Episode #25

Andrew Johnson Shares His Journey to Become a Conscious Change Leader

with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

In this episode, Linda interviews Andrew Johnson, Master Coach and Being First Associate. Andrew has traveled the entire development road with Being First to become a Conscious Change Leader. He exemplifies the candor, authenticity, knowledge and foresight so essential to meet today’s challenges. Come hear this man’s perspectives on his journey and next edges to inspire your own development path.  


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Welcome to Ask Doctor Change.

I’m Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson.

I’m happy to have you join me today to explore how to seriously up-level your leadership and consulting to transformational changes all through conscious change leadership.

Welcome. In today’s episode, I have the great honor of interviewing my dear friend, colleague, ex-business partner, brother, Andrew Johnson.

Andrew has been involved in the change world in he’ll describe for you a variety of the places that he has spent time and offered value. Andrew was, with being first for ten years, was it? Yeah. About that, learning our work more knowledgeable about the conscious change leadership system of transformation than just about anybody beyond Dean and myself. And so today, I have the honor of asking Andrew about his background, his orientation, what he sees happening these days, and how the field needs to evolve. Andrew, introduce us to you.

Thank you, Linda. And thank you for having me here. It’s, it’s an honor to be on your Ask Dr. Change podcast Thank you, and to be participating in the next evolution of where you two are headed. Yes.

Well, I was born and raised in Ottawa, which is the the seat of federal government in Canada.

And so I was constantly swimming in the sort of the field of politics, and I had a natural inclination towards politics. I had a as a kid, I had a paper route or route, you would say here, and and was always reading headlines. And then as I grew older, got deeper than the headlines, went into the substance of politics. And as it turns out, during university, got to spend time on Parliament Hill as the Chief of Pages. The pages being the students who work inside the Senate Chamber and the House and who cater to serve the politicians.

And so I got an insider’s view into that. And when I finished my my degree in economics, I got invited to work in the office of the leader in the senate who was the former deputy prime minister and had done held all kinds of cabinet roles. And what was driving me at that time, and I didn’t realize it then, but I I know it now looking back on my life, was the desire for change. Yeah.

And I thought, well, what better place to affect change than to, go right in to the power Mhmm. In society. Where does power come from? Mhmm.

How is power, conceived of? How is power codified?

What are the processes that bring power into place? So, the justice system, the police system, all of that became of paramount importance to me. And in the naivete that I had in my twenties, I thought I’m really going to make a difference here and, you know, and now here I am on Parliament Hill. And I was able to make change, but I don’t think I was able to make change in the way that I thought I would be able to. Mhmm. And it kind of went to my head, I have to say.

I like to tell the story because it’s it’s a short story, and it’s really evocative of, where I was coming from and what I was swimming in. So I I had a number of days in in those years when I was working on Parliament Hill where I would be brewing on a question, on a speech, on a piece of legislation, and, be having a shower in the morning and having thoughts about that topic. And I’d go into work, and it would get written into speech that I would be drafting and that my boss would later stand up in the senate and, deliver that speech. And as I was going to bed that same night, I would click on the national news on TV, and I would hear and see the words that had been thoughts in my own mind in the shower that morning, they’re now on national TV. So that was a trip for someone who’s, you know, twenty five at the time. Yeah. And egoically, it went into, wow, I’m really doing something.

Well, I wasn’t getting the kind of traction that I wanted to have where society was being shifted towards more just, equitable, kind, livable, sustainable future that we need.

Or, you know, maybe the needle was moving in micrometers.

And, when I realized the forces in politics that are so deeply embedded, so deeply entrenched, really. I mean, on the face of it, politics is about grappling with the issues of the day to create a better future. Yeah. Yeah.

But there’s so much that is encrusted in the system, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Yeah.

And I gave up. I realized I am the tiniest of cogs in a giant mechanism, a juggernaut of power, and I will never be able to do this. In fact, I’m gonna get chewed up and spit out, as many of my colleagues were.

And so I quit entirely, without really knowing what was going to happen next. And I had done some started doing some personal exploration and and started getting into personal development, which led me to stories and help people tell their stories and enact change in a way where the story gets better as we move collectively into our co-imagined future.


That’s nice. I wanna do more of that. And so that’s how I started down the career path in which we met.


Where I was, I really I found a specialty in large systems, infrastructure systems where so rail systems across a city or, I did a lot of work for the Canadian Defense Department in cleaning up a lot of the radar stations in the north of the country.

What part did you play in that? What services did you bring to them?

