Home Concepts Organizational Theory Leadership in the Midst of Complexity, Uncertainty, Turbulence—and Contradiction

Leadership in the Midst of Complexity, Uncertainty, Turbulence—and Contradiction

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Without this core patterning, the organization will fall apart. It will lose its integrative glue and its sense of abiding values and purposes. In a postmodern and ironic world where boundaries are falling away, the quiet pool in an organization contributes in a profound way to its clarity regarding organizational intentions and to its sense of continuity and commitment. From this perspective, the remnant of an organization provides an invaluable wisdom regarding the deeply embedded patterns of the organization, and the stagnant resistance of the organization becomes a fertile ground for the formulation of new strategies that honor the past while leaning toward the future.

There is finally a fourth type of subsystem in the stream. This is the subsystem that resides on the boundaries between the three other subsystems. When looking at a stream, one sees this type of subsystem in the area that exists between the rapidly flowing section of the stream (subsystem one) and the stagnant pool (subsystem three) or between the whirlpool (subsystem two) and either the rapidly flowing or stagnant water. Unpredictability is endemic to this fourth type of subsystem.

A leaf that floats into this subsystem begins to move in a highly erratic manner. One cannot predict from moment to moment where the leaf will be. It bobs and weaves, darting from one point to another in a seemingly random manner. Eventually the leaf will end up in the stagnant pool, the whirlpool or the fast lane (subsystem one). Meanwhile (to borrow from the movie All About Eve) it is in for “a bumpy ride!”

The fourth subsystem is common in contemporary organizations that are filled with the uncertainty resulting from the complex and unpredictable dynamics inherent in this subsystem. Typically, the participants in these turbulences not only have differing priorities, they also move at a different pace from each other and in different directions. This is at the heart of the ironic conditions in which many contemporary leaders find their life inside an organization.

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