Five Fundamentals for Emergent Leaders

The definition of emergent is “coming into being.” In this episode, Ralph and Bill discuss foundational principles every emergent leader needs to be aware of, and importantly, needs to strengthen over the course of their leadership journey. So even if you’re at a more mature stage of your own leadership, listen in for a valuable refresher on fundamentals you should be continually refining.


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Bill Berthel: Welcome to the Get Emergent Podcast, where we discuss leadership concepts and best practices. We like to provide ideas, concepts, and pragmatic experiments to help you develop as a leader. I’m Bill Berthel.

And I’m Ralph Simone.

So Ralph, today we’re talking about emergent leadership, emergent leader. What is an emergent leader?

Ralph Simone: Well, great question. I mean, it’s the name of our company, Emergent, and I think I’d like to respond to that, that you know, emergent actually means coming into being. And so as we look at, we think everyone’s a leader, and how do we help people come into that leadership role and continue to grow and develop in an effective way?

And so we’ve laid out a program and a pathway for people to emerge as effective leaders in our organizations.

Bill Berthel: So let’s talk a little bit about that program and what it entails. How did you choose the content? And you’re the original architect of this. How did you choose the content? Why this material?

Ralph Simone: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting, there’s lots of very good models around developing leadership and you know, and so at some point you have to focus on what you think the essential elements and put ’em together. So we went back and forth on a lot of things, but we think there are five fundamental things that every leader needs to be aware of and be strengthening as they evolve on their leadership journey.

And we identified them as leadership presence, which we like to think is your brand. It’s who you wanna be, your purpose, what you value, how you show up as a leader, yes. Is communicating clearly, which is almost trite, but this idea of being able to have shared understanding because as a leader we’re inspiring and influencing people to take purposeful action.

And so we need to communicate that clearly, but we also need to listen. We need to hear where we may be off track.

Bill Berthel: It’s one of the most unique communication trainings I’ve ever been part of. Because it really starts with noticing self. So many communication development opportunities miss that. It’s all about the listening and the sending of signals receiving and sending signals.

This is about noticing self first.

Ralph Simone: So all emergence starts from the inside out. Not the outside in. When you can get training and presentation skills, which are important at some point. You can get training in how to, you know, win friends and influence people how to listen deeply.

But it starts with observation of self. And how do you see yourself, what do you believe is your self-talk, self-enhancing or self-limiting? So I think there’s a, you know, it is unique in that respect and sometimes I think we need to even spend more time in that piece and then we move to leadership agility.

I think it would be an understatement. You know, people are listening. They know how agile they’ve had to be over the last three or four years and, and redefine agility as flexibility with purpose if you’re gonna be effective over the long haul. As a leader, you need to be able to flex your style.

You need to be able to change on a dime. You need to be able to interact with people who are very different than you in many ways. And so we think that’s a key piece of it. And then we have a fourth fundamental, which is building teams and not groups of people that work reasonably well together.

We’re talking about building high-performing teams and you know, looking very closely at the elements required for that.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. And that differentiation’s really important. There are groups of people that are accomplishing some really great things, but truly high-functioning teams are a little bit more unique than we’d expect.

At least that’s been our finding. So there’s an opportunity to develop into

Ralph Simone: teams. Oh, I, I think it’s one of the reasons that many of the books written by Navy Seals and you know, green Berets and, Rangers are so popular because I think they were part of building a team. A high-performing team that was clear on mission, had each other’s backs, had a trust level beyond reproach.

And I think in corporations and organizations, we sometimes treat that superficially. Mm-hmm. And then that leads us to the, the reason that we would do the first four is to drive performance. Right. The first four fundamentals allow us to drive performance in the organization, and that’s around setting, you know, meaningful stretch goals and clearly communicating them.

That’s around evaluating performance and providing feedback, and that’s coaching and mentoring people to close any performance gaps. So those are, they’re kind of a high level of our five fundamentals of the emergent leader.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. And with those five fundamentals, we provide the one-on-one engagement as well.

So for individuals that choose to go through this program, there aren’t only these five workshops fundamentals with a cohort group, there’s one-on-one engagement with a coach. And, and what does that do for an emerging leader, Ralph?

Ralph Simone: Well, I like to tell a story about my black belt training days. So I, I’ve studied the martial arts for almost 20 years.

And you know, you don’t get a black belt in karate going to a training session. You get the content, but then you need to have some one-on-one coaching, some feedback, right? Experiment. That, that’s where the instructors come in. That’s where the sensei comes in. And so yeah, coaching component allows people to apply these concepts real time.

Get some experience and then to kind of report back on that with the support of someone that understands the content and how to apply it effectively. I think there’s no substitute if you’re really looking to internalize the learning. Yes. Get yourself a thought partner, an accountability partner, a coach that can guide you along the way.

Bill Berthel: Can really personalize the development that way and create meaningful application for your specific leadership, the topics, the issues, the challenges, and the goals that you have in your team and your organization. It’s a great way to leverage a coach and get a coaching experience.

