Making Good Decisions

When a faculty or board needs to make decision of major significance, how does the group assure that the decision is well considered and supported by everyone who needs to be involved?

Shared decision making can be a challenging area for a Waldorf school. It involves building agreement for decisions and creating clarity around decision making authority and processes.

A good decision is the result of both having the organizational culture and structure that supports timely and thorough processes, and assuring that various groups and individuals, who have the authority to make decisions in their respective areas, understand and follow those processes.


There’s a general agreement in most Waldorf schools that both committees and the school as a whole should operate by consensus and that when consensus can’t be reached an alternative path (usually a vote with majority rule) should be taken for the sake of timeliness.

There’s also an underlying idea in most schools that, since everyone cannot be involved in every decision, smaller groups ought to be given the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the whole.  The decision-making authority given to a group is usually outlined in its mandate. (Search the resources section for more information on mandates)

Both of these ideas, consensus and mandates, are important.  But they are not always fully understood or practiced.  There are many reasons for this, including:

  • The regular turnover of volunteers and other leadership;
  • The lack of ongoing training in consensus or mandate creation;
  • Confusion about which process might be best applied in a given situation.

Here are some basic guidelines to help every school improve their decision-making process:

1.     Decide before you decide.

Every group will be faced with having to make small or large decisions to complete its work. The most effective groups always decide how they are going to make decisions before they start their work. A reflection on their decision making should be part of their annual review. This sounds easier than it is, which leads to the second point.

2.     Know your tools.

Each group must have a good grasp of the nature and practice of different decision-making processes. Once they understand the various processes, it’s important to provide training to help groups find and adopt the best processes for their organization. Training in consensus and mandates, therefore, should be a part of every teacher’s or major volunteer’s orientation. Otherwise, schools will end up with groups that don’t know how to function well. As a result, decision-making is often, by default, dominated by a few individuals. This leads to the third point.

3.     Decide who decides.

Know the roles and responsibilities of each group and individual in the school, including which group or individual makes which kinds of decisions. This takes time to develop but can greatly help groups avoid spending a lot of time on decisions that are easily delegated or, on the other hand, handing over major decisions to a few individuals when everyone’s input and buy-in should be achieved. (Note: there is a very helpful tool, called the RACI model, developed to help organizations identify which levels of activity need what level of involvement from which individuals. (See the resources section for a good article on this.)

4.    Tough it through and respect the process.

When a decision requires consensus, then use the process all the way to its conclusion. The process of consensus, when used well, is a remarkable tool for building community and making well considered, and broadly supported decisions. By the same token, when a task is mandated or delegated, it is best to be clear about the group’s decision- making authority in the beginning and support the group by trusting them to do fulfill their task. Decisions can always be reviewed later to learn how a process could be improved. Trust can easily be undermined and social harmony weakened if groups are not allowed to exercise their mandated authority and to be responsible for the decisions they make. (The resources on consensus in our resource center have good insights into how to navigate tough situations.)

The path to a good decision is not easy but we can develop our understanding of the processes and get better as we move forward.

On The Use of Consensus, Committees and Mandates 

By Lysbeth Borie

Often, when groups first begin to use consensus, most if not all decisions are made by the group as a whole. Groups come to understand that this is what it means to function by consensus. Over time, however, most groups begin to look for ways to function more efficiently. Frequently, they turn to the use of committees and mandate groups.

It is important to understand that consensus and the use of mandating are not mutually exclusive. The two can be used together. In fact, a mandate group is simply a specialized type of committee, with its mandate framed in a certain way.

Consensus can be defined as “a group decision-making process in which all present must agree before action is taken.” But that does not mean that all members of the entire organization must make all decisions together. In the early stages of group development, this can be very helpful, to help a group develop a common culture, set of shared values and procedures, and most of all, to develop trust. However, as the group develops further, continued use of the largest group to make all decisions becomes inefficient.

Consensus is about process—a response to the question, How do we decide? Committees and mandate groups are about structure—a response to the question, Who decides?

In its most developed forms, consensus decision making lives within an organizational structure that delegates as many decisions as possible to smaller groups and individuals, while keeping the most important decisions to be decided by the whole.

Within this type of structure, consensus decision making is both the process and the spirit that guides the decisions of the whole organization. It is used by the largest groups (faculty, college of teachers, and board) and by all committees working within it, including mandate groups.

