Leading Self, Leading Systems

Learn how to release the unrealised potential within individuals, teams & whole systems in this highly engaging online workshop – 10/17 Oct.

£299 – £399

About this event

We are living amidst profound disruption in almost every sphere of our lives – economic, political, organisational, technological and ecological. We are at a critical crossroads. In the face of these intense pressures, our human systems – organisations, communities, governments and societies – will either fracture and fragment or regenerate and transform. Each of us, in whatever position or context we are in, face a choice in how we respond and how we choose to be. Our response matters.

In our view, leadership is not primarily related to role, job title or position. Leadership is a practice that is available to everyone. Leadership emerges when we choose to take responsibility and mobilise ourselves and others to create something new in the world. Leadership arises when we engage with others in the challenging task of evolving and transforming human systems. Everyone who seeks to make a positive difference in their situation needs to strengthen two essential leadership capacities:

  • Leading Self – deepening our self-awareness and personal insight, drawing on our natural compassion, courage and steadfastness.
  • Leading Systems – learning to see beyond surface events, to recognise the patterns of relationships and the underlying structures and conditions that drive behaviours. Acting with an awareness of the interconnected whole, we embody the future we want to create.

The workshop integrates these two lenses – self and systems – to shed light on how people, teams and organisations get stuck, and how we can liberate potential, strengthen working relationships and mobilise systems change.

We draw on the profound and practical thinking of systems theorist Barry Oshry, and his four decades of research into power and powerlessness in human systems. One of the revelations in Oshry’s work is that many of the problems we believe are primarily personal or interpersonal – are not just personal: “I’m not effective in my role”, “If only I had better manager (partner/Prime Minister/President) then things would be fine”, “We are not a good team”. Context matters. The workshop illuminates the power of context and how it shapes perceptions, emotions and behaviour. By recognising our blind spots regarding context, we can reduce blame and misunderstandings, foster trust, and cultivate productive relationships.

This foundational workshop comprises two highly engaging, enjoyable and thought-provoking sessions spaced one week apart. This structure allows you to immediately apply the framework and practices in your everyday work and life.


Session 1, 0900-1300 BST, 1000-1200 CEST, Tuesday 10 October

 What to expect?

  • Online simulation that replicates the contexts within which you live and work everyday providing a platform to explore the impact of context on relationships and behaviour.
  • Frameworks to help you distinguish more clearly between what is personal and what is systemic.
  • Immediate application of the framework to your situation, raising your awareness of reactive patterns of behaviour that limit your contribution and impact.


  • Discover the power of context to shape perception, emotions and behaviours.
  • Increase your awareness of the interplay between self and system.
  • Identify disempowering patterns of behaviour and the shift that will empower you and the wider system.
Session 2, 0900-1300 BST, 1000-1400 CEST, Tuesday 17 October

 What to expect?

  • Stimulating organisational exercise, based on Barry Oshry’s Organization Workshop, where participants enter a fast-moving, turbulent environment working together on important shared tasks.
  • The experience will productively challenge your taken-for-granted assumptions about what it means to lead yourself, teams and organisational systems.
  • Practices to bring together diverse groups of stakeholders, take down the ‘walls’ of misunderstanding and miscommunication, and rapidly generate a rich, shared picture of the whole system.


  • Move beyond observing surface dynamics and learn to see the underlying patterns that influence relationships.
  • Increase your empathy for others, extending your capacity to lead in partnership.
  • Generate greater awareness and choice in how you lead yourself and the systems of which you are a part.


Online on Zoom

What does it cost?

For those participants whose places are paid for by their organisation we offer two rates: standard rates for private sector companies and a reduced organisation rate for public sector, charities and not-for profit organisations.

Organisation Sponsored – Standard Fee: £399 including VAT (UK sales tax) for commercial companies and private sector firms

Organisation Sponsored – Reduced Fee: £299 including VAT for charities, NG0s, non-profits, public sector organisations, small consultancies

Group discounts of 20% on fees are available where 3 or more people participate from the same organisation. Add the word GROUP to the promo box when booking.

The workshop fee covers both sessions on 10 and 17 October.

We are passionate about widening the reach of this work; we make available bursaries for those working in grassroots change in their local communities and wider society who cannot afford the organisational rates. Please contact john.watters@livingleadership.org.uk to request bursary places.

