Emergence of Collaborative Leadership in a Traditional Organisation – Part 1: Generative Interviewing

Ian Sherriffs interviewed by Anna Betz for Enlivening Edge Magazine

This is Part 1 of 5 parts. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. Parts 4&5 will be published soon.

Ian Sherriffs, manager of the Memory Service at Camden & Foundation Trust was taken by surprise on 2nd May 2019 when Leisha Fullick, the Trust Chair, presented him the Star of the Month award.

He had been nominated by colleagues for being an outstanding, supportive, and approachable manager with clear collaborative leadership qualities.  (1)

Having known Ian since he started his career as a newly qualified nurse in 2015, I felt a lot of appreciation both for him as an emergent young leader and for my junior colleagues—without whom he wouldn’t have been able to exercise his collaborative leadership skills of listening to the whole person, caring about their development, and enabling them to express their creativity and passion.

What is generative interviewing?

Ian accepted my invitation to a generative interview. It was an opportunity to explore what really motivates and energises him, how he supports others and why, what potential he sees for the organisation, and how emergent leaders could be supported more effectively by their organisations.

It also enabled him to see and sense more powerful connections among his beliefs, values, ideas, and behavior as an emergent leader.


A generative interview is a dialogue practice that brings forth the highest future possibility, out of the interviewee’s personal sense of connection to the whole, and his/her creative impulse.

More than a one-way interview, it is a practice of co-creation that uses the power of generative listening, or “listening from the emerging field of the future.” (2)

It also allowed me as the interviewer to recognise my younger colleagues’ deep yearning for wholeness and authenticity, and the transformative power of those qualities.

A top-down hierarchy with power invested at the top is simply unable to respond creatively to the human need to express our creative potential. All of us and the whole healthcare system miss out when we look to those who have power over us to discover new and creative solutions.

During the interview I also discovered many important connections and resonances with the transformative work I am offering with my Flourish program (3)

In a generative interview the questions are at the heart of living life as a work of art. They pull attention towards the capabilities needed to facilitate the transformation needed in oneself, so one can meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming year created by one’s vision. This is exactly what happened in this interview. Ian came up with insights and ideas he didn’t know he had.

In this context this description of ESSENCE by George Pór came to my mind: “One of the possible futures that social evolution points to is a world in which human institutions are designed to enable humans and their communities to reach their fuller potential: a world in which work as creative self-expression ceases to be the privilege of the few. When enough of us start resonating with that possibility, it may use us and pull us to realize itself.

For the first time in history, we now find ourselves at a juncture where the confluence of economic imperative and ethical behavior demands—and available technologies enable—that we dream such a world into being.” (4)

Part 2 of this interview is here.


(1) https://www.candi.nhs.uk/news/ian-sherriffs-wins-star-month-may-2019

(2) For more on “generative listening,” you can download the introduction to the book on THEORY U: Leading from the Emerging Future, by Otto Scharmer, MIT, from http://www.ottoscharmer.com

(3) Flourish programme: https://community-intelligence.com/what/well-being-wholeness/programmes-for-increasing-wellbeing-and-wholeness-at-work/

(4) Essence: https://www.facebook.com/notes/george-p%C3%B3r/essence/703046133473186/

AnnaAnnas background is in Health and Social Care with training in Herbal Medicine, Socialwork, Mindfulness Practice, Transparent Communication, and Systemic Family Therapy. She practices a pro-active evolutionary approach to Health and Wellbeing and leads on projects in the UK National Health Service using Mindfulness and diet for people suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes and dementia. Her passion for building thriving and sustainable communities inspired her to co-found the HealthCommonsHub. She feels at home in places where individual, communal, organisational, and social evolution meet, and where people support each other in becoming whole and feel enlivened.
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