The Source Principle

Organisations are an interplay of people. If everyone is connected to their inner Source and fully claim their field, positive dynamics emerge. Looking with this clarity behind the boxes of an organisational chart will make it much more joyful to lead or to be lead.

All which is alive always defies categorisation. Happiness, love, success can never be captured, neither through words, nor deeds. It is with this basic attitude that I approach this systemic view on organisation, leadership and collaboration developed by Peter König. Life is not about concepts, but all about what works for you to bring more ease in your everyday experience.

Source: the beginning of everything

Those who start an organisation or a relationship are the source of that system. They overlook the whole area, receive all the relevant information for its design and know the next step. Yes, there is only one source. This does not mean that it is omniscient and omnipotent. Only through exchange with helpers and other sub-sources in its field does it get the required clarity. With their support, the source attains its set goals.

The idea of one single source provokes two contradicting projections: sources can be emphasised or marginalised.

Emphasising results in a lone puppet-master, somewhere at the top of a pyramid. Maybe some leaders even see themselves in this position – and all the others watch the master squirm on his throne of hot coals.

The Source Principle is marginalised when everyone stands in a circle and claims to have the same access to fundamental information. «Bosses unwanted» – yet still, all orient themselves towards a leading figure – who often prefers to be hidden too, maybe using a hip but unclear job title stated on the business card.

These polarities interlink where source and sub-source are understood to be servants of their respective fields. The primary source is nothing on its own – it depends on sub-sources who are reliant on overall orientation and directions. Which they in turn grant to the further level of sub-sources they depend on.

The tasks of source and sub-source

Source and sub-source carry the same responsibility – in their respective field. They receive information, relevant only for their own territory. Connected to their source power, they set the direction, create clarity, give and take space.

As a carrier of the whole field, source is responsible for

  • the alignment with its original need and vision
  • deciding on the next steps for the whole field
  • deciding on expansion or reduction of this field
  • the choice of sub-sources that are directly connected with it
  • delegating the responsibility for the according source fields

The sub-source accounts for

  • the alignment of its respective area with the primary source’s needs and vision
  • the decision on the next steps within this area
  • impulses regarding changes of this field
  • the choice of further sub-sources therein
  • delegating the full responsibility for the assigned sub-spaces

A sub-source can only change its field in agreement with the source positioned one level above: the latter knows how reduction or expansion effects the whole system and what changes this will bring.

Sub-source before primary source

The Source Principle works as a dynamic hierarchy, as its delegation is total. In its assigned space, the sub-source stands above the primary source. On a practical level this means that the Corporate Communications Officer stands above the CEO in all her decisions. The reason is that only she has all the information necessary for her decision on the next step. Source and sub-source are in a constant dynamic exchange to find clarity on the decisions to be taken within the assigned spaces.

The Source Principle hence demands fully empowered sub-sources – which entails that primary sources refrain from stepping back into delegated spaces. The great benefits, however, consist in getting rid of superfluous micromanagement, constant safety checks and unnecessary constraints in synchronising processes.

Clarity in business formation and succession

Are you a project’s source? If you are in that power, the «Yes» comes without hesitation. Difficulties arise when several people start a project together. Or when the primary source never really handed on its function.

When starting a business in a group, the conscious focus on a primary source may be lacking – and everybody will pretend that it is always the team which defines the next step. It is however clear to everyone who receives the essential information, and who is the actual top dog.

Successions work out when the power of source is passed on. This requires the predecessors to let go – and not just formally through a sale or exit. They must free their source-access for their successors. It is then the successors’ responsibility to fully take over power and responsibility. It is not unusual for both sides to be comfortable with «half a succession», one side hanging on to some source power, the other shying away from full accountability.

Give and take full space

The challenge that I most often face as a coach and counsellor is the act of stepping into one’s one full power as a source or sub-source. This has to do with the inner attitudes of all people who are part of the system.

Collaboration is successful when all sources claim and get their respective spaces.

It is often the case that source space is never fully given, nor claimed. In this reality, nobody wants to lead or to be led, yet everybody feels the dissatisfaction. It is easier to escape, than to create and withstand clarity.

The beauty is, self-healing is inescapable. Frictions, difficulties, failures always lead to the integration of a new skill. We never quite finish learning.

Five questions to you as a source

We are all source and sub-source in many areas of our lives, in which we design projects, games, and interactions. Take something that currently burdens you. An area in which you have trouble orientating yourself. Focus on this project for a moment. Then go through the five following questions. Answer them instinctively and swiftly. You can use your smartphone to record your answers as you let them emerge spontaneously. You may be astonished about yourself when you listen to them.

  1. Name a project in/of which you are the primary or sub-source.
  2. Name three aspects of this project that you are totally clear about.
  3. Name one aspect that is difficult for you.
  4. What would support your success?
  5. What could be your next, elegant step?

Echo and learnings welcome. (

© Graphics, image Marcel Bernet, Lake at Palu Glacier