Professional and Alumni

Focus on Leadership

Key Concepts from Leadership and the New Science

  1. The role of chaos as an essential process by which natural systems, including individuals and organizations, renew, and revitalize themselves:  

  • The traditional definition of chaos is a system whose behavior is totally unpredictable.  

  • People tend to view and experience chaos as uncertainty, unpredictability, craziness, and feelings of being overwhelmed.

  • Chaos is order without predictability; order is inherent in the system and observable when the system is viewed over time.

  • Order and change and autonomy as well as control cannot continue to be viewed as great opposites.

  • Organizations are process structure rather than permanent structures.

  • When a complex living system is subjected to high levels of change, it possesses an innate ability to self-organize or reorganize so that it functions better in its new environment.

  • Disorder can be the source of new order (or form) better suited to the demands of the environment.

  • It is hard for us to welcome disorder as a full partner in the search for order when we have expended so much of our lives trying to ward off disorder.

  • Self and organizational transformation requires a willingness to "let go" and pass through the "dark night" of chaos--use chaos as a part of our thinking to create innovative and successful teams.

  1. The position of information as the primary organizing force in any organization:

  • The more participants we engage in our universe the more we can access its potentials and the wiser we become.

  • It is impossible to expect any plan or idea to be real to people if they do not have an opportunity personally to interact with it, to create different possibilities through their personal processes of observation. 

  • It is the participation process that generates the reality to which individuals then make their commitment. 

  • Information is the source of order, the self-generating source of organizational vitality. 

  • Information is an organization's primary source of nourishment.

  • Organizations are discovering that their route to health and resiliency is to open their organizations to free-flowing information around which trustworthy employees are free to organize their work. 

  1. The rich diversity of human relationships as the energizing force for us as individuals and as leaders. 

  • Our attention must shift from the enticement of external rewards to the intrinsic motivators that spring from the work itself. 

  • 21st century leaders must focus on the deep longing for community, for meaning, for dignity, and for love in our organizational lives. 

  • We need to step back and see ourselves in new ways, appreciate our wholeness, and design organizations that honor and make sense of our totality. 

  • We need to recognize the unseen connections that influence our behavior in the work place or other setting. 

  • We do not exist independent of our relationships with others. 

  • Different settings and people evoke some qualities from us and leave others dormant; in each relationship we are different--we are new in some way. 

  • What is critical in organizations is the relationship created between the person and the setting--each relationship will be different and will always evoke different potentialities. 

  • Power in organizations is the capacity generated by relationships; look carefully at how the work place (or other setting) organizes its relationships--the patterns of relationships and the capacities available to form them.

  • What gives power its charge is the quality of relationships. 

  • Leadership is always dependent on the context, but the context is established by relationships.

  1. The role of vision as an invisible field that can enable us to recreate our work place and our world: 

  • Everyone in the organization has something to contribute to the vision.

  • Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline (1990) states: " . . . an organization's vision grows as a by-product of individual visions, a by-product of ongoing conversations" (p. 212).  

Notes taken from: Wheatley, M. J. (1994). Leadership and the new science: Learning about organization from an orderly universe. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.