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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Similarly, in many large organizations, the customers (and perhaps even corporate board members) are never allowed to witness its pervasive chaos. We polish and rationalize (public relations) decisions that have been made in highly irrational ways and in complex, unpredictable settings. We collude in the creation of impostureships and rehearsed untruths.

Order is being discovered in many different systems—some of which seem on first glance to be purely random and chaotic. Human organizations are among the systems that have been found to be both orderly and chaotic. We find order everywhere in our world, despite its turbulent, complex and unpredictable characteristics. Our world is, at a very fundamental level, nothing more (or less) than a set of interacting systems that are each internally consistent, coherent, self-regulating and self-fulfilling. Within each of these systems there is additional order.

Subsystems tend to replicate or mirror each other as well as the overall system. This subsystem mirroring provides coherence and predictability. There is also abundant disorder and chaos in our 21st Century world. Turbulence, unpredictability, and fragmentation dominate the spaces where systems and subsystems meet. VUCA reigns supreme. Since there are more and more systems in operation today that are not consistent with one another, there is an increasing amount of turbulent, unpredictable and fragmented space in which systems are in interaction—an increasing amount of chaos and irony.

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