Leaders Create Order out of Chaos

By | March 20, 2019

[March 20, 2019] Warfare is often referred to as “managed” chaos. Likewise, life is full of chaotic events that create challenges that must be overcome if we are to be fully human. Leaders, those of us who are on the cutting edge of societal development, are there to create order out of chaos.

“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemy’s.” – Napoléon Bonaparte

It is observable that great leaders thrive in chaos. The reason is simple; they are the ones who makes sense out of confusion, calm from turmoil, and intelligence from data.   Why? They are the quickest to adapt; not because they avoid controversy but because they embrace it.

The most common solution to chaos is orderliness and conscientiousness. On the most simplistic level, this works. Often, leaders recommend we practice daily, creating order out of the simplest things. For example, make your bed every morning is a common piece of advice. No matter how badly your day goes, at least when you go to sleep at night, there will be order in your bedroom.

I suggest that great leaders go further … much further if they are to succeed. Creating order out of chaos is difficult and requires not losing one’s head when others around them are losing theirs. I remember well the day a determined group of insurgents attacked our military convoy in Iraq.

Our radio operator was firing his weapon, so the driver took the radio hand-mike and calmly called in the situation to our headquarters. By doing so, and not panicking, he helped create order from chaos. The “cavalry” arrived in the form of additional gun trucks, and we were able to sweep the enemy forces to the side of the road and annihilate them.

Each time I give talks about great leaders who have created order from chaos, I think of Rudyard Kipling’s 1910 epic poem, If…   Kipling is advocating for confidence, honesty, and fortitude, and is describing those things necessary to maintain self-control and the conditions to become a man.

“If you can keep your head when all about you, Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for the doubting too; …” “you’ll be a Man my son!”

Truly an inspiration poem, Kipling hits the nail squarely on the head. He identified what it takes to be manly; to be a leader in current vernacular and he pounds the idea repeatedly. This is, of course, an ancient idea. The Bible, for example, speaks to the idea of chaos beginning with the first chapter of Genesis and how God created the Earth and the Heavens from chaos. This is why we see the idea of the Yin and the Yang and the philosophers across time and cultures who wrote to eloquently on the duality of chaos and order.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Leaders Create Order out of Chaos

  1. Edward Kennedy III

    The battlefield can be rightly described as chaos. The quote from Napoleon Bonaparte is apropos for our discussion here in Gen Satterfield’s blog because it tells us several things. The most important thing it tells us is that great leaders do, in fact, thrive on chaos (not because of chaos itself) because they are able to make order from it. The greatest military general defeats the enemy General by outwitting him.

  2. JT Patterson

    Wow, deep thinking for a Wednesday. Keep ’em coming this way. Thanks.

  3. Jonathan B.

    The first Chaos engineers may have been the Hindu sages who designed a method for operating the brain, called yoga. The Buddhists produced one of the great hands-on do-it-yourself manuals for operating the brain: The Tibetan Book of the Dying. Chinese Taoists developed the teaching of going with the flow; not clinging to idea-structures, but changing and evolving.

    1. AutisticTechie

      The modern European philosophy began with the concept of Logos and logic order of being. Interesting.

    2. Georgie M.

      I just started a yoga class. I hope to be better enlightened. I’ll let everyone know how it works out.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Whether you believe Peterson is a savior to Western civilization or a false prophet who indulges in heresy, the film puts forth a number of well articulated subjects that are worthy of exploration.

    2. Scotty Bush

      Jordan Peterson: Truth in the Time of Chaos is an effective distillation of the professor’s views, and of the ills that many believe are plaguing our modern society

    3. Gil Johnson

      It is characteristic of ancient Greek thought to see the world (cosmos ) as coming into existence through the imposition of order on preexisting chaos. This is how Dr. Peterson uses the concept.

  4. Max Foster

    I haven’t thought of it this way but I guess it’s true that leaders do this. Chaos can come in many forms and often we don’t think of some things as chaos. For example, if I get a traffic ticket for speeding, is that chaos? From what you’ve written, the answer is yes. So how would a leader create order from that? I think this is a good question. Please consider.

    1. Greg Heyman

      I think your question is right. There are things that are clearly “chaos” from the article. If there is a tornado that wipes out your town; things are turned upside down. This is chaos and a good leader is helpful.

    2. Fred Weber

      We might be talking about degrees here. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Good article overall. Thanks, Gen Satterfield.

    3. Andrew Dooley

      To begin with: there are two different concepts of Chaos. The PHYSICAL and the METAPHYSICAL. That might be the confusion here.

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