There are three keys to making committees and mandate groups function effectively.

1. Set your committees and mandate groups up for success. Specifically, have clarity about roles, rights and responsibilities of each body, especially in relationship to other bodies.

Every group and individual role within the organization—not just mandate groups—should have a clear mandate or job description, including its purpose, areas of responsibility, degree of empowerment, and specifying lines of communication and to whom it is accountable. This should include clarity about the realm of decisions for which the group is responsible, and its degree of empowerment in making those decisions.

For example, an ad hoc committee might have authority only to research a question, develop a proposal and bring it back to the faculty for a decision. A mandate group, in contrast, typically would have the authority to gather information, share the information with other roles or bodies and gather input, then make a final, binding decision.

In either case, the larger group is almost always included at some point in the decision-making cycle—whether as the place where the spark of an idea is first generated, where it is developed and worked out, where the final decision is made, or where the decision is reported.

Is the decision to be made one with larger ethical, pedagogical or financial implications? Keep it in the larger group. Is the task mostly one of implementing established agreements? Delegate. If it is a mix, sketch out the larger guidelines in the large group, then delegate and bring back to the larger group for a final decision or to report on the decision made.

2. Give input, but let go of attachment to the outcome; resist the temptation to rework the work of committees and mandate groups.

One of the hazards of using consensus—especially within a workplace, such as a Waldorf school—is that while people feel the empowerment of consensus and want to have input into many decisions, the organization must function with some degree of efficiency. It is important to remember that rights and responsibilities are proportional to each other. When we delegate a task to a committee or mandate group, we must provide enough support and guidance to help the group to do its best work, then step back, receive the finished product, and thank its members for their efforts.

In the ongoing work of a consensus-based organization, this is one of the most important and frequent places where we as individuals may need to do some letting go, exercising our own discernment to distinguish matters of principle from matters of preference.

3. Balance trust, delegation and empowerment with inclusion.

Remember that committees and mandate groups are among the most effective “power tools” of consensus decision making. To the degree that the larger group is able to provide adequate support and guidance to committees and mandate groups, then receive their work with grace and gratitude, the more trust will develop. The higher the level of trust in the group, the more can be delegated, and the more effective the organization as a whole will become.

Lysbeth Borie

Eugene, OR


For further exploration of this topic, see the article “Committees and Mandate Groups”, by Caroline Estes and Lysbeth Borie under resources.


Affirming decisions 

This is an excerpt from “School Renewal, A Spiritual Journey for Change” by Torin Finser.

Understanding the importance of framing issues can lead us to the best ways to reach decisions in a group setting.

A decision is a form of free human action. When a human being actively searches out and grasps a concept or intuition thereby bringing it to full consciousness, a self-sustaining decision can arise.

Individuals, not groups, make decisions.

Where do decisions come from?  For me at least they have a mysterious quality. It is hard to determine what is really happening in the moment in which an individual makes a decision.

There were certainly important element of preparation, but the second in which one realizes a decision there’s a magical element at work. There’s an intuitive quality to the act, and intuition is connected to the will, the motivational aspect of our constitution. It is as if we were to dive into the lake of decision and really know what we have come to only a split second after we emerge on the surface.

Decisions are bigger, more encompassing than we realize, and our consciousness grasps just a portion of what we what was really at work in the act of deciding. Each person in the group go through a slightly different process; usually, one person surfaces with the decision, and others in the group recognize the validity of the decision and affirm it.

Much confusion occurs in schools and groups that do not understand the nature of decision-making. Blame, hurt, isolation, and social pressure can result from the inability to perceive what is truly at play when decisions are at hand. Experience at first on a personal level, the teacher or parent may gradually lose trust in the group, and the community suffers.

One of the great myths that surrounds decision-making in many Waldorf schools is that consensus is the only way to work and that the inner circle has a lock on all things spiritual. This becomes a lethal combination that can create self-enclosed groups that have the aura of esotericism, thus becoming unapproachable, mysterious, and seemingly superior.

The difficulty arises when the surrounding community observes the quality of decision-making and realizes that those participating in the inner circle are less than divine. Often a crisis in confidence ensues, with much painful learning on all sides. Those parents and teachers who have been through a few of these crises become wiser, learn to work together over time, and see that it is best to enlist the striving intentions of all adults who wish to serve the best interest of their children.

