Volume 4: 2010 Abstract 6

Journal of Spirituality, Leadership and Management

Volume 4: 2010

Flourishing at the edge of chaos: Leading purposeful change and loving it

Josie McLean and Sam Wells

University of Adelaide

ABSTRACT: pp. 53-61.

In this conceptual paper, we support the proposition that, if we are to apply the lessons learnt from our engagement with complex natural systems to our practice of leadership and leading organisational change, a true paradigm shift is required. It is more than embracing the natural and social worlds in addition to the economic realities – solutions such as the triple bottom line already offer this. The required profound shift places the principles that underpin sustainability in its broadest sense, and so incorporating spiritual fulfilment, at the centre of organisational life. Within this systems perspective, we examine the nature and dynamic of the paradigmatic shift, positioning vision and leadership at the heart of a transition designed to liberate and maximise the contribution which our undiminished humanity can make within organisations. We propose that the shift will be marked by joy and fulfilment and a new level of organisational effectiveness that will also be the hallmark of a ‘sustaining organisation’.

On this basis, we identify and explore fundamental principles that can inform the work of those exercising their leadership for organisational change. These are at odds with more traditional and mythical (and enduring) notions of leaders as ‘heroes’.

Key words: emergent leadership, complex adaptive systems, sustaining organisations, envisioning