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Leadership and the Middle Path

A Professional Development Workshop for Leaders

About the Workshop

Over 120 tech start-ups and other businesses (including Fortune 100 companies) in 15 countries around the world have found value in the workshop Leadership and the Middle Path.

“There were three great things about this workshop—the shared language it gave us for problem-solving, the tools for having better ‘data-rich’ conversations, and the opportunity to talk with colleagues about meaningful issues.” 

–Dawn C., Director, food-tech start-up

The workshop helps participants become better problem solvers—along the way, they also become better thinkers, communicators, and decision makers, regardless of skill level. The way we do this is two-fold. We explore, learn, and use very practical (and even ancient) concepts, principles and frameworks that encourage openness, accountability, and integrity in virtually everything we do. Additionally, we invite participants to bring to the workshop real human-systems problems they are trying to solve and apply Middle Path frameworks to generate possible solutions.

Is it right for me or my team?

This program is for any leader or aspiring leader eager to develop or refresh essential leadership skills. This includes senior leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, emerging leaders, technical leaders, project managers and coaches working in business, government, or non-profit organizations.

Tell Me More

Middle Path programs are rooted in five basic premises:



The core function of a leader is to enable the problem solving of others.

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To enable problem solving, leaders must be systems thinkers; they must be able to see beyond initial presenting symptoms to the root causes of those symptoms.

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Much of business literature today treats human systems (i.e., teams, organizations, communities) as machines with rigid operator-centric cultures. This is both inaccurate and harmful. Effective leaders see and understand human systems as biological systems, built on distributed intelligence and adaptability.

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Many of the essential principles of effective leadership are simple but not easy. This means that disciplined practice is more effective than reading more leadership books or listening to more podcasts.

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Individuals and teams, when working on problems, often get stuck in binary thinking (e.g., “We have only two choices—we focus on generating revenue or we focus on serving our customers”). To generate better solutions—solutions that serve multiple stakeholders—leaders must practice and help others practice integrative (i.e., middle path) thinking.

What will I learn?

Upon successful completion of this program, you will learn how to:

  • Use a systems framework to diagnose problems in human systems.

  • Use a four-step process for solving those problems.

  • Identify three traps that interfere with collaborative problem solving.

  • Conduct productive problem-solving conversations that do five things: (1) encourage openness, accountability, and integrity; (2) focus on outcomes and behaviors; (3) reference your values; (4) tap into your senses of passion and courage; and (5) balance inquiry and advocacy.

  • Use a simple communications technique to form trusting relationships with others and/or deepen trust in existing relationships.

  • Use these skills in combination to hold productive meetings, make better decisions, form stronger agreements, and handle conflict productively.

  • Expand your network of professionals interested in the development of leadership skills.

Regarding Scheduling and Costs

For more information, including scheduling a workshop for your team or organization, and/or to discuss Russ' fees, contact Russ.

Note: To help you and your team gain greater mastery over the skills taught in the program, we strongly recommend one or two follow-up practice sessions with Russ. The first practice session is typically held four- to six-weeks after the program.

“'Simple but not easy' is a terrific summation of the principles of Middle Path leadership. Fortunately, what distinguishes Leadership and the Middle Path from other professional development programs are the opportunities to practice the skills by applying them to your unique situations. If your team isn't functioning as a whole greater than the sum of its parts, go through this workshop. I highly recommend it."

––John W., Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, aviation start-up

Time Required for the Workshop

An important consideration for attending this workshop is your commitment to the time. Because every component of the program builds on the previous component, it’s essential that you be there for the full program—please reserve the time on your calendar right away and protect it, make it sacred.

A strong bias of ours—a bias supported by research and experience—is that people don’t tend to learn much in training programs; they learn through practice. Athletes and musicians know this. With that in mind, we will invite you to practice throughout the program, in between sessions, and after the program.

Given that the best practice is supervised practice, we ask that you join Russ and a couple of your fellow workshop participants for a two-hour facilitated practice session to be held four- to-six weeks after the program.

Note that the total time commitment is 20 hours (two nine-hour days plus one two-hour practice session). We ask that when you register for the program, for your benefit and the benefit of other workshop participants, you agree to make yourself available for those full 20 hours.

“We all—I mean all of us—get stuck from time to time in task problems, relationship problems, and individual problems. The Middle Path frameworks Russ teaches provide useful ways to help us get unstuck and moving forward again—as individuals and as an organization.

—Clara L., CEO, social networking start-up

For more on the quarterly, public version of the Leadership and the Middle Path workshop –

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Facilitated by Russ Powell

Russ Powell is a veteran Human Performance Technology (HPT) consultant who specializes in the development of leaders and teams. He has helped thousands of workers and hundreds of leaders in dozens of start-ups and multinational organizations build professional foundation skills.

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