001: Leading from the Self

Welcome to the blog!

This will be how I chronicle my adventure into the heart of how we will organise the future as researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics; until I have a hundred I will go out and meet the thought leaders that are slowly, but surely, chipping away at the foundations of what we know to be true about how we best create value for each other.

SelfLeaders was my first visit – and as I sat down with one of the co-founders of the organisation, Jan Henriksson, I could feel my excitement. Somehow, my brain was tingling. I think it knew it was the perfect spot to start, because three years ago, it was Jan who opened my eyes to the world of self determination theory, and how it could be incorporated at the workplace.

Profile: SelfLeaders

Location: Sweden

Business: HR-service company, letting organisations probe deep into the values of employees and use an app to get to grips with how to integrate these learning into their lives.

Notable as: they live their own message, taking it deeper than what they are offering the world – i.e. their core operating procedure is self-management. Instead of a vision, they have a massive transformative purpose (like and MMORPG, anyone can join it and co-create!).

For organisational science nerds: Their values represent what Fredric Laloux would call a “teal mindset”, and ML Commons would say is a level 13 model of complexity (meta systematic). Love how they call them “lekregler”!



I was a master student at the same school I am now a member of the faculty and SelfLeaders were there to do their thing; map our values in a deeper way than most of us ever get into them. Low and behold; there was a word for the ideas that was keeping me up at night. My core value was co-evolution, as I had never heard it, I immediately looked it up on wikipedia;

“In biology, coevolution occurs when two or more species reciprocally affect each other’s evolution. Charles Darwin mentioned evolutionary interactions between flowering plants and insects in On the Origin of Species (1859). Each party in a coevolutionary relationship exerts selective pressures on the other, thereby affecting each other’s evolution. Coevolution includes many forms of mutualism, host-parasite, and predator-prey relationships between species, as well as competition within or between species.” 

Essentially, it’s the idea that everything is in relationship to other things. That on a fundamental level nothing is evolved outside a context. You can go really philosophical with this idea; e.g, there is a coevolutionary relationship between cooperation and competition – this helped me get over my fear of arguments, seeing how only by offering my full self did I do my context justice.

The Self and Motivation

That all may sound pretty strange or abstract, but to me, because it was my value, it struck such a perfect cord. I found I could not stop reading because the insights were somehow addictive; after reading more and more about the idea, I eventually found the type of organisation that I now study; organisations that co-evolve. Their seminar was critical for turning me onto the path that became this Phd. I choose the path because somehow no one had to pay me, no one had to keep be accountable to a target, no one had to even see what I was doing (seemingly forever); for years I’ve just kept going.

I probably don’t have to tell you what this means for my “employer”, or in my case my doctoral supervisor. Finding that word “co-evolution” was central for years of reduced management costs for my work. Essentially, I lead myself – not through targets, but rather through being attracted to my work. There is not an organisation in the world that won’t be better of with self-led members. This is a 10x technology.

The trick is just to make it so. SelfLeaders clearly have a piece of that puzzle; figuring out what drives us and using cognitive behavioural theory to put us on the right track for living the best version of our lives.

They also have other parts of the puzzle that my research is slowly revealing to me. Knowing your values is not enough; you also need to be in a context that will allow you to live them – that will evolve with and be vulnerable to the growth you experience when you lead your self. That is why (I imagine) they have “lekregler” (rules of play) instead of principles: they understand just how serious play can be. It’s the beginning of everything that is not yet known – and its fundamental in a world where truly dealing with complexity, is the only way to push on.

But if you travel far enough, one day you will recognize yourself coming down to meet yourself. And you will say – yes.

Marion Woodman

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