Leadership

Leadership Should Be Messy

Leaders have historically been portrayed as polished to perfection. As a result, we sometimes unfairly expect leaders to be superhuman. We ridicule and shame when they make mistakes and reel in disappointment when they don’t live up to our ideals.  

That concept of leadership is dying. People are increasingly recognizing leadership as complex, emergent, and shared regardless of formal position. In other words, messy.

Some people resist messiness. To them, such disorder reflects a lack of discipline, healthy habits, and quantifiable results. It goes against how we have been programmed for decades. Others, like me, are open to messiness because it creates possibilities for challenge, engagement, and transformational results.

So unstraighten the surely minimal piles on your desk, misspeak and offend someone, let someone make a mistake, and try something that seems daunting if not impossible. Heck, throw up a bunch of papers in the air. Give up the seductive illusion of control. Let go and see what happens.

Social and Political Theory

The Nature of Change

I talk about progressive change a lot, yet that idea does not fully capture my ideas about how change occurs.

I like the word progressive because it indicates forward movement. It is also nonpartisan, or at least it can be understood in that way. Yet, progress is linear, logical, and rational. There is a beginning and an end. Yet, change does not always occur in this way. In fact, change is an ongoing, continual process. Every breath is a potential transformation.

When I was an undergrad, my theology professor shared two views of history with us. According to him, a line with a set starting point represented the Western view while a circle represented the Eastern view. Not being satisfied with either, I developed a third idea – a spiral with no beginning and no ending, with cycles that build upon what has occurred in the past.

Social change happens in all three ways, reflecting the multiple understandings that humans have about the nature of history. Social change also occurs in quantum space when openings are created through chaos.

So how does one become an advocate for quantum change, rather than progressive change, without being physically or psychologically violent?

I think this can be achieved by detaching, opening up to possibility, and flowing.

So how does one effectively do this in a politically tenuous environment?

By focusing on our intention, trusting, and being love.

Releasing our unrealistic desire to control everything in the universe leads to an increased sense of self-control.

I think that the concepts of progressive change and quantum change are complementary, perhaps even paradoxical. Activists can simultaneously employ different means toward the same ends either inter- or intra-personally. The important thing is to be aware of what we are doing, our purpose, and to do something to express our deepest values in the social sphere.