Yeah. I was I was helping bring a bigger view together by bringing all of the parties together Mhmm. Which usually had a siloed relationship where they’d be heaving communications at each other over their silo walls and bringing them all together in person to talk for several days in a structured way about what is the best, most optimal way to do this work that we’re all collectively tasked to do, each of us having our distinct roles.

And it accelerated, you know, a hundredfold, the getting to trust each other process.

And this so they found this is creating better outcomes. This is creating, more readily achievable timelines, and we’re staying within budget more readily as well. And so it just kept going from there. And the word for that is partnering, bringing all the partners to a large project together. And so that’s the Yeah. That’s the specific form, and I still do a little bit of that.

Yeah. So multifunctions coming together, each with their disparate points of view, understanding their task from their own point of view to be able to see how they all need to fit together, work together to achieve the new rail system or whatever it was that the project was about. And you were doing very some very large projects.

I did. I did. A multi multibillion dollar projects over, you know, more than ten, fifteen years.


And I wanna say exactly so as you just described it. And I would add something as well, which is that what got discovered in a structured way when these parties were all coming together is that not only can they relate more effectively together, but what can come into view is a bigger vision of what’s possible.


Yes. A bigger vision that serves the whole in a more functional way. Because when they were all in their silos, they were optimizing towards what’s best for their silo Right. Which makes perfect sense.

Right? There’s no Right. No knock against that. And when they came together and the silo walls started to disappear, they realized, oh, there’s a bigger view here.

And what if we started optimizing to that?

Now you guys have a beautiful model that The win win win.

The win win win model that This is perfect.

That talks about it so perfectly. I didn’t have that then. I, you know, I discovered it later. Living it though. I was living it, and and now I use your model because I there’s no reason to improve upon it. It’s right there. And that is one of the fundamental drivers of my work is just having people come into that view of what’s possible when the bigger whole is seen and cared about.

Yep. Prior to any individual agenda.

That’s right.

But meeting each other, all of those parties, they all needed to do their part. Everybody needed everybody in order to get to the to the shared outcome. Yes. Big win.

Exactly. And fundamentally, they weren’t really conceived as change projects. Yeah. But, of course, that’s what they were. They’re massive change projects. Yeah. And like any change project, trust is one of the key lubricants that allows that bigger picture to be seen, cared about, but also committed to.


Because when we’re used to when all the players in these large projects are used to being, geared to optimizing what is their bailiwick, what is their sandbox.


There is that edge of fear that, you know, if I start orienting to this this bigger vision that we all care about, will I still be okay in my own little sandbox? And will my silo, you know, meet its profit margin and, you know, all the things that they care about in there? And so, we spend quite a bit of time in partnering talking about that edge, about how leaders can navigate that jump that they need to do from being oriented to their sandbox.

From self to we.

Yeah. From self or from their own organizational point of view Yeah. To the bigger, the biggest we.


And that’s that’s where I Yeah.

Really like to spend my time is right in those complex human dynamics, dealing with people’s sense of risk, and Yeah.

The perceived fear and the courage that it takes Yeah. And how we can do that together. I just love that.

So loving that you followed on that in your path. Tell us about your coaching journey and becoming a master coach.


Thank you.

Coaching, I follow a particular methodology, which I follow more loosely now than I did at the beginning. And it’s called integral coaching. And it’s integral because I care about big holes. Right?

So integral methodology, as its name implies, brings as many factors in as possible from as many perspectives as possible and integrates them into coherence Yeah.

Where we can now see and operate from that greater coherence that brings all these factors and perspectives together. And so that coaching journey through Integral Coaching was a couple of formal years of training followed by many, many years now, I’m going to say a dozen years since I graduated at least, in practical application.

And so coaching one on one and leadership groups into being able to, at the heart of it, see more deeply within themselves Yes.

And see the places where silos don’t exist just in organizations. They exist in here too.


And when we can drop more silo walls and have our own interior Yeah.

Cohere as a more, integral and larger whole Yeah.

We naturally start to see that bigger vision. We naturally start to care more about wanting to work with others to achieve those bigger visions that are going to create a sustainable Yeah. Kinder, livable future than we need given the state of the planet.

Andrew continues to be one of our coaches and our, I will say this, favorite coach. And anytime I’ve interacted with Andrew around any issue or concern or challenge that’s come up for me, I have come away profoundly impacted by how you see and how you ask, the deeper questions to be able to really see how to get through what seems to be something insurmountable. You’re very gifted at that. Very gifted at that.

I’m gonna say it takes one to know one. Thank you. Those times that Linda is referring to, we were co-coaching each other. And so I got at least as many insights and brilliant questions that expanded me and my view as I gave.


