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

You must have chaos within you …

Written by: on April 10, 2013

…to give birth to a dancing star.

(Friedrich Nietzsche)

This weeks reading let us to a book by Margaret J. Wheatley called „Leadership and the new science. Discovering order in a chaotic world.“

Margaret Wheatley provides a different dimension of understanding organizational behavior. Linking quantum physics and chaos theory she asks us to get rid of our mechanistic approach to organization process in better understanding and analyzing the patterns of organization behavior. Chaos within the organization results from both information and the organization interacting with the environment. This chaos leads to order, then growth, as the organization becomes self-analyzing and self-creating.

In this context she also introduced the term αὐτoποίησις from (auto-), meaning “self”, and (poiesis), meaning “creation, production”).

Like in many other steps of her theory she borrows ideas in physics, orgaization- and chaos theory. With the autopoiesis idea she follows Fritjof Capra and Ernst Jantsch thougths on self-organisation.

“The characteristic of living systems to continuously renew themselves and to regulate this process in such a way that the integrity of their structure is maintained” (Jantsch, 1980, 7) as quoted in Wheatley, 1994, p. 20.)


The idea of integrity and individual identity reminded me of Ori Brafman’s and Rod Beckstrom’s „The starfish and the spider- The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations“. In their book with a focus on the analysis of the rise of decentralized organizations they mention the starfish as an example.

If a spider’s leg is cut off, it’s crippled; if its head is cut off, it dies. But a starfish’s leg is cut off, it grows a new one, and the old leg can grow into an entirely new starfish.



In their books Brafman and Beckstrom advertise a leadership style of what they call a “catalyst,” people who create decentralized organizations.  Some of their abiblities are: Relational skills, desire to help, emotional intelligence, trust, inspiration, tolerance from ambiguitly and most important: A hands-off approach combined with an ability to let go. After building up a decentralized organization, catalysts move on, rather than trying to take control.

In the “rules” for catalysts, Brafman and Beckstrom set, they always prefer chaos over structure.  (Network effect, power of chaos, free destribution of knowledge and power).

Margaret J. Wheatly draws the same conclusion:To Wheatly chaos is the key to a lot of our structural problems in organizations itself and in leadership.

But Wheatly is not suggesting chaos as the approval for the uproar of laissez-faire or anything-goes. She finds a certain order even in chaos. From this natural stabilities she derives some of organizational and leadership technical hints. She states that one can not see order in chaos from moment to moment, that chaos breeds self-organization and creativity and that complexity arises from simplicity.

Wheatleys definition of chaos is closely linked to physics and chaos theory.

I was wondering more in a philosophical or even theological dimension.

Chaos is the opposite of kosmos, the greek term for (world-) order or Universe.

Right in Genesis and the story of creation a chaotic state is mentioned: “And the earth was without form, and void.“ (Gen 1:2 KJV). „Without form and void“ is the transfer of the Hebrewתֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohuwawohu). In the next verse we read: „And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.“ (Gen 1:3 KJV). God’s spirit and chaos do not necessarily contract each other.

I was wondering if this theological turn could be fruitful to leadership models in church contexts…

And that lead me to the question:

Is there already a substantiated leadership theory, which is based on “new science” of current organization theories, especially decentralized forms and which is at the same time theologically founded and biblically reflected?


I would love to read it, but I doubt there is one…


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