Who Do We Choose To Be?

Margaret Wheatley

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Awakin FeatureThe powerful always defend the status quo because it is the source of their power and privilege. Any change that benefits others would destroy their position. And their position is all they care about defending.

As a lifelong activist focused on changing leadership in large systems, as one still inside those large systems as a consultant, advisor, and friend, I realized years ago that large-scale change was not possible. Leaders were grasping for control, overreacting to crises rather than thinking systemically, treating people as ‘units’ rather than as humans. Yet I also met and worked with extraordinary leaders who were creating islands of sanity where good work still got done and where people enjoyed healthy relationships in the midst of chaotic conditions, fierce opposition, heartbreaking defeats, lack of support, isolation, loneliness, and slander. I have been with them in circumstances that caused most other leaders to give up and walk away, yet still they kept going. [...]

Several years ago, in the face of irreversible global problems and the devolution of leadership, I began to challenge every leader I met with these questions: Who do you choose to be for this time? Are you willing to use whatever power and influence you have to create islands of sanity that evoke and rely on our best human qualities to create, produce, and persevere?

Now I’m asking you.

Excerpted from Margaret Wheatley's book Who do we choose to be?

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that large-scale change is not possible? Can you share a personal story of extraordinary leadership that helped create an island of sanity? What helps you commit to creating your island of sanity?

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9 Previous Reflections:

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    On Sep 13, 2019 Alice Bolt wrote:
    HP Printer not activated Error Code 20Is caused by the failure to properly configure the HP printer on your system. This error typically shows when trying to print a document, image or spreadsheet on your computer, and then you decide to print that document with your HP printer. “Printer not activated – Error code 20”

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    On May 8, 2018 neela wrote:

     I think change is happening every minute on a minute scale which is a part of the large scale. Because it is so slow and small that one can not see it in front of one's eyes immediately but  can see it over time. 
    I believe When I choose to be my authentic self and act as per my inner voice I can not but create an island of "sanity" (I am also questioning  what is "sanity")


    1 reply: Jeffrey | Post Your Reply
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    On May 7, 2018 Joao Perre Viana wrote:

    A powerful question...a question to repeat in morning before starting the day...everyday!
    If we don´t answer for ourselves, someone will and it might not be the answer we are looking for.
      


    1 reply: Me | Post Your Reply
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    On May 5, 2018 david doane wrote:

     I don't agree with Ms. Wheatley that large-scale change is not possible.  Anything is possible, including large-scale change, and there have been many examples of large-scale change throughout history.  I've been with a few extraordinary people who were leaders by the power of their personhood and wisdom and created islands of sanity.  The group of us that were part of such an island were raised to a higher level of personal and interpersonal functioning by the presence of the leader, and it was a joy to be part of the experience.  What helps me commit to creating my own island of sanity is knowing it is possible, knowing I have the wisdom to do it whether it is an island of just me or of a group of people, and knowing that the primary ingredient is to be myself.


    1 reply: Me | Post Your Reply
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    On May 3, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    There are leaders who create islands of insanity and there are leaders who create islands of sanity.  I have witnessed both kinds of leaders. When leaders relate to  people as human beings and not as units, they create change in the society. They deeply care for them and bring about large changes.We are blessed to have such leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Maria Montessori to name a few. Such leaders choose a path of serving people with courage, patience and perseverance.  I participated in Free India movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He initiated the path of non-violence against the mighty British empire He chose the path of changing the hearts of the rulers. He worked tirelessly for the wellness of all people of India, especially the poor farmers, laborers and untouchables.He inspired many leaders in many lcountries to follow the path of non-violence against social injustice and exploitation. I a... [View Full Comment]

    There are leaders who create islands of insanity and there are leaders who create islands of sanity.  I have witnessed both kinds of leaders. When leaders relate to  people as human beings and not as units, they create change in the society. They deeply care for them and bring about large changes.We are blessed to have such leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Maria Montessori to name a few. Such leaders choose a path of serving people with courage, patience and perseverance. 

    I participated in Free India movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He initiated the path of non-violence
    against the mighty British empire He chose the path of changing the hearts of the rulers. He worked tirelessly for the wellness of all people of India, especially the poor farmers, laborers and untouchables.He inspired many leaders in many lcountries to follow the path of non-violence against social injustice and exploitation.

    I agree it is not easy to blaze new trails.It is hard to make significant and grate change against establishment and against self-serving and power -hungry leaders. Great leaders awaken the people and create movements that result in a big change.We need such leaders in all parts of the world. 


    May we have leaders who create islands of sanity for the well-being of all people!

    Namaste!

    Jagdish P Dave







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    On May 3, 2018 rahul wrote:
     A brilliant and powerful question to pose, not just to leaders.  I experienced this through two conflicts that arose: one with a conventionally powerful person, and the other with a tenant in one of my rental properties who occurs for me as a problematic and nasty personality.  The powerful person occurs to me as everything Margaret Wheatley describes above, which is very much in contrast with the publicly projected persona.  And yet in dealing with my nasty tenant, I found all sorts of horrible and mean thoughts about her occurring in my mind.  Suddenly I realized the tremendous gift that I was receiving from having this difficult tenant:  she was showing me my flaws and lack of integrity.  I too project a public persona of being kind, generous, and easy-going but the thoughts in my head were downright mean, selfish, and manipulative / controlling.  Oh how much I need to grow!  How much I am just like that powerful person who is generatin... [View Full Comment]

     A brilliant and powerful question to pose, not just to leaders.  I experienced this through two conflicts that arose: one with a conventionally powerful person, and the other with a tenant in one of my rental properties who occurs for me as a problematic and nasty personality.  The powerful person occurs to me as everything Margaret Wheatley describes above, which is very much in contrast with the publicly projected persona.  And yet in dealing with my nasty tenant, I found all sorts of horrible and mean thoughts about her occurring in my mind.  Suddenly I realized the tremendous gift that I was receiving from having this difficult tenant:  she was showing me my flaws and lack of integrity.  I too project a public persona of being kind, generous, and easy-going but the thoughts in my head were downright mean, selfish, and manipulative / controlling.  Oh how much I need to grow!  How much I am just like that powerful person who is generating conflict with me!  That was enough for me commit to being getting my head and heart in integrity with my persona and treating the tenant differently not despite her nastiness, but because of it.  Truly priceless... and yet powerful people rarely receive genuine feedback from those around them.  This brain death for empathy is the blindpot from which great wounds and re-wounds are inflicted upon everyone around them.  Wonderful that Margaret Wheatley can whisper this question in their ears!

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