So thank you.

You’re welcome. My pleasure. So, tell us about, from here, where to for you?

That’s a really good question, and it’s a good question because the answer is uncertain. I don’t really know.

This is the own edge of my courage Mhmm. Which is allowing myself to have some spacious time to live in this uncertainty.

And the uncertainty got mostly generated by my own encounter with COVID, which was rough and continues to be rough. Long COVID or post COVID is a deeply challenging reality for millions and millions, tens of millions of people around the world. And for me, it’s meant that my, energetic ambitions have needed to be curtailed. And so, I I’m not as available as I used to be Mhmm.

To go and take on, large projects where I’m needing to have that energy output that I used to be able to do. And so that limitation itself seems like a real challenge, but contains the blessing of, oh, now it’s opening the space. Yeah. And now what’s going to happen in that space?

And I’ve watched the seduction of grabbing for the certainty of, well, I could do this because I’m already good at it or the market is asking it of me. And so why don’t I just do that? And plus, it pays well. And so it’s been interesting for me to navigate that and to find myself saying no and no and increasingly no to things to honor the vacuum that’s required in order for what wants to come through me next to emerge.

And it’s starting to emerge.

There are signs about what that’s going to be.

I think it’s going to have to do more with working with men Mhmm. And how men relate to women and, and non binary, but men in particular. And the challenges that arise in leadership.

The historic structures and the historic assumptions that have made it challenging, frankly, to be, a man in leadership especially, middle aged or later aged as I am now becoming, white man. Right. And the privileges either real or assumed or perceived that that has has conferred.

So navigating those waters and becoming more effective, more inclusive and more ready for men to mentor and pass along what they can.


That’s a that’s of real interest to me.

Very powerful.

And I’m realizing, of course, I have to, hoe my own row before I can, you know, hand the hoe off to somebody else. So I’m hoeing.

I’m hoeing my row. I’m, you know, I’m working. I’m tilling my own field in this regard and finding it supremely rewarding.

Fabulous. Fabulous. Well, I hope you will hear in what Andrew is describing how many of us are at a precipice of what’s next or I want more or I have to stop doing what I’ve been doing or whatever the forces are in your lives to hear someone who is as savvy, as sophisticated in the human process as you are, going through this very experience, this rite of passage in your own life. And, yes, you know, long COVID took a a huge chunk out of what you thought your path was. And now given the realities of so how do you co-create or for yourself create something valuable as you’ve just described, hoeing what you’re hoeing. And so for all of us who experience that challenge, to be able to have the faith, to be able to be patient, to be able to be intimate with our own real experience.

I mean, your physical state, you’ve been present without much choice with your real physical state as you’ve moved through this process.

Now to be able to have the possibility of blooming something new. And the other thing I wanna say with your focus on on men and really looking at how all of the dimensions of being male in our society today, it’s one thing for men to believe, okay. Now I’m being told, yes. I have power. You know? I’m deepening the prior conditioning that’s actually the limitation.

And what you’re after is delving into releasing those structures and those mindsets and beliefs and emotions to be able to have more humanity built in. And not in a soft airy fairy way, but an equally powerful way, but coming from inside rather than outside force.

Do I hear that accurately?

You do. You hear it beautifully accurately, and I want to come back to it in just a minute. But I want to I want to acknowledge something else first, which is, in your acknowledgment that, you know, of really seeing and honoring that I’m making this space and allowing what wants to emerge to come through me by preserving this vacuum. Yes.

That is something. And it’s only a small something compared to all of the people who are doing that and who don’t have the means Yeah. Or the age that I have now and who are doing it out of sheer determination and vision for a better world. And they’ve got maybe young families or stable incomes that is so or maybe unstable incomes, and it’s incredibly more risky for them to be doing it.


And so, you know, as we talk about this, I realize I really want to make sure to recognize my privileged position and the ability to do that and the risk and courage of all those who are doing something similar in their own lives under far more challenging circumstances.

So I wanna make sure that gets really grounded.

And then coming back to what you said about what is it like to be a man and a leader these days? What we see happen reflexively a lot is men being told you need to feel more. And the implicit message is, you need to learn to become more feminine.

And there is actually some merit in that, but there’s not merit in men abandoning their masculinity in order to become feminized.

Mhmm. That is a road that, is difficult to swim back from.

Mhmm. And I see it happening a lot. Mhmm. It’s almost like men feel a sense of shame for the power that they have culturally and societally, and they wanna compensate for it by feminizing themselves.

And there’s nothing wrong, of course.

What’s an example of feminizing themselves? What does that look like?

