Len Hjalmarson on Chaordic Leadership

kinnon —  May 8, 2007 — 2 Comments

Wikipedia defines Chaordic this way:

The portmanteau chaordic is used in some philosophies to refer to a system that is simultaneously chaotic and ordered. The term was coined by Dee Hock.

The mix of chaos and order is typically described as a harmonious coexistence displaying characteristics of both, with neither chaotic nor ordered behavior dominating. Some people hold that nature is largely organized in such a manner; in particular, living organisms and the evolutionary process by which they arose are often described by adherents to such a philosophy as chaordic in nature. Chaordic systems have also been proposed as a possible approach to consensus decision-making that would be neither hierarchical nor anarchic.

Len Hjalmarson in his post, Chaordic II comments,

What is true leadership? What is its purpose? How does leadership look in complex adaptive systems? Why does “command and control,” the modus operandi of the Industrial Age (and most churches), ultimately limit the growth potential of organizations?

Hock’s account is the precise opposite of the “great man” theory of leadership. (emphasis added) He writes,

“To be precise, one cannot speak of leaders who cause organizations to achieve superlative performance, for no one can cause it to happen. Leaders can only recognize and modify conditions that prevent it; perceive and articulate a sense of community, a vision of the future, a body of principle to which people can become passionately committed, then encourage and enable them to discover and bring forth the extraordinary capabilities that lie trapped in everyone, struggling to get out.

Without question, the most abundant, least expensive, most underutilized and constantly abused resource in the world is human ingenuity. The source of that abuse is mechanistic, Industrial Age, dominator concepts of organization and the management practices they spawn. (emphasis added)

In the deepest sense, distinction between leaders and followers is meaningless. In every moment of life, we are simultaneously leading and following…” (Birth of the Chaordic Age, Dee Hock, Page 72)



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to Len Hjalmarson on Chaordic Leadership

  1. that is fascinating. our little community seems to have become that way and not at all by design but I wonder if it can stay that way as we grow – – ie is this idea dependent upon a group remaining small? (to be over simplistic)

  2. Mak,
    Hock was responsible for building Visa. It became very very large. (A little too large for some of us.) I don’t think the issue is size – although the larger the organization, the greater attempt to control it by those in “ownership” positions.


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