Successful organizations, including the Military, have learned that the higher the risk, the more necessary it is to engage everyone's commitment and intelligence.
In this present culture, we need to find the means to work and live together with less aggression if we are to resolve the serious problems that afflict and impede us.
Everyone in a complex system has a slightly different interpretation. The more interpretations we gather, the easier it becomes to gain a sense of the whole.
I'm sad to report that in the past few years, ever since uncertainty became our insistent 21st century companion, leadership has taken a great leap backwards to the familiar territory of command and control.
For me, this is a familiar image - people in the organization ready and willing to do good work, wanting to contribute their ideas, ready to take responsibility, and leaders holding them back, insisting that they wait for decisions or instructions.
There are many benefits to this process of listening. The first is that good listeners are created as people feel listened to. Listening is a reciprocal process - we become more attentive to others if they have attended to us.
We do as much harm holding onto programs and people past their natural life span as we do when we employ massive organizational air strikes. However, destroying comes at the end of life's cycle, not as a first response.
For eons, humans have struggled to find less destructive ways of living together.
I believe that our very survival depends upon us becoming better systems thinkers.
Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.
Probably the most visible example of unintended consequences, is what happens every time humans try to change the natural ecology of a place.
Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances.
Organisations are now confronted with two sources of change: the traditional type that is initiated and managed; and external changes over which no one has control.
These days, our senses are bombarded with aggression. We are constantly confronted with global images of unending, escalating war and violence.
Too many problem-solving sessions become battlegrounds where decisions are made based on power rather than intelligence.
When leaders take back power, when they act as heroes and saviors, they end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and deeply stressed.
I think we have to notice that the business processes we use right now for thinking and planning and budgeting and strategy are all delivered on very tight agendas.
In our daily life, we encounter people who are angry, deceitful, intent only on satisfying their own needs. There is so much anger, distrust, greed, and pettiness that we are losing our capacity to work well together.
Even though worker capacity and motivation are destroyed when leaders choose power over productivity, it appears that bosses would rather be in control than have the organization work well.
We experience problem-solving sessions as war zones, we view competing ideas as enemies, and we use problems as weapons to blame and defeat opposition forces. No wonder we can't come up with real lasting solutions!
In these troubled, uncertain times, we don't need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone's intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.
We have created trouble for ourselves in organizations by confusing control with order.
Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.
For example, I was discussing the use of email and how impersonal it can be, how people will now email someone across the room rather than go and talk to them. But I don't think this is laziness, I think it is a conscious decision people are making to save time.
I think a major act of leadership right now, call it a radical act, is to create the places and processes so people can actually learn together, using our experiences.
Aggression is the most common behavior used by many organizations, a nearly invisible medium that influences all decisions and actions.
And time for reflection with colleagues is for me a lifesaver; it is not just a nice thing to do if you have the time. It is the only way you can survive.
In virtually every organization, regardless of mission and function, people are frustrated by problems that seem unsolvable.
I believe that the capacity that any organisation needs is for leadership to appear anywhere it is needed, when it is needed.
I've wanted to see beyond the Western, mechanical view of the world and see what else might appear when the lens was changed.
Aggression only moves in one direction - it creates more aggression.
The nature of the global business environment guarantees that no matter how hard we work to create a stable and healthy organisation, our organisation will continue to experience dramatic changes far beyond our control.
Without aggression, it becomes possible to think well, to be curious about differences, and to enjoy each other's company.
Aggression is inherently destructive of relationships. People and ideologies are pitted against each other, believing that in order to survive, they must destroy the opposition.
When we can lay down our fear and anger and choose responses other than aggression, we create the conditions for bringing out the best in us humans.
Hopelessness has surprised me with patience.
Most people associate command and control leadership with the military.
Destroying is a necessary function in life. Everything has its season, and all things eventually lose their effectiveness and die.
Aggression only breeds more aggression. It only creates more fear and anger.
Our willingness to acknowledge that we only see half the picture creates the conditions that make us more attractive to others. The more sincerely we acknowledge our need for their different insights and perspectives, the more they will be magnetized to join us.
I think it is quite dangerous for an organisation to think they can predict where they are going to need leadership. It needs to be something that people are willing to assume if it feels relevant, given the context of any situation.
For us, someone who is willing to step forward and help is much more courageous than someone who is merely fulfilling the role.
Yet we act as if simple cause and effect is at work. We push to find the one simple reason things have gone wrong. We look for the one action, or the one person, that created this mess. As soon as we find someone to blame, we act as if we've solved the problem.
Circles create soothing space, where even reticent people can realize that their voice is welcome.
We know from science that nothing in the universe exists as an isolated or independent entity.
In the past, it was easier to believe in my own effectiveness. If I worked hard, with good colleagues and good ideas, we could make a difference. But now, I sincerely doubt that.
Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something. We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context.
Listening moves us closer, it helps us become more whole, more healthy, more holy. Not listening creates fragmentation, and fragmentation is the root of all suffering.
Thinking is the place where intelligent actions begin. We pause long enough to look more carefully at a situation, to see more of its character, to think about why it's happening, to notice how it's affecting us and others.
More Margaret J. Wheatley Quotations (Based on Topics)
People - Listening - Life - Leadership - Place - Leading & Managing - Past - Military - Time - Actions - Work & Career - Sense & Perception - Intelligence - Power - Anger - Laziness - Present - Belief & Faith - Greed - View All Margaret J. Wheatley Quotations
Pablo Neruda - O. Henry - Thomas Kuhn - T. H. White - Rudyard Kipling - Robert Louis Stevenson - Milan Kundera - Herbert Kaufman - Charles Caleb Colton - Anthony Hope