Reprise: Living with Permanent Uncertainty

One of my very favorite (and perhaps one of the most profound) articles on leadership that I’ve read is “Leadership In Turbulent Times Is Spiritual” by Margaret J. Wheatley.

In the article, Wheatley reminds her readers that “as times grow more chaotic, as people question the meaning (and meaninglessness) of this life, people are clamoring for their leaders to save and rescue them.” In times of uncertainty when there are no easy and ready answers, she describes a desperate people that presses “their leaders to stop the chaos, to make things better, to create stability.” She continues: “And even leaders who would never become dictators, those devoted to servant leadership, walk into this trap. They want to help, so they exert more control over the disorder. They try to create safety, to insulate people from the realities of change. They try and give answers to dilemmas that have no answers.”

Wheatley challenges the myth and “trap” that leaders fall into and reframes leadership in turbulent times as helping “people move into a relationship with uncertainty and chaos.” To be successful, leaders “must enter the domain of spiritual traditions.” Why? Because “as our world grows more chaotic and unpredictable, we are forced to ask questions that have, historically, always been answered by spiritual traditions. How do I live in uncertainty, unable to know what will happen next? How do I maintain my values when worldly temptations abound? What is the meaning of my life? Why am I here at this time? Where can I find the courage and faith to stay the course?”

In her blog “Living with Permanent Uncertainty,” Louise Altman invites her readers to a similar domain and shares the wisdom of another modern day mystic like Margaret Wheatley, namely, Pema Chodron. Altman speaks to the resistance that is often the only certainty in the midst of uncertainty and offers some practical ways to address it our lives and as leaders. Read more by clicking here.


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