What do clients say about our online workshops?

Our workshops attract a diverse group of participants with varying work and life experiences from different geographies, sectors and communities. This creates an experience which is both stimulating and revelatory.

“Experiential, immersive, illuminating.”

“A game changer in online experiential learning”

“The possibility to empower ourselves in any moment by ‘seeing’ our emergent responses and then asking what our ‘creative contributions’ might be.

“I’ve never been in an online session where I was so engaged by the activities and discussions that I forgot I was online.”

“Exceptional online learning – I was immediately able to see opportunities to grow and build on my work and the projects and teams I am working with.”

John Watters is a Founding Director of Living Leadership and one of the world’s leading authorities on the work of systems theorist, Barry Oshry. John had the joy and privilege of a 15-year collaboration and partnership with Barry Oshry, pioneering the introduction of Oshry’s work into Europe, accrediting trainers, coaches and consultants worldwide and bringing this systems work to organisations as diverse as UNESCO, NATO, Shell, Microsoft, Roche, public sector bodies of all kinds, plus global and local charities.

John’s leadership and organisational consultancy work focuses on connecting individuals, teams and whole systems with their full potential. John specialises in facilitating breakthrough on complex issues and finding common ground in stuck and conflicted situations. In doing this work he pays special attention to holding space for our full humanity to be present, creating conditions to get to the heart of the issue and strengthening our capacity to listen deeply to ourselves, others and the whole system. Clients describe John’s way of working as courageous, challenging, warm-hearted and inspiring. John lives in Shoreham-by-Sea, UK.

Lauren Isla is an Associate of Future Considerations and a Director of Hope, Curiosity, Determination. Lauren is accredited in Barry Oshry’s Organisation Workshop and has delivered client programs using this framework in Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Singapore and Bangladesh.

Lauren helps organizations map out where they are against an ideal of having leaders and teams connecting, communicating and collaborating regularly across functions. Using proprietary tools and processes she helps organisations find out if their leaders and teams are networking as they should. Lauren’s spatial intelligence, analytical mind and ability to recognize patterns serve her in good stead as a Social Network Analyst (SNA). Trained by Valdis Krebs, a US-based consultant specializing in organisational network analysis, her work in SNA has provided the leaders of client organizations with insights into gaps in connections among and between their employees, teams and departments, allowing them to map and measure the amount of teamwork, communication, information flow, and knowledge-sharing that happens – or not – within their company, team, department, division or group. Lauren lives in Manila in the Philippines.

Other testimonials about our work:

“An extraordinary insight into what it feels like at every level of the organisation as well as experiencing your own strengths and weaknesses.” Dr Peter Devlin, Partner in Healthcare General Practice, Brighton, UK

“Working with John Watters has been among the most productive partnerships I have known”. Barry Oshry PhD, Author of Seeing Systems, Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life and creator of ‘The Organization Workshop

“It is easy to underestimate the power of Oshry’s work until you have taken this workshop. It was a life changing experience. You will find instant applications to your personal and professional life”. Seema Malhotra, Member of Parliament for Feltham & Weston, UK

“The workshop was the most successful and impactful training I have been involved in for 25 years. It’s changed how I see my leadership role.” Peter Thomas, Senior Fellow, Institute for Government, UK

“The Organization Workshop is an astonishing and reliable process. I’ve experienced it in different cultures. It never fails to reveal the dynamics of leadership and power in organisations that are universal.” Meg Wheatley Ed.D., Author, Who Do You Choose to Be?

“The workshop changed my thinking about organisational leadership, the contribution that every part of the system plays, and has really helped all of us move forward.” Executive Vice-President, Global Energy Company

Options for running this workshop in your context

The Leading Self, Leading Systems workshop can be run as a stand-alone workshop or included as one element in a wider piece of work or capacity-building programme. The workshop provides a powerful shared experience and a mirror for a team or an organisation to reflect on their taken-for-granted assumptions and dominant patterns of relating, acting as a catalyst to stimulate fresh thinking on leading and organising. It can be run as in-person experience for between 15-500 people and in a variety of formats as an online workshop. John would be delighted to have a conversation to explore the options for bringing this work to your context – email him at john.watters@livingleadership.org.uk