Deciding How to Decide:

A New Framework for Adaptive Leaders

12:00 PM CDT (-5 GMT)
Wednesday, August 3, 2022


Community, civic, and nonprofit leaders are discovering that old assumptions, processes—even our collective sense of time—are still shifting unpredictably as the COVID-19 pandemic enables a return to work. Many expected by now for a “return to normal,” or that long-held hopes would get a jumpstart. But those hopes have been dashed by staffing struggles, pinched resources, and wounded, tired humans. Old ways of planning and decision-making are failing to meet the moment.

This course is an introduction to principles of adaptive leadership, with a special emphasis on personal discovery and small-scale application. Participants will examine their own leadership preferences and assumptions, and they will consider how those assumptions may have been shaped by individualism and capitalism. While learning to accept and celebrate their leadership orientation, participants will also consider when a situation is best approached by other leaders—or shaped by different processes.

Finally, participants will come away with two helpful tools that will help stretch their assumptions and adapt their practices:

  • Cynefin: A framework for better orienting leaders to context-specific decision-making.[1]

  • EcoCycle: A facilitative process for analyzing organizational context and a model for inspiring emergent strategies.[2]

Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to answer the following questions:

  • What situations best fit my leadership skills, style, preference, and worldview?

  • In what situations should I consider stepping back and following others’ lead?

  • What are some of my cultural assumptions about leadership and process design?

  • What are some practical ways I might begin to shift those cultural assumptions to enable more equitable processes and outcomes?

  • What are some participatory processes that can enable me to lead in new ways?

  • Why can’t things just get “back to normal” with my organization?

Participants will:
  • Know your leadership orientation

  • Learn how to gauge when it's time to:

    •  flex your leadership orientation

    •  lead by stepping back & making space

  • Begin to unpack equity implications in our decision-making habits

  • Grow in discernment about when and why we employ different collaborative methods

  • Connect with other participants

  • Leave with two frameworks for resetting yourself and your organization in these challenging times

Who Should Take this Course:
  • Organizational change agents

  • Diversity & inclusion changemakers

  • Project managers

  • Team leaders

  • Those who sense their leadership orientation is underutilized

  • Those who sense their leadership practices are distorted by the often-unreasonable demands of a shifting cultural landscape


Virtual (Inquire about in-person offerings.)

2.5 hours (with breaks)

Registration fees are on a sliding-scale:
  • $225 - I'm sponsored by a large organization.

  • $175 - I'm sponsored by a small/medium organization.

  • $125 - I'm independent, or I'm a solo firm.

  • $75 - I'm a full-time student or caregiver and/or don’t have a lot of financial margin right now.


Sherry Johnson is Principal Guide at Cultivate Strategy, a facilitation, process consulting, and complexity coaching firm that helps nonprofit and local government clients adapt to face complex, unpredictable circumstances.

Sherry specializes in human-centered, incremental, and collaborative approaches to organizational challenges. With a background in arts education, community organizing, and volunteer coordination, Sherry inspires folks to experiment with new ways of being together. She believes in making complicated information accessible, while honoring context experts. She helps groups name systemic assumptions to release entrenched bias.

Sherry blends Technology of Participation, Participatory Narrative Inquiry, Liberating Structures, and neuroscience into her approach—focusing on mindfulness and constructed emotion. She favors processes that strategically disrupt linear thinking and planning, so that human systems can function in more adaptive ways.


[1] Developed by Dave Snowden, Cynthia Kurtz, and others, with expansion into facilitative frameworks by Chris Corrigan.

[2] Developed by Keith McCandless, with expansion into complexity theory by Dr. Kathleen E. Allen. Further adaptations inspired by adrienne maree brown and Jennifer Garvey Berger.