The very fact that we share how sharing made us feel creates an authentic community, because we start showing more interest in how we feel, instead of what we think and say.
The key takeaways from Steve’s model:
To move from pseudo community to authentic community, each of us must demonstrate strong inner leadership.
People in decision-making positions must practice asking what he calls “powerful questions.” Here are some examples:
Why are you not feeling safe in this community?
Why do you not like the way things are?
What is your contribution to the very thing you address?
What is your contribution as a leader?
A true leader is someone
who cares about having a
positive impact on others,
through role modeling rather than
teaching or giving advice.
Steve is not a top down leader, which truly makes me want to follow him and ask him for advice. He emphasizes that a true leader is someone who cares about having a positive impact on others, through role modeling rather than teaching or giving advice.
Once the emptying phase is processed in a compassionate way, facilitated by leaders who are able to hold their vision and allow space for everyone to unfold their inner leader, the authentic community emerges from deep within everyone. It offers deep meaningful relationships, a sense of belonging, and loyalty to the respective organization or company.
Thank you Steve for this wonderful opportunity to explore your experimental ways and to learn from you.
Illustrations by ALONA SAVCHUK
Steve Macadam and Emilie Mogensen
Emilie Mogensen Emilie is Danish born with design and spirituality in her DNA. Besides being a designer, she holds an Inner MBA, a Masters in conscious business and entrepreneurship, from NYU. She is on a mission to enhance unity, compassion and heart centered entrepreneurship in modern life business endeavors. Steve Macadam Steve is a senior... Read more