As we have seen, there are also casualties along the way. Teachers grow tired of endless meetings and withdraw to their own classrooms. Parents get fed up with the general dysfunction experienced in decision-making and communication and either leave, or just opt to support their child’s class and not participate actively in all school events. Either way, the school loses vital human resources.

I suggest that a school seeking renewal spend time looking at the nature of decision-making and find ways to differentiate between the types of decisions needed in various situations. For example, one might look at the following possibilities:

Unilateral decisions are the ones needed when there is an emergency, when there is little time to gather a group, and when the task at hand is clear and universally recognized.

Majority decisions can be helpful when a procedural issue needs to be resolved and the group is unwilling to spend the time on a minor issue, such as the starting time of an open house. Some may want it to begin at 1 PM on Sunday and others later in the afternoon. Either way, the event could work well, and a simple majority can make the decision so the more important planning can be done. In the end, it is better for the school that the decision is made rather than waiting to the last moment and leaving too many people mystified or confused. A majority vote also might be taken when the group has spent enough time on an issue and some wish to give over the decision making to a mandate group.

Mandated decisions are those that are entrusted to a smaller group that will act on behalf of the whole. It is important that the whole group knows what the mandate is ahead of time and that the assigned group is trusted to do the required job.

Consensus decisions can bring a collection of individual decisions to a place of mutual recognition. This can be an exhilarating moment in a group; there is a sense of unity that is precious and sometimes fleeting but well worth the effort with the right group. I have found that consensus as a way of decision-making works best in the following context:

  • The group has a stable membership.
  • The group meets regularly, that is once a week.
  • The rhythm of meetings exercises more influence than most realize. The weekly rhythm works well with a highly conscious approach and is needed to support the interconnections necessary for consensus decision making. The weekly meeting cycle thus works more with that part of us that returns to full consciousness over time, whereas monthly meetings are more connected to the cycles of the life forces that work in and around people participating.
  • The group is not too large. I prefer groups of 5 to 12 but I have experienced groups as large as 18 to 24 that in certain circumstances achieve real consensus.
  • The members of the group are committed to the long-term development of the school or institution.
  • The members of the group share a common spiritual striving.

This description of consensus from M Scott Peck describes the delicate nuances involved:

Consensus is a group decision (which some members may not feel is the best decision, but which they can all live with, support, and commit themselves not to undermine), arrived at without voting, through a process whereby the issues are fully aired, all members feel they have been adequately heard, in which everyone has equal power and responsibility, and different degrees of influence by virtue of individual stubbornness or charisma are avoided so that all are satisfied with the process. The process requires the members to be emotionally present and engaged; frank in a loving, mutually respectful manner; sensitive to each other; to be selfless, dispassionate, and capable of emptying themselves, and possessing a paradoxical awareness of the precociousness of both people and time including knowing when the solution is satisfactory, and that it is time to stop and not reopen the discussion until such time as a group determines the need for revision.

One way to foster renewal in schools is to practice honesty with regard to intentions. Do we intend to be a group of the type described here? If we are, then are we willing to put in the work required? If not, can we find alternatives to consensus that we can live with?

It annoys me when these questions are not addressed and a kind of hypocrisy creeps in. We pretend to work with consensus studiously avoid the fact that we are not working out of a shared philosophical basis.  “We are all entitled to our own spiritual practices, after all.“ Likewise, our commitment to the group changes, depending on personal needs and interests. So I attend some meetings but not others, hoping to express my opinions regardless. Schools then wonder why they are not successful, why salaries are low, and why education is not respected in the community. In my view, it is better to have an enlightened leader and than dishonest group processes.

One phenomenon in most schools is that even if one group in the school can say yes to the cited criteria, other groups, by definition, cannot. Most parents groups, for instance, will not be able to meet as regularly as the teachers, limit the size of the group, make the same commitment, and achieve such commonality in terms of spiritual striving. Yet schools need active parents. A central question then becomes: can we be flexible enough as human beings to adapt our membership skills and leadership styles to the needs of the group? In other words, can we let go of ideals that cannot be met by the reality of situations? To answer the needs of the group with flexibility becomes a matter of collaborative leadership. Let me point out here that mixed groups, that is, groups of parents and teachers and other combinations, provide a resource that is far from realized in most schools.

