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November 6-9, 2016
February 26-March 1, 2017
May 21-24, 2017

Sessions begin 5pm Sunday
and end 1pm Wednesday

Price includes meals.



The essence of what we are, as the foundation
for what we can become

Held at The Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island, WA

We invite you to join us for this series preparing individuals, leaders and consultants to work with the central principles of conversational leadership.

Much is said in today's world about "just being." But human beings have never had the luxury of choosing between an untouched and interior foundational self and the necessities and often overwhelming responsibilities of the outer world. As leaders or individual souls we are conversational creatures who shape a real identity only at the edge between the interior self and the practical world, between the here and the there, between how we need to be and what we need to do, and especially between the ground beneath our feet and the far horizon to which we have dedicated our individual or organizational hopes and plans.

"I highly recommend it for those wanting to explore the next chapter of their life and work."

"This experience was exactly what I needed, just when I needed it most..."

"I have opened up creatively and courageously in ways I knew were possible, but for which I previously had no reference point or confidence."  

Individuals will participate in three, three-day sessions, beginning November 2016 and ending in May 2017. Participants will emerge with a deeper sense of articulation and virtuosity around their own contribution to the leadership conversation, a foundational understanding of David’s and Invitas’ work and approach and its practical application to organizations, and most especially, a closer understanding of their own artful, courageous way of holding the leadership conversation.
The curriculum will cover seven elements in making courageous conversations real, outlined by David Whyte through more than twenty five years of organizational experience and practiced in parallel by the Invitas team: Craig Fleck, Mitch Saunders, Libby Wagner and Maryliz Smith.

Stopping the conversation you or the organization are having now.
Cultivating a friendship with the unknown: The disciplines of asking beautiful questions.
Coming to ground: Making contact with the courageous conversation.
Cultivating robust vulnerability: Moving the conversation along what David calls ‘the axis of vulnerability'. Asking for visible and invisible help.
Artistry: Developing and practicing your own form of artistry.
Making the invitation:The crucial marker of good leadership.
Bringing in the harvest: The ability to bring to a culmination all of the hard work we put into our preparation through the first six elements.

The course is designed to be deeply satisfying on a personal, physical and professional level. We take your own approach and what we see as your own artistry, (even if you do not believe you have one) seriously, and help to hone your physical voice, your ‘conversational presence’ in a room, and your verbal articulation and combine it with David’s and the Invitas team’s perspectives to create an experience beyond the ordinary. The continuity between seminars will be held through conversational partnerships among participants.
This will be a direct experience of the way David’s work combines everyday practicalities of management and leadership with the great questions of life.  

Watch a video about The Whidbey Institute



DAVID WHYTE has written extensively on the nature and importance of courageous conversations as a way of more fully engaging with our work, our relationship partners and our deepest desires. A poet first and foremost, author, lecturer and Associate Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford, he has developed a significant body of work on creativity and organizational development. His pioneering work in the area of courageous conversations has brought him into some of the top organizations and executive education programs in the world.

CRAIG FLECK has been working side by side with leaders for 25 years, engaging them with their most pressing challenges. Whether working with a board, the C Suite, or an entire organization, Craig brings focus and attention to the most critical conversations and invites those he partners with to address them straight on. As a designer of executive programs on leadership and change effectiveness, he has frequently worked across diverse sets of stakeholders and teams to create more innovative and resilient organizations.

MITCH SAUNDERS Mitch Saunders has worked closely with pioneering individuals and organizations for over 20 years.  His specialty is helping visionary leaders develop the personal mastery and organizational capability needed to realize promising ideas. Since 2007, he has led ongoing, intimate forums emphasizing the equivalent of “martial arts” for Silicon Valley CEOs. Earlier in his career, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he led one of the first action research projects to demonstrate the power of dialogue and collective intelligence to enable large systems change.

LIBBY WAGNER is one of the only former poetry professors warmly invited into the boardroom. A trusted advisor for presidents, CEOs and executive directors, her work has shaped the cultures of numerous Fortune 500 clients, including The Boeing Company, Nike, Philips, ST Microelectronics, Diageo and Costco. Using her unique approach, programs and seminars, Libby empowers those with whom she works to clearly articulate what they want, why they want it, and how to ask for it, creating the poetic difference.

MARYLIZ SMITH is an independent coach, international performance artist, composer and community leader. Her presentations take many different forms, from keynote talks at conferences to residential retreats. She forms longstanding relationships with individuals and communities. Through her work with the language of music, her clients learn processes that guide and model how leaders can be most resilient while facing challenging questions.