Author Archives: Mark

NEW online Host Leadership video course with Mark McKergow

We’re very excited to announce the launch of this new online learning opportunity!

You can learn about Host Leadership and how to use it with your own team, organisation or community right now with Ideas For Leaders new online Host Leadership course.

In this accessible and engaging video-based course, Host co-author Dr Mark McKergow takes us through the background to the metaphor and model of Host Leadership, and a deeper dive into the useful and innovative Six Roles and Four Positions of a host leader.

There are eight modules, each consisting of three 5-7 minute video sections. The videos contain specially created animations and graphics to help you learn, remember and apply the ideas of Host Leadership. Mark also presents some short activities for you to do to relate the ideas to your own situation. There are also further reading suggestions, links and ways to continue your development after the course.

Use code HL-LAUNCHMONTH20 to get 20% off the course until the end of November 2022.

See more information, watch Mark talk about the course, see an excerpt from one of the modules and register at:

“In Mark’s new course, he becomes the guide by your side while you’re exploring Host Leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed how he combined a sociable, motivating tone with precise wording, and luckily, his reflective questions exercises about my own practice stopped any possibility of thinking ‘I’ve-already-been-there-done-that’ dead in its tracks.”

Rolf F Katzenberger, facilitator and team coach, Pragmatic Teams

“Mark McKergow pioneered the concept of “Host Leadership”. This course is a welcome and needed enhancement to the subject. Whether you have read his book and want to embed the ideas in yourself and your organisation, or you want to dive straight into this intuitive yet (for some) elusive concept, this course is an excellent option to choose. Not only does Mark bring expertise in the subject area, he is also a skilled, good humoured and experienced communicator and trainer. I strongly recommend the course – understanding how to be a host leader will give you added impact in both personal and professional settings.”

Richard Lucas, Founder TEDx Kazimierz 

Host Leadership course logo

Hosting Generative Change: 16 hour online masterclass with Mark McKergow starts 1 November 2022

Dialogic OD is about creating generative dialogue and conversation – new perspectives, new ideas, with as much listening as talking. The way into these dialogues is hosting: the way we bring people together has a huge impact on what happens.  In this course Host author Dr Mark McKergow will work with you to help you host dialogues, people and organisations in ways which underpin, not overshadow, this fascinating, delicate, and essentially human practice. 

Four online sessions on 1, 3, 8 and 15 November at 4pm UK time ( 17h CET, 11am EST, 8am Pacific)

Download the PDF brochure

Full details and registration 

This series has other courses through the winter 2022/23, and also includes a course from Solution Focused coaching expert Haesun Moon in March 2023.

Host Leadership as a practical framework for dialogic leaders

Chris Corrigan, one of my long-time friends and inspirations, has just started blogging again. This is good news – his ideas and views from the western shores of Canada about hosting, facilitating, conversing and including are always worth catching.

Today’s blog is a list of 10 interesting things from his ‘parking lot’ – the place where he stores ideas and material pending making use of it. My eye was caught by a short video of Patricia Shaw on the characteristics of a good leader from a dialogic perspective. It’s only six minutes long and well worth a watch.

Patricia Shaw

I have summarised her characteristics, which are well-observed and very concisely delivered. She says leaders could do more of these:

  1. Think about convening conversations that might not happen otherwise. Opening spaces for reflective inquiry.
  2. Taking action visibly. Taking up a voice, speaking out, creating ripples where you don’t quite know the consequences.
  3. Leaders shift the conversational life of the organisation. Having the courage and skill to invite and sustain free-flowing conversation which is not simply following a highly structured agenda.
  4. Invent and improvise shifts in the configuration of speaking with each other – all together, in small groups, listening carefully. Work with conversation as an art.
  5. Encourage talk linking large-scale abstract concepts to the small-scale realities of everyday life.  Many leaders are excellent at giving accounts of the former and are unable to translate these to the latter.
  6. Know how to balance and move between written documentation with oral communication. The former leads to a narrowing and reduction of the richness of the latter.
  7. Leaders can be very good at explanation and yet very poor at description. They are too eager to move towards simple cause-and-effect linkages, where a descriptive-reflective capacity to inquire into the way circumstances happen and change.  
  8. Being able to evoke and notice ‘vivid moments of experience’, moments of common reference which have meaning for people in their everyday activity.
  9. Pay less attention to generating yet another action plan and more attention on what is opening up in front of us in terms of small steps.

Each of these nine micro-practices can be seen to be part of a host leadership stance, particularly when combined with the detail and descriptive work of Solutions Focus. My eye was particularly drawn to:

  • Using convening power – even when you don’t have formal authority to do so.
  • Work in different ways with language and conversation – all together, in small groups, individually and so on, using the Four Positions of a host leader.
  • Bringing people together to join forces to exchange, converse and emerge new ideas (rather than have a constraining agenda), in the same way that a good party is not scripted but flows this way and that.
  • Taking small steps (as in the User’s Guide To The Future framework) as a way of positively exploring and learning, rather than as part of a huge action plan.

