The job of a good leader is to help a person become responsible by transferring responsibility to them so they live their purpose.
As a child deeply in love with nature, living on the edge of a park, and the fifth of six children, I knew a lot about chaos, the beautiful, free, creative and exhilarating kind. Starting out free to explore from infancy, school at age five felt like bitter confinement and at times crushing domination, and was the first time I was acutely aware of the down-side to our civilization process. As a result, I have always been drawn to unorthodox concepts of how people might form community, develop into good, contributing, caring citizens who are empowered to be victorious in their lives. In the last 30 years I have turned that awareness into an obsession (and a company), leading to questions that have since liberated my life and the lives of others.
- How can we shift the civilization process so that rather than diminish people and demean the human spirit, each person is assisted in expanding into their wholeness?
- What can we do to create a world in which it feels safe to be powerfully influential, inventive, vulnerable, creative and collaborative so that we are authentically free co-creators?
- What does an organization look like in which people thrive rather than simply survive?
- How do we avoid that which makes us feel and act like victims and rebels and absorb that, which makes us empowered, contributing and accountable?
It’s clear our current organizational structures are not working well. News headlines make us all too aware of the meaning of the term dysfunctional within schools, families, businesses and institutions. Schools struggle to effectively educate, many businesses, marriages and families are in a state of crisis. And then there’s the current state of health care, the economy, welfare, our judicial systems, the environment, and governments, to name a few.
Additionally, a requirement for mutual cooperation is essential as we expand our increasingly technological and global community. We are evolving at an accelerated pace which creates greater stress and a pressing need to be more inter-dependent and streamlined in our evolution. What once took years and even decades to create now takes only months or days and our outdated organizational systems can’t keep up with our present or future. What’s the answer?
Recently, in studying a variety of organizational models, I was delighted to discover a human system that is synonymous with the work of my company LifeWork Systems. The model is called a chaord, derived from a combination of the words chaos and order. In a chaord, all the best within human beings and all manner of systems are honored and focused towards what is both most meaningful and effective.
Leading scientists from many disciplines have recently discovered that life itself thrives on the edge of chaos with just enough order to give it patterns we have taken for granted and assumed developed in a linear, plodding manner. It’s just not true. Much of what exists in nature formed in both a complex and simultaneous way. In other words, a variety of systems acting independently worked in harmony to rapidly collaborate and create what could not otherwise occur. Nature literally explodes with creativity and cooperation. What’s key is that each element involved in any healthy system not be confused nor impeded in living to their distinct purpose, values and vision.
A chaord is similar to this beautiful discovery in nature; when people share power, are equipped to co-create change, and independently self-govern, then everyone can harmoniously blend available chaos with order for rapid, effective change. In ordered chaos, each person is first and foremost purpose-oriented, focused on individual and group purpose, values and visions. Next, everyone is organized to expediently harness the creativity, gifts, initiative and collective talents available in service to that purpose or vision. Ordered chaos is to vision what a bow and arrow is to a target. Control is released so the arrow can literally fly to the target. This is the path from victim to victor.
What does this mean specifically? Organizations operating as a chaord function by a set of principles in which power is shared, knowledge and initiative are distributed at all levels and self-governing, socially and emotionally intelligent individuals and teams work independently to accomplish their goals with faith in each other to deliver their part. Imagine homes, educational institutions, community organizations and businesses in which adults and children learn to share decision-making, governing, and whole tasks are delegated to individuals and teams independently and yet, interdependently.
In this system internal motivation, purpose, vision and self-management are top priorities that replace traditional command and control, linear top-down managing so that joyful participation from passion and purpose reign. I have successfully created this very system in my own family and in client sites, including businesses, non-profit organizations, churches and schools.
During the first half of the 21st century, it was the practice of parents to shape the minds and hearts and lives of their children and to a large extent this is still a worthy role. At that time however, this was out of balance. There was something crucial usually missing in the formula for influencing children’s lives. Too much emphasis was focused on the shaping of the child and not enough on the child’s individual internal motivation, inductive reasoning and discovery and development of their unique purpose, values and vision for their life. They were not developed into leaders and proactive participants as part of their rearing. The result: Many adults turn into people who are out of touch with their ability to make choices from internal motivation and instead feel like “victims” to the whims and preferences of others. Their internal roadmap is buried and their power atrophied.
A result from my experience of my childhood and the well-intentioned, control-driven attempts by my parents, other adults, and educators, to make me a good citizen, was an unbalanced need to do what my parents and other authorities wanted from a sense of fear and disempowerment. I have come to realize many others experience the same. Maybe that’s why Brene Brown, renounced expert researcher on Shame and Vulnerability states,
"We are the most over-weight, over-medicated, in-debt, addicted cohorts in the history of the world."
The emphasis on shaping human beings from the outside in, is costing us more than we could ever imagine and at the root of co-dependency, shame, repression, suppression, addiction and many neuroses. It is at the root of victim consciousness. When parents raise children this way and educators teach students this way and managers manage employees this way, there grows a disconnection between the one leading and the one being led, and a disconnect within each person.
During that era and today, the mainstream methods for how to lead others is still a source of much dysfunction. When we use a control-based approach for leading others, this is a form of over-protecting, pampering and spoiling. I’m not referring here to spoiling others with too many material goods but rather, with taking too much responsibility for the ideas, happiness, behavior, choices and results of those they lead.
In the words of psychologist Alfred Adler (father of individual psychology), “people often make the mistake of taking too much responsibility for other’s achievements and too much blame for their mistakes. They forget the person is always observing, interpreting and deciding for him or herself.” When we leave out the purposes and subjectivity of the individual, and don’t guide others in the wise use of their power, we are teaching others to be less responsible. What we protect we make weak and we should never do for others anything they are capable of doing for themselves.
The job of a good leader is to help a person become able to respond (responsible) in their life; to help them by transferring responsibility to them in such a manner that they discover their own high purpose and how to live it. Then they can do the same for others. It’s been my life’s work, first with my family, then in over 70 schools and now with many business and community organizations, to provide the missing tools and information that allows leaders to improve success in others and bring out the best already residing in those they lead.
We live in exciting times with tremendous opportunity to expand into the amazing, capable, creative human beings we are and to have fun alone and with others. A chaordic model is exciting because it provides meaningful uncertainties, risks, challenges and opportunities to develop leaders who contribute in ways that cannot be found in traditional models. Vision, with action, leads to infinite possibilities. It’s time to buckle up, and go for the ride of our lives. We are designed by nature itself to function within organized chaos on purpose when we are given the appropriate training and support for how to do so! We are meant to be victors, not victims!
Judy Ryan is Owner of LifeWork Systems and a human systems expert. Executives, community leaders and educators hire Judy and her company because they want the advantages of a healthy workplace. To contact her, you can call her at 314.239.4727, by firstname.lastname@example.org or on her website www.lifeworksystems.com