[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.