Now take a look at Patricia’s video below. Enjoy!

Host Leadership Gathering 2022 – full programme now out!

The full programme for the Host Leadership Gathering 2022 is now online. It looks great – there are 12 excellent workshops from around the world including presenters from education (in Australia) and healthcare (in the British NHS) and multinational FMCG (“the beer that reaches the parts others can’t”) contexts. There are also top leadership development, coaching and agile professionals sharing their experience.

Host author Dr Mark McKergow will start the event with a keynote exploring ‘Host Leadership in the age of the strongman’. There will also be an Open Space session for you to bring along your ideas, challenges and questions. If you are keen to learn more and use Host Leadership in your work, this is the place to be, 

We had hoped to offer an in-person option but that is not possible. So, the event is online only. You can participate from the comfort of your own place anywhere in the world. And you will have exclusive access to recordings of all the sessions! 

Registration is just €99. Join us on Thursday-Friday 26-27 May 2022

Host Leadership Gathering 2022: Milan/online 26-27 May – Building a Host Leadership Practitioner Circle

We are very excited to announce that there will be a Host Leadership Gathering in 2022! We are hoping to gather in Milan, Italy on 26-27 May 2022 – and there will also definitely be an option to join online.

The theme of the event is ‘Building A Host Leadership Practitioner Circle’. Some of our longest-standing practitioners will be there to share their work. If you would like to make Host Leadership a key part of your own practice – as a leader, as a consultant or as a coach – then this is the moment to step forward and come to join in.

There is already a strong list of workshops on the menu, and we are seeking your proposals for sessions too (by Friday 18 February please). Presenters include Mark McKergow (UK), Veronika Jungwirth and Dr Ralph Miarka (Austria), Rolf Katzenberger (Germany), Dr Leah Davcheva (Bulgaria), Mike Brent (UK/France), Jason Pascoe (Australia) and Pierluigi Pugliese (Italy/Germany). You can see the current menu at

The event is being hosted by our friends Pierluigi Pugliese and Katrin Seger of Connexxo. Registration is just €99 which guarantees online participation. As the travel situation comes clear, there will be an option to join in person if you can.

Come and join us – expand your practice, join our practitioner circle as it forms, and meet some great people!

Host Leadership Hint #9: Take time In The Kitchen

When we go into organisations and groups to help them learn about Host Leadership, we talk about our four positions for a host leader. These first appeared in the Host book by Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey.  Briefly, they are: 

  • In The Spotlight – upfront, public, talking to everyone, giving a speech or address 
  • With The Guests – still in public, talking to people one-on-one or in very small groups
  • In The Gallery – stepping back to take an overview of how everything is going and what might need to happen next 
  • In The Kitchen – a private space, where you can go behind-the-scenes and reflect, learn and recharge 

There is great value in taking all these positions from time to time. They all offer something different in terms of what you can discover and how you can interact with your people, your ‘guests’. What we hear again and again from real-life leaders and hosts is along the lines of…

  • “I would love to take time in the kitchen, but I’m just too busy!”
  • “There is always so much to be done, and I want to get time with the people out there”
  • “I try to find Kitchen time, but it gets pushed to the end of the day when I am too tired to really use it well”

We can sympathise with this – there is indeed always a lot to be done. And – it’s possible both to find effective ways to build in Kitchen time and use it well. 

Time in the Kitchen is time with the pressure off for a few moments. It’s time for: 

  • reflection, 
  • learning, 
  • talking to key advisors/mentors, 
  • sounding new ideas with colleagues
  • getting coaching
  • developing yourself  

The secret of getting the time for all this is – basically – to SCHEDULE it. Get it into your calendar and protect it. Value it so you don’t just take another meeting over the top of it. One good way to do this is to set aside a time (perhaps the same time) each week. An hour in the kitchen. It can take a few weeks to really get into the swing of this so you’ll very likely have to persist. 

As well as just scheduling your kitchen time, you can also effectively make the time yours by also including others. So for example you could: 

  • Make time with a coach or mentor – and put it in the diary
  • Keep a regular learning journal – say at the start and end of each week?
  • Organise away days or retreats for your closest team
  • Join a mastermind group, action learning set, supervision group or similar to meet and draw on ideas from others
  • Use mindfulness methods to create brief respites from the busyness of the day. 

It’s interesting to note that the word ‘busyness’ is so similar to business… 

Whichever way you do it, taking time every week In The Kitchen, away from the daily hubbub, will help you be a better leader and a better host.  Which way will you try next week? 

You can download a free 2-page pdf about all the four positions from this website to use and distribute in your team or organisation.

NEW: Mark McKergow talks to ‘Kindness Chef’ Harpal Dhatt about ‘welcoming the stranger’

A new podcast about hosting has been released by Harpal Dhatt, the ‘Kindness Chef’. Harpal is interested in how to build kindness and has been going through the alphabet seeking different people to talk to about how we can make kindness more of a part of our own lives, and of those around us. Harpal introduces the episode:

Inclusion recipe – Welcoming a stranger – Sitting with Dr Mark McKergow

The Kindness Chef

Episode Description

I sit with Dr Mark Mckergow to talk about his work over three decades, has been about humanising organisations in learning, changing and leading. He is the co-author of six books including The Solutions Focus and Host: Six new roles of engagement.

