Leadership in Time of Chaos

Chaos and order are two universal forces. Throughout history these two forces interact and create the

reality in which we live. The same applies to the organizational arena. The organization tries to establish order by creating structures and processes that will enable it to reach its goals. From time to time the forces of change and chaos drive the organization to a point where it needs to update its internal order and set in place new structures, new strategy and new processes. This response cannot be delayed too much as the organization might become irrelevant or even obsolete.

The time between two sets of order is usually chaotic. The old order is still not letting go and the new order does not yet get traction. It can be best described as a time of chaos. People do not yet understand the change. They are not certain about the new processes or reporting lines. The new structure is not yet fully in place. This time calls for the leadership of the organization to act in a set of ways to lead it successfully. When the leadership does not act in the following ways the result is a mass confusion, lack of engagement and low level of trust throughout the organization.

We can use a compass to describe the leadership activities in a time of chaos. In the North, the question is "Where are we going?" – the leadership needs to provide its people the a clear vision of the future following the change. They need to provide a bigger picture of the cause of the change and they need to stay transparent as much as possible. Failing to do that will cause rumors throughout the organization and a low level of trust and engagement

In the East, the question is "Why?"; that is, motivation and engagement – the leadership needs to create a stronger bond amongst the various teams. They need to promote organizational values and create a sense of togetherness throughout the organization

In the South, the question is "Why not?": limiting beliefs and fears – the leadership needs to legitimize people's fears and concerns from the on setting change. They need to have conversations with employees and help them overcome their concerns. This can be done with individuals and with teams

In the West, the question is "How?": planning and execution – the leadership needs to focus the entire organization on short term plans and goals until the change is completed. This short-term focus keeps everyone busy in a useful way until things settle down.

Advanced leadership teams will also consult with their people on various aspects of the change and cause a better "buy in" and engagement.

All the above will make the process an evolutionary one, transitioning from one order to the next successfully through chaos.

When the leadership team refrains from doing all that, they allow the forces of chaos to take over and rule the day. The change is not led well, and this can result in deterioration or violent changes.




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