A final thought on the misuse of consensus: there are times when the attempt at consensus, however well-intentioned, can have serious side effects that often go unnoticed at the time but have long-term repercussions for the health of the school. Because it is often socially unacceptable, or personally repugnant to block a decision, the effect can be to silence an individual’s misgivings or drive them out of the meeting into less productive channels of communication. In the worst cases, this kind of individual silencing leads to a kind of repression of true feelings and the expression of opposing thought. As we saw in Sarah’s story, (editor’s note: Sarah’s story is told earlier in the book) a teacher who has felt the social pressure to conform can leave a meeting with knots in the stomach and much to unburden at home. Over time, personal health can suffer, and the home fabric can become frayed. What is not tended to at school is often transferred to the home, eroding preparation and, over time, marriage and family joy.

Some groups pretend to work by consensus when, in fact they use alternatives that are thinly disguised. Here are a few examples:

Majority rule. When we see where most people stand on a particular issue we can force the decision through using the adjournment time or any other rationale to make the minority acquiesce. Often those in the majority do not even know that there was a sizable minority view, and the insights of the few were not able to improve upon the will of the majority.

Unilateral decisions based on the unspoken hierarchy. This way of working takes the form of having a discussion until one or two particular persons speak up, at which time the different perspectives that were in the room suddenly become one. The fact is that some people carry more influence than others. To have influence is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it is obscured under the guise of consensus, it is a real social injustice. It would be far better to say: “we will have a discussion on this topic until our senior colleague or faculty chair feels he or she has enough information to make a decision on behalf of all of us.”

Decisions that are made by groups that are not mandated outside the context of the regular meetings. This is the form that most infuriates me. There is a general meeting with general discussions on a topic. There's no closure or indication at the end of the meeting about what will happen next, but in the intervening week a decision appears. It remains unspoken that a small group met, without the sanction of the whole, and made a decision. If the decision is questioned at the next meeting, the response of that small group will be: you are not being supportive of your colleagues. Who wants not to be supportive? In this way, the issue is twisted instead of being rightly viewed as a gross violation of group process; it is contorted into an issue of support. Many conclude after a few such experiences that it is best not to rock the boat – let others handle those administrative matters they say, I’ll just focus on my teaching.

Thus periodic review of how everyone is doing can redress and balance what is not well. I have found that groups in the school need to hold each other accountable, with minutes that are freely circulated. It is best to write down clearly who was in attendance, what the issues were, which decisions were made and how, and which items were slated for action, along with specific names of the people who are meant to follow through. At the next meeting there must be a review of the decisions, with the expectation of a high standard of performance. To say that there is not enough time is not a valid excuse if tasks or neglected repeatedly. Setting priorities on a monthly basis can be helpful, so that the group is making decisions out of the larger picture. With regular care and tending, a school can adopt the forms of decision-making that respect the reality of the groups within the community.

Torin is chair of the Education Department at Antioch University in Keen NH, Director of the Center for Anthroposophy and General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society of America. Torin was a Waldorf student, a Waldorf teacher, teacher trainer and is author of numerous books relating to Waldorf education and Organizational Development, including

“School as Journey,” 

“Organizational Integrity,” 

“In Search of Ethical Leadership,”

All can be found in our resource/bookstore section.



More resources for Consensus Decision Making

The following are excellent resources to learn more about the why and how of meeting process and facilitation for consensus decision-making. All of these articles are available in the LeadTogether resource collection.

A Short Guide to Consensus Building
By the Public Disputes Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School   

This article on consensus offers a brief look at some aspects of consensus decision-making, definitions of the difference between consensus, facilitation, and mediation, and a look at what’s wrong with Robert’s rules of order. –Lted

A Checklist for the Consensus Process
Edited by Randy Schutt

This one page checklist outlines the various aspects of the consensus process and offers a list of tasks and responsibilities for the various roles in the process along with a listing of various tools for facilitation. –Lted

Short Guide to Consensus Decision Making
Seeds of Change

This 8-page booklet is a very readable summary (with lots of charts and graphics) describing the consensus process. This, and its longer version below, would be helpful basic reading for any group. -Lted

