Bonar Institute Logo
Managing Chaordic Organizations Mindfully with Purposeful Leadership - Bonar Institute for Purposeful Leadership

“An organization’s success has enormously more to do with clarity of shared purpose, common principles and strength of belief in them, than with assets, expertise, operating ability, or management competence,” says Dee Hock, the founder of the VISA credit card for Bank of America. To Hock, this rule for clarity comes out of a very basic idea: the idea that organizations embody the concept of community. But as in every community, there are peaks and valleys throughout the course of the organization.

Chaos and Order

Hock popularized the term “chaordic organizations” to describe an environment with a mix of chaos and order. Everything in life is “chaordic;” always moving between chaos and order and your organization is not exempt. Recalling his farming background, Hock came up with the term through his deep understanding of nature, while considering its VUCA – nature’s volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. As a way of navigating this reality, as we will see, purposeful leaders can utilize this framework to find equanimity in a “chaordic” work environment. But they must be keenly mindful – emotionally intelligent, flexible, aware, adaptive, nimble, and responsive – all while being grounded in a unity of purpose.

According to Hock, this is the fundamental paradox facing businesses: While adaptability requires the individual components of the system to be in competition, cohesion requires that the same individuals cooperate with each other by giving up part of their freedom to compete.  Both adaptability and cohesion must function together in a “chaordic” environment. Therefore, competition and cooperation must find their ‘power of balance’ and this requires people to be emotionally mature and to manage themselves and their emotions.

Hock goes on to say.

The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self: one’s own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words, and acts. It is a complex, unending, incredibly difficult, oft-shunned task. We spend little time and rarely excel at the management of self precisely because it is so much more difficult than prescribing and controlling the behaviour of others.

Mindfulness for Managing Self

A simple and elegant way for a leader to manage self is a regular mindfulness practice. Being mindful and aware enables one to pay attention to the present moment in awareness. This gaining of space, even for a few seconds, helps recognize feelings and emotions as they arise to keep them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful chaotic situations.

Being mindful and aware enables the presence to manage self through difficult situations and to notice how others are impacted. This way a leader influences others to be calm and collected through the chaos for positive outcomes with some order.

The primary practice of mindfulness is a meditative focus on the breath. This exercise enables a person to gain the skill to become aware of the breath immediately when a threat, real or perceived, arises. This breath awareness enables some space, even for 5 seconds, to manage self, to gain some space, to skillfully respond rather than react to a situation.

Composure and emotional control are important attributes of an effective leader to stay grounded through the daily VUCA realities.

Hock has the last word on managing self;

Without the management of self – no one is for authority no matter how much they acquire, for the more authority they acquire, the more dangerous they become. It is the management of self that should occupy 50 percent of our time and to the best our ability. And when we do that, the ethical, moral, and spiritual elements of management are inescapable.  

Mindfully managing self is and essential skill for a purposeful leader to create an appreciative culture in a “chaordic” world.

Copyright © 2023 Bonar Institute for Purposeful Leadership Inc, All rights reserved.