Ralph Simone: I wanna go back to the very first fundamental leadership presence.

A lot of people don’t spend the time thinking about, who do they wanna really be? Mm-hmm. Yeah. How do they wanna show up? How do they want people to experience them? I mean, people sometimes spend more time planning their vacation than really creating a vision for themselves as a leader. And it is a very intentional act.

And from there, that will inform how you communicate. Right. That will inform how agile you are and in how committed you are to building teams and driving performance in your organizations. But I think it really starts very foundationally. Again, emergence means, you know, coming into being, and part of that is planning that seed of who you wanna be, your leadership brand.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. What’s the saying? We’re human beings, not human doings, and we focus a lot of our time and energy on doing, and I, and I get it, but this gives that opportunity to really set the cornerstone of your leadership foundation with an authentic sense of being.

Ralph Simone: And it does go back to the, the part that you zeroed in on with, in communicating clearly self-taught, I mean, being aware of how we speak to ourselves, our beliefs. Our emotions and, you know, the language we use. And to really say is that, going to support me in being the leader my organization, my community needs me to be, my family, needs me to be. And so a lot of this work in emergent leader is inner work first in order to be more effective with the outer work.

Bill Berthel: Absolutely. And I love how you gave so much grace around leadership, agility, and the time we’ve all spent over the last three or so years being agile. However, I think. Me included, I’m not throwing rocks. We can find our fur-lined rut and go back to doing things as we’re most comfortable from our preferences.

So what? What’s this quality of agility for a leader?

Ralph Simone: Well, you know, I think you’re right. We like habit, we like homeostasis. Right. I think it’s may be part of agility. It’s not just being able to respond, but it’s also being proactive. Yeah. To really begin to look at where do I need to be more agile and where do we need to perhaps stir it up a little bit in the organization so that we don’t get stale or stagnant.

We’re looking at the growing edge. Right. I think there’s an expression that real change and performance occurs way outside our comfort zone, and I think part of leadership agility is saying, you know, you may have these go-to, but you need to really be able to tap into many other things if you’re gonna be effective long-term.

And I think that’s part of the muscle we intend to build with that fundamental,

Bill Berthel: So leaders can drive performance that fifth and final fundamental, if we’re not agile. There’s a passage in a poem that I always go back to in my mind, what does not flex or what does not bend, nature breaks and it’s no different for us.

And if we wanna really perform and perform with our teams, that requires that agility, but it also requires some structure. I think I’ve shared this story with you. The reason the cotton fiber is so durable and so soft is because it has an alternating chain of crystalline and amorphous structure. It has structure. And then it has flexibility and it has structure and flexibility. And I think leadership, I think we need to be like the cotton fiber. We need to be strong and durable and soft and pliable.

Ralph Simone: It’s been my problem with any model around leadership. It can be limiting because you need both that structure and that flexibility.

You know, you need to be you know, a clear communicator, but you also need to be a good listener. Right. You’ve got to be someone who can get stuff done, but you also need to be someone who can allow things to unfold. One of the challenges I’ve had with creating a model, even with this course was you leave everything else out.

And so we need to get people thinking about, you know, both and as leaders, and it’s doing and it’s planning, it’s being, and it’s doing right. It’s you can’t always be on either. And so I think there’s, that’s the rest, renewal or you know, energy expanded and then then energy renewed. So I think we have to look at it a lot more completely and, and this gets a glimpse, this is kind of the beginning glimpse of how we can emerge and continue to evolve and grow as a leader by practicing.

And that’s an important word, practicing these five fundamentals because you never get it. That was one thing in the, the martial arts you were practicing for mastery, but mastery did not mean perfection. It meant that you were continuing to practice and refine your application of the art.

Bill Berthel: What I so appreciate about this program is that it does attract very diverse levels of leadership and many different leaders from different organizations.

We offer it in both a public offering and in a private offering, meaning inside of an organization. So when you are ready to be part of Emergent Leader, we’d love to hear from you so we can tell you a little bit more about it and have you experience this fundamental-based leadership development experience.

Ralph Simone: Actually before you wrap up, I think that point you just made, I think is critical. We have people of very different experiences, and leadership is not just about what you can get. It’s also about what you can give and you know, whenever you go to something new, whether you have a good background or not, you can always get something out of it.

But really as a leader, you start to look at how do you help other people emerge by what you share. And so I like when we have a mix of experiences, particularly when people bring that mindset of giving and getting to the program.

Bill Berthel: Ralph, thanks for talking about Emergent Leader with me today. And thank you for listening to the Get Emergent podcast.

You can listen to a new podcast two times a month here at Get Emergent, where we bring you contemporary leadership topics and ideas, balanced with what we hope you believe are best practices that you can apply in your leadership. Thank you.


  1. Mark F on June 15, 2023 at 9:13 am

    Gents: Sounds familiar. Observing the Observer we are; Second Level Learning.

  2. Jeremiah on June 15, 2023 at 9:55 am

    Love the line “what does not flex or what does not bend, nature breaks and it’s no different for us.”

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