leading… why no one IS “leader”

I was rereading The Web of Life and The Hidden Connections by Capra this morning (he’s best known for his book The Tao of Physics). 

These thoughts come from his work:

A living social system of any sort, be it a family, a church, a school, a country, etc, is a self-generating network of communications.  “The aliveness of an organization resides in its informal networks, or communities of practice.”  Bringing life into human organizations means empowering their communities of practice; the aliveness does not reside in any person(s) holding the title “leader.”

“You can never direct a social system; you can only disturb it.”  Chaos is our friend.  Those people serving in influencing roles exist, in part, to disturb social systems, not to maintain or grow them in any controlled sense.  A living network chooses which disturbances to notice and how to respond. Leading is influencimg the communal hermeneutic in the inevitable process of “noticing.”  A message will get through to people in a community of practice when it is meaningful to them.

“The creativity and adaptability of life expresses itself through the spontaneous emergence of novelty at critical points of instability.”  Every human organization contains both designed and emergent structures. The challenge is to find the right balance between the creativity of emergence and the stability of design.  Of course there is no “Orthobalance” (right-balance) if i can coin a term.  In a wonderful conversation over lunch this week, Dan Allender offered an excellent example of this from the world of ship building.  Two primary concerns in building a boat: stability and speed.  A boat can be designed to be virtually uncapsizable, but in so designing we sacrifice speed, on the other hand we can build a boat that is incredibly fast but it will likely be sunk.  We can’t have a boat that is both fast and stable.

Vision in this line of thinking is less about a static idea of who “we” are becoming but vision becomes becomes a dynamic or living “way of seeing” which involves facilitating the emergence of novelty by building and nurturing networks of communications; creating a learning culture in which questioning is encouraged and innovation is rewarded; creating a climate of trust and mutual support; and recognizing viable novelty when it emerges, while allowing the freedom to make mistakes.  One of the big issues because the attention to extending the web of the their living system.

Peace, dwight

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  1. Dwight –
    I know this post is older, but i remembered reading it a while back and managed to find it again. I’m writing a paper for "The History of Christianity" about this very idea and this post became incredibly valuable.

    Thanks for posting it