An example of feminizing, a a man feminizing himself would have to do with, for instance, a a man who lets emotion overwhelm his ability to decide wisely in the moment because he is becoming so in touch with his emotions Right.

That now it overwhelms him.


There’s a balance in here, which is, yes, by all means, feel more. Yes, by all means, learn to navigate and discern your own emotional world. Yes.

And don’t abandon Absolutely.

Your innate masculinity. And so it is a a fine line of integrating Mhmm.

Our own femininity Yeah.

Without collapsing into it.


And so there is this integration move in men’s leadership of, yes, learn to develop and master the other pole without getting stuck in it or lost in it. Yeah.

And then learn to discern when the situation calls for a little more of this and a little more of that, a little more feeling, a little more Yeah.

Seeing, you know, as the case may be. Yeah. And so I’m very interested in that interplay.

It’s and it’s very delicate. So in some ways, we describe it as a whole masculine feminine. It’s actually an expansion of who you are Yes. You’re the human being. Yes. Without describing any it’s we’re not describing gender.


We’re describing ways of being. Absolutely. So it’s an expansion of your way of being.


And the polls, the definitions provide, data, symbols, models of what those new expanded skills or modalities might look like without it being either or. It really is an expansion of.

Exactly so. And it’s and it’s not meant to be gender studies or replace gender studies. That’s not at all what it is. This is how to, as you say, expand and integrate Yeah. What it means to be Lovely.

A man in the world that we’re in now at the age whatever male leader find themselves in Yes.

And to, be able to more skillfully navigate what’s required in this world.

Yeah. Do you have ideas of what form that work is gonna take for you? Is it groups? Is it coaching?

It’s emerging. Mhmm. It’s emerging. I noticed that in my private coaching practice, the the few clients that I have outside of my work with being first, I I seem to be attracting men who are interested in these questions, who are recognizing in themselves the the traditional way that I’ve been showing up is insufficient and in many cases harmful.


And yet they point to examples where men would, as I would say, have collapsed into the other pole. And they say, I also don’t want to be like that. Right. So, what are the options? Right. And that’s the terrain that that I’m helping them navigate.

So coaching.

One on one coaching.

One on one coaching. Yes.

And it does arise as well, in some groups that I am leading from time to time, not as a main topic, but as a as a side conversation that gets brought back into the Beautiful. The bigger hole of what we’re discussing. Yeah. Beautiful.

Right. We need it.


We need it. We need it in the power bases. You know? Some would say, you’re right.


But that really is the area of highest leverage Yeah.

Of being able to expand our humanness, our way of being, not pole centered. Yeah. That’s fabulous work.


Fabulous work.

Yeah. And I would say, you know, I think men as leaders are really way behind how much women as leaders have evolved and explored various aspects of feminism that’s been brought into leadership. Yep.

The various under and over rotations that women have been through that are required Yep.

And that I see men doing.


But we’re behind. Yeah. We’ve not we’ve not adapted or learned as quickly as women. Mhmm.

And I think there’s more attachment to, you know, traditional power Power bases.

Power bases. And so there’s there’s real work to be done there if we’re if we’re gonna find our way out of this. Beautiful. Yeah.

So I wanna conclude by giving you the chance. If you could give any message to men and women as leaders Yeah. In this day facing what we’re facing worldwide, socially, what would you say? What’s your guidance?

Stay open.

That’s the first thing that occurs to me. Stay open to to discovering that you are more than what you have historically thought you are or assume that you are. Mhmm. And stay open to letting the discovery of who you are becoming be an emergent process.

It’s harder. It’s riskier.

But it’s ultimately the only way that is truly satisfying to to actually let life immerse in us and through us is to stay open and to trust our instincts and trust our intentions, and to then act our intentions, to align our attention with our intentions.

Direct energy to where we know something needs to change, expand, become deeper, become wiser.


And it all starts with stay open.

Yeah. Beautiful. And direct guidance for the conscious part of conscious change leadership as well as the leadership part.

Absolutely. For sure.

Yeah. Well, Andrew, thank you so much for this time today. What a what a blessing and an honor for me and for us to spend this time together and to have you be such an important part of our lives and this work for the world. Thank you for your time today.

Lindy, thank you. Thank you for having me. Yeah. Thank you for letting me speak to your audience and including me.

Beautiful. Today’s subject is one of the key topics that we feature in our leading transformational change online program.

If you’d like to learn more about leading transformational change, go to beingfirst.com/LTC

Thanks for spending some time with me today. I hope you gained some valuable insights for your work. Please send me your questions and challenges by going to askdrchange.com.



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