Consensus Decision Making
Seeds of Change

This 24-page booklet goes more into depth about the background tools and practice of consensus decision making. It is a very helpful study for anyone in a position leading a group through consensus decisions. It offers sound experienced advice for consensus leaders along with troubleshooting tips.–LTed

Functional Consensus

This three-page set of discussion, charts and diagrams is a very helpful overview of the consensus process. It has a good section on when consensus is most effective and when other forms of decision-making might be better. A quick read and handy guide taken from the Function Consensus website, which has lots of detailed information on consensus and is a good resource for those leaders and students of consensus. –Lted

On Conflict and Consensus: A handbook on Formal Consensus decision-making
CT Lawrence Butler and Amy Rothstein

This little booklet (63pp) is the one definitive guide to Consensus decision-making. It has chapters on conflict, decision-making, roles, evaluation, techniques, and a good intro chapter on the advantages of consensus. -LTed

Global Trends Affecting the Capacity for Organizations (including Waldorf schools) to practice collaboration

Global Trends Affecting the Capacity for Organizations (including Waldorf schools) to practice collaboration, an article by A. DeMeyer.

I found this article by A DeMeyer from 2009 important for a deeper understanding of the trends in business and culture that are affecting the need for and practice of collaborative work in organizations at all levels. While the article is focused at a global scale, the insights De Meyer’s shares are relevant to our school movement. His introduction could easily be a description of the new qualities we need in school leadership. He is aware that the current definitions and literature about leadership are often conflicting or incoherent as are many approaches to and understanding about how to prepare the coming generation of leaders (in our case young teachers) to face the challenges of the degree of change they will face in their teaching career. De Meyer points to the need to help young leaders develop new capacities for meeting and adapting to change. And while this premise is not new, he continues to propose that developing skills and competencies for collaboration are essential if our institutions are going to survive thrive.

Here is a list of his trends.

1. Globalization

2. Fragmentation of the value chain (in school terms: More groups and volunteers taking on important tasks in the operation of the school)

3. More knowledge workers (more specialists than generalists)

4. The increasing demands (and skepticism) of society (of Parents)

5. Dispersion of the sources of knowledge and innovation

6. Changes in the structure of multinationals (from pyramidal to collections of networks)

7. Increased importance of risk management (considering the dynamics of actions and looking ahead)

8. The increase of social networking and information overload

For a discussion of them and their relevance to Waldorf schools, read the review of his article here.

To read the entire original article, Collaborative Leadership A D 2009 final.

Lessons from Jazz Bands and the New Conductor-less Orchestra for Organizations Practicing Collaboration

Lessons from Jazz Bands and the New Leaderless Symphony for Organizations Practicing Collaboration

Both the creative “in the moment” improvisation of jazz bands and the studied and practiced leadership in the context of a leaderless symphony offer real and important insights into the practice of collaboration in any organization. While the product and the goals may be different, the processes in Jazz bands and leaderless symphonies are similar to the dynamics found in a Waldorf School.

Jazz Bands

In his significant book, Arnold Cho, Jazz musician and IT professional, discusses in depth the process of creating Jazz music and its relevance for organizations and teams. In a follow-up article written for IT professionals, he lays out 14 guiding principles and describes in detail the benefits and risks in each of the areas. If one were to imagine Waldorf schools as jazz ensembles and the overall progress of the community, (including children, parents teachers and staff) as the performance, his list and insights take on new meaning.


1.         Use Just Enough Rules
2.         Employ Top Talent
3.         Put the Team First
4.         Build Trust and Respect
5.         Commit with Passion


6.         Listen for Change
7.         Lead on Demand
8.         Act Transparently
9.         Make Contributions Count


10.         Reduce Friction
11.         Maintain Momentum
12.         Stay Healthy


13.         Exchange Ideas
14.         Take Measured Risks

To read the whole article go to     Jazz and Collaboration

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 8.46.34 PMLeaderless Orchestra

In an article on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Harry Seifter (an author, consultant and leading authority on organizational creativity and arts‐based learning), describes the processes and skills involved in operating a conductorless symphony and the insights the members have gained about collaboration. These insights mirror the principles that we practice every day in our schools. It is encouraging to read that the lessons we learn in our schools are applicable and articulated in other successful organizations.  For more information about the process involved, read the article [The Leaderless Orchestra, Harry Seifter] . -MS

Read the article here: _the_conductorless_orchestra.pdf

Excerpt from The Faculty Meeting as Heart of the School, Jorgen Smit

Jorgen Smit, long-time Waldorf teacher and former head of the Pedagogical section in Dornach, Switzerland, offers his insights into the ways that teachers could focus their group work to create a living spiritual atmosphere that would permeate the school and engender improved collaboration. This excerpt is from the book, The Child, Teachers and Community, a set of lectures given at the annual AWSNA conference in 1989.

