Teal and Leadership

Recently, I heard this comment: “The problem with Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organization is that it doesn’t talk about leadership.”  It is interesting how we humans interpret the same book so differently.  In my opinion, the book’s 3 breakthroughs of Teal are essentially the conditions AND the results of leadership.  Teal is all about leadership.  


The essence of moving to self-management is to convert the current child-parent or employee-boss relationships to partner-partner relationships.  For those already leading organizations, it is a transformational leadership development process for the purpose of cultivating the ability to lead without authority.  It is about learning how to become inspiring leaders whose actions are driven by deep wisdom and compassion.  

For those who are used to been managed, this is an opportunity to take responsibility and to express themselves and use their talents freely.  In other words, it is about moving out of the little matchbox in hierarchies into an open space, so they can become self-leaders.  Ultimately, teal is about transitioning from a one-leader and many-followers model to an everyone is a leader model.  

Easily said than done, isn’t it?  I once heard that a company’s employee couldn’t make a decision about which brand of wine to buy for the company Christmas party, because he feared to make the wrong decision.  And this company had been “implementing” self-management for several years.  

Then how to help employees become autonomous? Yes, by now many people are talking about safe space.  To make it a reality is far more than figuring out “what to do”.  It is about “how to be”.  It is an inside-out process that requires the leaders to demonstrate vulnerability, authenticity, kindness, and humility.  And all of these are directly related to his or her spirituality maturity.  


As mentioned in a previous article, wholeness is the most confusing part of Teal because of spirituality.  Yet, what separates Teal from pre-Teal is also spirituality.  Although everyone is born spiritual, many of us misunderstand our spirituality.  

In the business world, we have a tendency to understand everything intellectually.  But trying to understand spirituality through intellect is nearly impossible.  The reason is that spirituality is from the 4+ dimensions and it communicates through energy, while our intellect is the function of 3 dimensions and it communicates through languages.  

This is similar to the fact that we cannot intellectualize the taste of wine unless we try it.  However, once we taste it, we can articulate it with languages and it will be understood between people who have experienced it.  The more experience we have, the more it makes sense to us.  

But how is spirituality related to leadership? 

Spirituality is what separates true leadership from mere authority.  Without connecting to our innate Spiritual Intelligence, we make decisions based on social conventions, directions from authorities, or self-interests.  With increased Spiritual Intelligence, we see the big picture and understand how the Universe is interconnected.  We tap into our innate wisdom to guide our decision making and to find solutions to life’s challenges.  We move from powerless to powerful. It gives us the grounding and the confidence to lead ourselves (aka self-management) which is the prerequisite of leading others.  

As far as I can see, the most direct way to accelerate the process towards wholeness or Teal is through coaching and healing.  Because Teal is all about people and their leadership capabilities.  It is best to start the process from the top, provided that they are ready, and to be guided by professionals who have gone deep on their own spiritual journeys.  The challenge to Teal is how much are we willing to work on ourselves instead of others and how much are we willing to unlearn and to relearn.  

Evolutionary Purpose

Any leadership journey starts with a purpose. For an organization to move towards the same goal with self-management, the purpose has to be big enough to encompass the interests of all stakeholders.  For this to happen, leaders must be fully committed to this purpose, demonstrated through actions.  Otherwise, a grand purpose aimed to change the world, yet without a clear vision or strong leadership to support it will be just lip service.  

Clearly, all 3 Teal breakthroughs are interrelated and co-dependent of each other.  Moving towards Teal is much more than implementing a few new ideas.  It requires a fundamental paradigm shift from the heart of the organization.  It starts with leadership at the top and ends in leadership at every level of the organization.  By the time that self-leaders throughout an organization are moving in concert, we have a full-fledged Teal organization.  

However, full-fledged Teal is not always necessary.  Just a tiny step forward could already be life-changing.  For those who are ready, going Teal can be the most effective and rewarding way for leadership development. 

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