Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

How can I put up with Chaos?

Written by: on April 12, 2013

The word ‘chaos’ which the dictionary describes as ‘a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order’ could easily become a synonym for India, a nation splitting at the seams with its 1.2 billion people.  This is a country that finds it difficult to identify a single common thread that runs through its complex societal fabric.   The country’s countless political parties who for the most part do not actually know what they believe in, find it impossible to define what their respective ideologies are and what they stand for.  Corruption that is rampant erodes its roots and foundations.  Dysfunctional  systems and fragmented communities, obstinate and unbending social hierarchies that more often than not are in conflict with each other,  and ethnic groups that are constantly at loggerheads make India seem like a nation abandoned  without hope.   Yes, this is a bit of an exaggeration in order to make a point; nevertheless not too far from reality. But there is good news.  According to Wheatley as her book Leadership and the New Science; Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, suggests, nothing is lost. There is no need for despair. Not only is there hope for India, but this chaos actually holds great potential for the future.   

The post modern age has brought us to a point where many of the traditional definitions of concepts that have been accepted without question in the past are now questioned.  It is no longer possible to answer questions raised today from yesterdays experiences and answers. Wheatley has allayed some of my fears and apprehensions.  My traditional perceptions of leadership have in the past led me to constantly search for order in everything and to impose order wherever I saw it was absent.  Wheatley’s statement: “when leaders strive for equilibrium and stability by imposing control, constricting people’s freedom and inhibiting local change, they only create the conditions that threaten the organization’s survival (Wheatley 2006, 89)” was a wake up call.  That chaos is part of the system of life and is necessary for life is a truly liberating thought for me in my position of leadership. 

Wheatley has challenged me to understand and first accept life as life and as it is, stay focused on the ‘big picture’ (the whole), the connectedness of all of life,  and that relationships are the key.  “One of the first differences between the new science and Newtonianism is a focus on holism rather than parts.  Systems are understood as whole systems and attention is given to relationships within those networks.” (Wheatley 2006) 

My take away from the book Leadership and the new Science in the present context of my ministry and leadership

a.      The success of my future leadership depends on my desire to embrace and courage to deal with uncertainty and cope with rapid and drastic change.  I was drawn back to Nohria’s Leadership Theory and Practice and the challenges he says that the leadership of the 21st century faces.   “Leadership is accepting responsibility to create conditions that enable others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty  (Nohria Nitin 2010, 527)” 

b.      The future of my leadership depends on my capacity to appreciate and celebrate  the need for  chaos as the driving force for the desired order to life. 

c.       The success of my leadership lies in my ability to deal with the complexity of the present post modern world without necessarily having to master it.

d.      The future depends on my capacity to understand that we are gifted to each other,   and need to stay together, lean on each other and live interdependently.  Perhaps best explained by the word ‘ubuntu’ from the Bantu languages of South Africa.  The word is said to carry many meanings but best translated:  “I am because you are”.

Nohria Nitin, Khurana Rakesh, ed. Handbook of Leaddership Theory and Practice. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Publishing Corporation, 2010.

Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science-Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. San Francisco, California: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc.’, 2006.

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