Excerpt from Chapter Three, The Teachers Meeting at Heart Organ of the School, from The Child, the Teacher and the Community by Jorgen Smit.

…It is possible to describe some qualities we must look for in this heart organ, the faculty meeting .  I should like to make some contributions, but these are not definitive because it is not possible to describe this and say that the description is finished .  This attitude is always wrong .  Community building is such a great spiritual realm of the future of humanity that we should be very careful . We can only make contributions in order to make conscious some very important aspects of this community building, but we cannot say that we are describing the whole .  One indispensable aspect is that every teacher in this whole community appears in the consciousness of the other teachers .  All the teachers must be interested in recognizing how one teacher is working .  Everyone must be aware of what is going on in the other classrooms .  Of course it is not possible to recognize everything that is being done, that is not what I mean, but the interest in it must be there . If you recognize only one event in another classroom, a door will be opened .  It is not necessary to look at every detail .  One can make a small test after one year to see how it has been working .  Suppose we have worked together in the teachers’ meeting during the whole year . We can ask how many teachers have not appeared at all in the consciousness of the others .  This is a very helpful exercise .

I will tell a short story .  I was visiting a school and was present in the teachers’ meeting . We took up a theme and I made some contributions, after which one of the teachers spoke to the theme .  Then the same teacher spoke once more and then once again he spoke.  After the meeting, I reviewed it for myself .  Almost all the other teachers had been silent the whole time .  One old, very intelligent, very capable teacher had spoken the whole time .  This is not wrong, of course, if this happens once in one of the teachers’ meetings .  He may have had much to say that was worthwhile .  So I asked the others, “This teacher spoke very much this afternoon .  How is it in the other teachers’ meetings throughout the year?” They answered, “We cannot speak at all!” This, then, was the situation .  Of course there will always be some teachers who are more capable, who know more than the others and that is not wrong .  They ought to make their contributions, but it is a task of the teachers’ meeting that everyone should speak out, not at every meeting but at least at some time during the year .  One can schedule such things and say that now we are going to go around and each teacher will tell about one of his activities in his lessons .  He may choose what he likes, but everyone has to share something out of his activities .  In this way, all the others can recognize these things .

In many teachers’ meetings, I have seen it happen that a very few teachers speak while many others are silent until a catastrophe occurs in one teacher’s class .  Then we have to deal with this catastrophe .  Now this poor teacher is spoken about and we must recognize and deal with what is going on in his class .  This is not unusual . We must also deal with catastrophes .  That is not wrong .  But we ought not wait until they come .  Rather throughout the year, we should tell one another, one after the other, what is going on in our lessons when there are no catastrophes .  If this is done, then a mood will be created within which we can deal with the catastrophes . You see, here is a great task .  Of course we are not aiming for perfection but to create the interest in making something like this happen so that we really deal with this human being and that human being and with what is living in this and that classroom . When we do this we are awakening to this higher level where the archangels work at night, and they will pour their forces of courage into the whole college of teachers of the school .  Rudolf Steiner called this process the reverse ritual, or the inverted ritual .  This is a strange expression with the following meaning .  In religious rituals, spiritual beings dive into all the processes of the ritual actions and words, permeating what can be perceived with the physical senses .  The spiritual forces permeate the physical processes, the physical actions during the ritual .  The spiritual beings dive into these and by letting the ritual echo in their own hearts, those who are participating in the religious ritual can unite with these spiritual beings .  This is the usual ritual .

Now what is the inverted ritual? It does not begin with formed physical actions but with free, independent individualities who are working on their own paths of knowledge and who approach, through difficulties, this higher level of the archangels where they awaken to the spiritual activity in other human beings .  They do not awaken to the bodies of the other human beings, nor to their sympathies and antipathies, but to their spiritual activities .  Then seeds are created on a higher level, and they are reinforced by higher beings .  These higher beings are present .  It is a ritual, but one which is reversed, inverted, because the individuals must come up to this higher level .

