dancing at the edge of complexity, chaos and change

“… the essential pattern about leadership, about people, about motivation, about human development is that when we are together, more becomes possible. When we are together, joy is available. In the midst of a world that is insane, that will continue to surprise us with new outrages… in the midst of that future, the gift is each other.”

Margaret Wheatley


The world is in transition; there is no doubt about that. We are in an extraordinary time, witnessing the birth of a new paradigm as the evolution of human consciousness takes a leap towards an awareness of the whole.

There is a lot going on in the world right now that is calling our attention to new ways of working and organizing – from climate change to global economical crisis. At this shifting time, our world needs to unfold for the new possibilities and the full potential which resides in us – as individuals, organizations and Humanity. Old ways of thinking, talking, leading and working are failing in increasingly evident ways.

As our world and organizations experience more chaos and complexity, we need more than ever to understand the nature of complexity, chaos, interconnectedness and the paradoxical nature of the universe and to train ourselves to embody the skills needed to step up to act as visionaries, leaders and pioneers in this transition period. Our approach needs to be systematic (not fragmented and fixated on the parts), participative (involving many people’s ideas, energy, gifts and visions), emergent (open to able to move and adapt swiftly in a field of uncertainty) and resourceful (based on an appreciative gaze and action which recognizes abundance and unlimited possibilities on the resources which are available) as Adam Kahane puts it. It needs to be a response to a world that is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented, where true solutions and innovation lie not in one leader or one viewpoint, but in the bigger picture of our collective intelligence and common good purpose.

So this is where we find ourselves, dancing at the edge of complexity, chaos and change, at the edge of an emerging paradigm. Of course, if we are dancing, we must consider ourselves lucky, for the fatal combination of complexity, chaos and change creates a death-like reaction in most human beings. “Life now insists that we encounter groundlessness. Systems and ideas that seemed reliable and solid are dissolving at an increasing rate” says Margaret Wheatley in her powerful article “Beyond Hope and Fear“. And perhaps this is only the beginning of what we are yet to witness, the tip of the iceberg, a taster of what’s yet to come.

Beyond hope and fear, beyond the doomsday scenarios, there are things to consider: How on Earth can we live together in this increasingly complex and interdependent world? How are we going to adapt to climate change? How can we produce our food, build our homes, source our energy without depleting the ecosystem? What is the new economic model which would be based on the wellbeing of the whole? How can we give back to the Earth what she has been given to us so generously? How can we witness and host each other and the Earth at this time of transition?

Going back to where we started, in Margaret Wheatley’s words, more become possible when we are together. We are the eyes and hands and hearts and souls looking at our divine unity from different angels; we each hold a piece of the puzzle. Yet, our togetherness need to be crafted, hosted, tended carefully, intentionally and mindfully. Anything less than that carry the risk of imploding on ourselves rather than tapping into the collective intelligence and divine nature we are a part of. This calls forth the kind of leadership that the world hasn’t seen before. Dare we even say that we need to go beyond Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings and Mandelas in our perception and evolution of leadership? what kind of leadership is beyond them? A leadership strong enough to hold the tension until the love that can contain the paradox breaks through. What about the paradox of being a leader who doesn’t lead but opens and holds space for wise actions to emerge, who listens and witnesses and senses into what wants to happen, who surrenders the power to the “center”, to the whole yet maintains her/his integrity and ground and own center?

There are many art forms and practices that enable us to hear the call of the World at this time and lift us to the resonance of the wholeness. I’ll write more about that soon…
* photos are by Tanja Korvenmaa

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