When Patrick met Meg…

Well… I really felt like a groupie at a ‘In conversation with Meg Wheatley’  event yesterday:

Leadership in These Times Facing Reality | Claiming Leadership | Restoring Sanity. 

To be up close and personal with someone whose books has had such an impact and influence on me over the years was pretty awesome.

Meg shared her latest thinking in her new book Who do we choose to be?’ in which she develops the idea that modern culture has power over and on us, and to stand apart from this is a choice. Her prognosis is bleak… things will continue to fall apart, especially in America where she feels that there is a “war going on for the human spirit”. 

I live in America – its a terrifying time – we are in an age of destruction.

Power and greed seems to be more powerful than common good.

Politics seems to be about creating fear. When people are fearful, we become savages.

What do we need in this context? According to Meg,

We need leaders who recognize what harm is being done to people and planet through practices that dominate, ignore, abuse, and suppress the human spirit.

We need leaders who are willing to sacrifice self for others.  Sacrifice means to make something ‘scared’.

We need to work in small groups, create islands of sanity, that generate generosity and grace.

We reflected on Gandhi’s thoughts on 7 Social Sins:

Following a discussion about whether these were too propositional, too judgemental, too binary and therefore unrealistic/simplistic, Meg was adamant that this was a helpful frame from which to make sense of what’s going on in the world today. And that, there was a need to take an ethical stand.

She put forward the idea that one way to take a position is to create “islands of sanity” where we are – where those committed to serving others use their power and influence to co-create relationships that bring about generosity, contribution, community and love, no matter what. Inspirational stuff. 

At the beginning of the day Meg asked those in the room to re-call a time where we chose to be the kind of leader we are today, to rekindle this memory, and to tell the story about that. I have many! One is about how in 1992, her book Leadership and the New Science precipitated the journey I am now on as a systemic practitioner. As a disillusioned HR Manager, it was liberating to ‘discover’ that there was another, non-mechanistic, non-positivist, way of looking at organising and leadership. I will always be grateful for this gift! The following quote from Issac Newton sums up how I feel:

At the end of the day, I had to tell Meg about my other hero John Shotter, who once said to me:

The question is not what should we do, but rather who do we want to become.

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