But does it work? Does this inverted ritual work at all? This is always an inner question . We must test ourselves and look for all the hindrances that are preventing it from working . When we do, we come up against all those anti-social forces that we looked at yesterday .  These have accumulated throughout the whole life of every teacher . We find all sorts of anti-social forces in feeling, thinking and will .  There are many such forces and there must be . These are not bad .  They are necessary because they separate us from the whole world and create the basis for our being free, independent individualities . We have arrived at this century when we are at the height of the consciousness soul, when I experience myself confronting the whole world .  I am concerned about it and must consider what I think, what I feel, and what I will, and this is right .  Of course, it is right . We must reach this height of the consciousness soul . We must confront the whole world .  But it is not necessary to stay at this point .  From this point, it is on the basis of anti-social forces that the consciousness soul, the “I”-consciousness, has been created and exercised .  Here it is possible to ascend one more step to the next level .  The necessary condition to taking this step is to experience and recognize others .

It is a rule, as I mentioned in my first lecture, that there is the center and there is the periphery, and in discovering others, I find myself not only in myself but also in the others at the same time . When I emphasize myself, I can never come to my higher self — never .  I find the higher self in the innermost being of myself but also in others at the same time .  In order to truly meet another person, we must not meet merely in sympathy and antipathy, but we must recognize the spiritual being of the other human being . We must have an interest in doing this, and each of us must take a few steps in this direction .

There is a great meditation recommended by Rudolf Steiner that can help us .  Make a picture of another human being in your inner consciousness .  Not just one picture but also a second and a third, each one in a quite different way .  In the first picture we must embrace all that we recognize of this person . We must try to make a portrait, a painting, or a picture of this human being . We should finish this picture in all its details, as much as we can .  Of course, it will not be perfect, but we must bring all that we can together and create a picture .  Now, a picture, a portrait, is never identical with the spiritual being who is the subject of this portrait .  It may be a good portrait of the spiritual being, but still it is a picture . Now that I have this portrait, I can say to myself: I have a picture of this spiritual being, I do not, of course, have the spiritual being itself .  This is the first picture .

Now you can ask how it is possible to make a second picture when you have taken all that you know and made it into one finished picture .  The second picture ought to be quite different . This first portrait must be finished . The second cannot be finished, not finished at all .  It is always being painted .  If I dive into this second picture, then I will make a very astonishing discovery .  There exists in every human being a tendency, like a heavy gravity or pull, to stick with the first picture .  I feel that I know this person, who he is, and that my picture of him is finished . When he comes through the door, I already know who he is .  But I can never know just what he is thinking now, or just what he is feeling .  I can only know what I experienced yesterday .  Only yesterday is fixed .

For example, yesterday I had a strong conflict, an argument with another person, and I discovered that she was lying .  My picture of this is terrible and it is finished .  The next morning the door opens, and this “liar” comes into the room . At first, when I speak to her, I do not speak to her but to my picture of her, my finished picture from yesterday .  Ghost-like, unreal, unfinished pictures may be true, they may be untrue . But while I speak to the picture, there is a human being standing before me who, in the meantime, has discovered that she was lying and has regretted it very much, and she is now trying to go beyond it .  This is all possible .  I do not know .  My second picture of a person must develop every moment, every second .  It is never finished . If I compare the two pictures I have made within myself of each of the other teachers in the faculty, I will discover how heavy, what gravity there is in the first picture .  This picture is not wrong . We must make this first picture . We must include our experiences exactly as they have happened .  But we must not stay with the first picture but be open to the next, the second picture, in order to see what is happening now .

Then we come to the much more difficult third picture . This picture will be painted in the future .  If I have one picture formed from my experience and a second created in the moment, I still do not know what will come of this human being in his next incarnation . We do not even know what will become of him the next day, not even tomorrow . We cannot yet know .  In every human being, there is a great, unknown future .  A very great, unknown future lies within this spiritual being .  If I am oblivious to this and hold only to the first picture, in reality I am only looking at the past .  In the second I am open to what is happening in the moment . The third is just as necessary . We must also concern ourselves with the future of the children in our classes .  I have pictures of them garnered from many experiences, and I must be open to what is going on in the moment, and I must ask what will become of this child when he is grown and when he is reincarnated .  I must leave this question open and carry it in my consciousness .

