Our organizations are failing; as leaders we’re struggling. Nothing seems reliable anymore. How do we respond to adaptive challenges? Why do we feel so lost?
The Franklin expedition failed because they carried their baggage with them, a non-adaptive response to extreme conditions. In contrast Jesus sent the disciples out with nothing to sustain them. How do we get comfortable with vulnerability? Living on the edge is a journey into experimentation and adaptation. It requires new capacities and skills from leaders and teams. Leaders get lost: who survives and why? How do our mental maps limit us?
Iceland’s Silfra fissure is formed by the pulling apart of tectonic plates. Modernity has fragmented and broken into post-modernity. Merely managing the crisis is not sustainable. Instead we need to open space, finding a way to withdraw and reflect. Our paradigms of progress are oppressive. Jesus told us that we would lose our lives to find them. We move down to rise up.
How will the future find us? Living on edges creates tension, and tension generates wakefulness. Old assumptions about growth and leadership no longer apply. Our landscape has gone from solid to liquid. When we can no longer read maps, we train navigators. We work with tools and practices that help us “read” the landscape.
Change is a constant condition, and local knowledge has become paramount. Innovators start before they are ready and develop prototypes to test new conditions. New leadership types are appearing: poets and synergists and boundary-crossers. Listening and observing together we invite a new future. I describe organizations that found a new future.
Goal-posts have shifted and the field has become fluid. I offer a framework for understanding organizational culture and examine the role of leaders in emergent conditions. In self-organizing systems leaders disrupt existing patterns, encourage novelty and act as sensemakers. Leadership is less about decisive action and more about shaping environments.
Pilgrimage begins when we discover a yearning for something more. The final phase is arrival at the beginning and “knowing the place for the first time.” The metaphor of exile fits the experience of leadership in our time. What feels like a closed space might be a womb: a place of transformation and rebirth. The One on the throne says, “Behold! I make all things new!”