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The Ark of Leadership: A Second Sample Chapter

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The Ark of Leadership: An Integrative Perspective

By William Bergquist, Jeannine Sandstrom and Agnes Mura

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Chapter 2

On Board the Ark – The Storm We Are Weathering

Noah built his Ark in preparation for a great storm. We are faced with a storm of considerable magnitude in our mid-21st Century world. Let’s consider the nature of the stormy conditions we are now facing. The leaders of organizations in the 21st Century often must deal with major challenges associated with the anxiety experienced by specific members of their organization, as well as the diffuse anxiety that pervades specific departments in the leader’s organization or the entire organization. This anxiety can be induced in many different ways—and there are multiple sources of organizational anxiety.

As leaders, we often face the “perfect storm” of organizational challenge and anxiety. Perhaps the easiest way to sum up the multiple sources of challenge and anxiety is to evoke the now commonly used acronym: VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). To this we add conditions of turbulence and contradiction (VUCA-Plus). The challenges in a VUCA-Plus environment involve both determining what is “real” and how one predicts and makes decisions based on an assessment of this elusive reality.

Peter Armentrout’s Storm

It is several sessions later. Catherine Townsend has helped Peter consider ways in which to use other best practices in launching his outdoor Lighting project. Peter has taken on several ‘homework” assignments and moved forward in identifying someone that can lead this project and finding the funds within his budget for bringing this person in. Catherine and Peter decide at this point that they want to back off a bit and consider the “broader picture.” What is happening out in the world that could (or will) impact on Peter’s business in the near future. If he is planning to retire and transfer ownership of his business, then he needs to position this business so that it will be attractive to someone else who will run it in the near and (hopefully) distant future.

With Catherine’s assistance, Peter begins to study and reflect on the nature of the world in which he is operating in California and Oregon. This exploration is Legacy Leadership with an emphasis on “legacy.” It is also a vigorous version of appreciative “leaning into the future.” After spending several weeks reading several publications related to the nursery business, Peter discovers that his business will soon (or perhaps is now) operating in a “storm.” Multiple challenges are swirling around his business. These include the persistent drought and competing on-line nursery business of which he was already aware—and with he has already addressed.

In addition, Peter has become increasingly aware of the growing hydroponics business that is being involved not only in the growing of marijuana but also other plants that have not traditionally been grown in North America. Then there is the matter of marijuana itself. How does its legalization and exponential growth impact Peter’s traditional nursery business. Then there is the matter of large companies bringing many more plants into their offices. This not only makes their offices more attractive and “livable (important since employees want to work at home), but also increases the “health” of these work environments. Should Peter (or his business in the future) get into the corporate world?

Peter and Catherine explore these challenging conditions during several coaching sessions. All of these conditions lead Peter not to greater clarify, but instead to greater confusion, greater anxiety, more sleepless nights, and an even greater desire to retire and somehow “get away from it all.” A cabin in the forests near Ashland sounds good. Catherine has to help Peter move off the ledge. “Yes, these conditions are all challenging; however, they can be addressed.” Catherine points out how several of the best practices – including Peter’s favorite Best Practice 1—can be of great value in this regard. She points, in particular, to Best Practice 4 and its emphasis on finding and welcoming differences of perspective and practice.

How does Peter find this diversity within his own organization? Perhaps he needs to listen more intently to his younger employees. He might build an advisory panel or attend some “futuristic” seminars. Perhaps part of his succession plan should be the ongoing development and education of his own employees so that they can purchase or at least provide guidance to someone who is buying the business. Catherine and Peter spend a fair amount of time talking about the swirling storm. Peter is feeling a bit better and achieving a quality night of sleep.


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