Rudolf Steiner recommended another exercise, one that is done by picturing the physical body .  First, one pictures to oneself the head as it is composed of finished forms .  The second picture should be made of the lungs and heart, which are never finished but are changing at every moment . When we look at the limbs, which are the focus of the third picture, what is significant is not their particular forms, for example, the form of the fingers . What is significant is also not, as it is with the heart and lung, the activity within them . What is significant is what a person does with his fingers, what he will do in the future .  Thus the physical body can only be conceived by forming three different pictures in three different ways .  This is also true when we try to conceive the whole existence of another human being . When we

approach other people in this threefold way, in carrying out these exercises, we begin the great task of building a higher level of community within the teachers’ meeting from which may flow a great stream of courage into the whole life of the school .

We must now go into details of the life of the teachers’ meeting . We will look at what happens, what qualities must be found there, and some of the dangers there . We need to deal with the difference between the faculty and the college and ask wherein lies the difference and whether there must be a difference .  Also, we must ask how the college of teachers works together with the parents and how the parents in the school community deal with what goes on in the whole school .  Can the school community develop as a living entity, can it be a spiritual organ with its own biography that develops through different phases? Then there is the much deeper question of how this school community, with its individual biography, lives within society as a whole in the present time .  How is the Spirit of our Time living within the school community? This last question will be the theme of our last lecture tomorrow .

Download here Excerpt-from-Chapter-Three-Jorgen-Smit

Building a Culture of Leadership, Learning and Service in a Waldorf School Community (Chris Schaefer PhD)

In this article,  Chris Schaefer, author and long time Waldorf educator and consultant, looks at his work with Waldorf schools over many years and offers insights in three areas – leadership, learning and service. He outlines positive steps that schools can take in the following areas:

Become aware of leadership positions in school

Spend time discussing and clarifying your imagination of leadership

Learn to delegate consciously

Learn from experience

Avail yourself of group techniques

Developing a learning network among schools

Support the development of each colleague with a regular plan

Foster community learning

Become more aware of our partners

Increase accountability: clarify mutual expectations and agreements

Value competence

This article, and the other chapters of his new book, Partnerships of Hope, is a rich source of material for faculties, boards and administrators to study and discuss. The insights can lead us to a deeper understanding of the social art of building a school community.


Read the article here.   Find the ebook here. Partnerships of Hope

The Basic Qualities of Collaboration

In every area of human endeavor, leaders are understanding better and better how to support the healthy development of the individual while building relationships that further the mission and effectiveness of the group or organization. In both hierarchical as well as horizontal organizations, inspired leaders are discovering and practicing new approaches to organizational management that create a balance of organizational and individual growth and development.

While a science of collaboration is still as of yet undefined, practice in many fields are leading towards a common view of the basic guiding principles.

In future posts, we will be elaborating on these principles and sharing insights, tools and skills to support healthy collaborative working.

At its core, collaboration requires a commitment to a common vision, shared values and clear goals.

Collaboration requires that individuals are empowered to take initiative and step into leadership roles according to their capacities.

Collaboration requires having clear roles and responsibilities for the people involved and ways of supporting individuals to be successful in their roles.

Collaboration requires the building of safe space and trust within and between groups. Trust is built through transparency, communication and consistency, as well as tolerance and forgiveness.

Collaboration requires open mindedness towards other points of view, experiences, contributions and styles and the practice of equanimity in relation to one’s own feelings and to the actions of others.

Collaboration requires ongoing reflection by individuals involved (in the form of self-reflection) and by groups (in the form of conscious review of intentions, processes and interactions).

Collaboration requires an interest by each individual in the growth and development of the other individuals involved in the group. This requires the individuals to be sincerely interested in understanding others and accepting that each person is on their own unique path of development.

Collaboration requires individuals to understand that the health of a group or organization depends on the health of the individuals involved and to be committed to finding ways that both the individual and group can grow simultaneously.

Both teacher, staff and volunteers leaders in Waldorf Education regularly face these challenges of working together  in our organizations. There are many tools available to help us navigate them -- from learning to clarify values and create shared vision, to sharing biographical work, to hygienic communication techniques, to learning new ways of self and group reflection through meeting review and individual contemplative practice.  There are a vast array of resources to help us.  -MS