We talk about the old Arabic proverb, “the host is both the first and the last: first to arrive and last to leave” and how this applies to leading. This idea of host fits perfectly with kindness.

I wanted to encourage people to be kindness hosts.

Some of you may already be doing this. The idea of a host stepping forward and stepping back when necessary and creating the conditions for guests to feel comfortable.

One way to do this, is to explore how you welcome people. We create a recipe for how to welcome a stranger.

Practical ways that you can observe and pay attention and help someone in a moment of need.

One of his latest ideas combining his experiences is The Village In The City as a post-COVID initiative to encourage people to build on the micro-local communities which emerged during the pandemic.

As a response to the local connections which appeared in his own street during the pandemic. Neighbours talked, email and Whatsapp groups started, people ran errands for each other and even entertained one another from their front steps.

He thought that it would be good to build on this connection, by moving up a level from the street to the ‘village’.

Using his background as an organisational and leadership consultant, Mark devised the Village In The City Manifesto to set out the benefits and building blocks for connection.

Listen on Spotify or Apple.

Host Leadership Hint #8: Using ‘Convening Power’

Here in the UK we have just had a set of city mayor elections. This is quite a new thing for us; these ‘metro-mayors’ are directly elected as figure heads for local government in their area. They have a certain amount of authority (while having to work alongside the various elected councils and other bodies, of which there are usually several) and some executive power. However, perhaps THE key strength they have is ‘convening power’.

The idea of convening power has been around for a decade or more. Harvard business guru Rosabeth Moss Kanter wrote about it in 2011. The Commonwealth sees it as a key element of their mission. It’s about using what recognition and authority you have, which may or may not be a lot, to gather people together around an issue or cause. Essentially, it is the ‘power of the ask’ writ large. If you don’t ask, you don’t get – so not even asking is to give a No answer before anything has actually happened.

Convening power is mostly a form of soft power. You invite people to gather with potential positive consequences. You can also offer them an enjoyable time, the chance to meet others also interested in the issues, and a seat at the table. This is invitation on a grand scale. Organisations are often keen to be seen to be playing their parts in creating solutions and can be drawn in – with a compelling invitation and a good cause.

Hints for using convening power include:

  • Find a really good topic, cause or issue to gather people around. If it really matters to people, they will come (or at least start to get engaged)
  • Thing big. Find the best-known and most widely connected person you can, and start from there. Once the crowd starts to hear that key people and organisations are joining, they’ll soon get interested.
  • Think outside the box. Don’t just ask the usual suspects, get people together from a wider range of places and contexta. Invite those affected by an issue as well as those who can help resolve it. Invite people with parallel experiences, or from fields with analogous situations.
  • Get to action. Prompt public commitments and next steps – when folk make these in front of others, they are more likely to follow through. In particular, look to make things start happening in the 48/72 hours after your event.

Anyone can use convening power. It’s a great element of Host Leadership. And if you don’t convene and gather people around what YOU think is important, who will?

Andy Burnham was re-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester in 2021 (Photo Manchester Evening News)

Mark’s new online Hosting Generative Change course starts Tuesday 7 September 2021

Exciting news! Mark McKergow’s new online course for OD professionals, facilitators, consultants, and indeed anyone wanting to bring people together to build innovative and generative change is coming in September!

Mark has the honour of leading the first in a new series of programmes on Dialogic OD co-produced by the Bushe-Marshak Institute and the Cape Cod Institute. The programme is Hosting Generative Change and runs on four Tuesdays in September 2021, (7, 14, 21 & 28 Sept) at 4pm-8pm UK time. What’s more, you can build up several programmes in the series to gain a certification in Dialogic OD!

Register before 7 August to save $50. Details and registration at  There are most courses coming as the year goes on, a different programme every month. 

Host Leadership Hint #7: Step back to move forwards

Everyone knows that leading is about stepping forward, right? Leaders are visible, go first and attract attention. Well, that’s right some of the time. And some of the time, there are other possibilities… like stepping back to move forwards.

In Host Leadership we think that leading is a dance of stepping forward and back. Yes, sometimes it’s good to step forwards, for the reasons given above. And also sometimes, there are very good reasons to step back for a moment. Good hosts don’t hog the limelight or dominate proceedings – we are more inclined to encourage our guests to be visible, to share the stage, and to build engagement and participation.

When is a good time to step back? When you’re just finished stepping forward. You have a role to play in setting the context, building a framework and perhaps asking a question. That’s a great time to step back, look expectant, offer the space to someone else.

But isn’t that losing control? Not at all! You’re still there. You can hear what’s going on. You are getting something back – what the others think, how they are seeing the situation (which may be different) and also who wants to step in next. You’re still there and can step in again when the time is next right.

So, as a host leader, think about this key question:

Are you going to step forward or step back next?

Stepping back may be more of an option than you thought…