Who Do You Choose to Be? An Invitation to the Nobility of Leadership

Who Do You Choose to Be?
An Invitation to the Nobility of Leadership

Margaret Wheatley  in Leader to Leader Magazine  – June 2017

Download the PDF in English

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, relate, and persevere? Will you consciously and bravely choose to reclaim leadership as a noble profession, one that creates possibility and humaneness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil?

Read More »

What this World Needs

By Margaret Wheatley, 2016

Download the PDF in English
Download the PDF in Spanish



This world does not need more entrepreneurs.
This world does not need more technology breakthroughs.
This world needs leaders.

We need leaders who put service over self, who can be steadfast through crises and failures, who want to stay present and make a difference to the people, situations and causes they care about.

We need leaders who are committed to serving people, who recognize what is being lost in the haste to dominate, ignore and abuse the human spirit.

Read More »

Stop by Sometime

An excerpt from the book So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World

By Margaret Wheatley, 2012

Earlier I called attention to how distracted we are, how our communication habits have deteriorated into texts and by-appointment-only phone calls. Here, I want to describe some truly radical behaviors for us warriors* focused on how we communicate, fully aware of how much courage is required to do these thing. We need to pick up the phone and call each other for no reason; we need to drop in on each other; we need to find time to visit with one another in person.

Read More »

Warriors Without Weapons

By Aerin Dunford, 2013

This piece delves into the concept of “trans-local learning” — a way of sharing knowledge and learning in which separate, local efforts connect with each other, then grow and transform into communities of practice that together give rise to new systems. Warriors Without Weapons and the Oasis Game, two programs created by Berkana partners at Instituto Elos offer illuminating lenses for examining the concept of trans-local learning. By looking at what happened when the programs moved from Brazil to locations around the world we see how the communities determined what was essential and what was changed to fit the local culture and context. These stories offer tangible examples of what worked and what was learned  in the transition to new contexts.

Read more

Alive in Community: Designing and Hosting Transformative Gatherings

By Aerin Dunford and Bob Stilger, 2011

An exploration of how to intentionally design and host face-to-face gatherings that transform the quality of our experience and identity as a community. What conditions invite cooperation, creativity and synergy? How can we make the most of our precious time together?

Read more

Collaboration: The Courage to Step Into a Meaningful Mess

By Alycia Lee and Tatiana Glad, 2011

We have all experienced the messiness of collaboration: the divergent perspectives that we wonder how to marry, the many coloured post-its that litter the walls … the agreed action steps that lost  original inspiration as soon as the group re-encountered the every day life of e-mail and phone calls. What makes collaboration worth it? Reflections from our partners in the Netherlands on the Hub Collaboracy, a pilot initiative created to inspire and support social innovators to realize enterprising initiatives for a radically better world. The article identifies conditions for successful collaboration and addresses challenges and benefits of true co-creation.

Read more

From Hero to Host: A Story of Citizenship in Columbus, Ohio

By Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley, 2010

This is a story of how small, local efforts move laterally through a network of relationships to emerge as large-scale change. Leaders in some of the largest institutions in Columbus, Ohio are giving up take-charge, heroic leadership, and choosing instead to engage members of their community and act as “hosts”. (Also available for download in Spanish.)

Read more

Leadership in the Age of Complexity

By Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, 2010

For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her. Somewhere…

Read more

Perseverance: Lost in the Gulf of Mexico

By Margaret Wheatley, 2010

Written in the middle of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this piece invites us to think about what these kinds of disasters mean for us as human beings in these times. In the face of tremendous devastation or all-out systems collapse, and little to no clarity around a solution or recovery, it can be easy to feel hopeless. How do we move forward without getting consumed by fear, sadness or anger? Wheatley calls for perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems and reminds us that only by acknowledging that we are lost can be begin to create new maps.

Read more

The Place Beyond Hope and Fear

By Margaret Wheatley, 2009

In difficult times it takes effort to stay grounded in the present, but it is only there, says Margaret Wheatley, that we will find a place unclouded by hope and fear.

Read more

What is our role in creating change?

by Margaret Wheatley, 2008

Margaret Wheatley has often defined leadership in a somewhat unconventional way. In this piece she reiterates the idea that “A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation.” Looking at the examples of Wangari Maatai and the Polish Solidarity Movement, Wheatley encourages us to see how change happens little by little, step-by-step. As a Buddhist teacher once explained, “It’s our turn to help the world.” But to do so we need to persevere in our local endeavors in the face of many challenges.

Read more

Can I Be Fearless?

By Margaret Wheatley, 2008

Margaret Wheatley asks a difficult question of us in this energizing article. She takes her readers along a path lined with different answers and solutions to dealing with our fears. What is courage? What do we do with our fear? Do we run from it, or face it and watch it change into action? (Also available for download in Spanish.)

Read more

Hear and Now: What emerges in the space between words?

by Bob Stilger, 2008

In this piece first published in ascent magazine Berkana’s former co-president, Bob Stilger, shares his ideas about the importance of  “listening people into their greatness.” He speaks of listening as the stories of their personal experience pour forth and helping people remember what they already know. We all know what it means to be in right relationship with each other and this small planet. We know what it feels like when we receive and give respect. We know what it is like to have courage and what it is like to be afraid. We know that place where right action springs forth in an instant because of a deep alignment between our heart, spirit and mind. We know what it is like to be listened to.

Read more

Roots of Aliveness: Leading as a Living Process

by Michael Jones, 2007

It has often been said that our span of awareness is a mile wide and an inch deep. The quality of our inner life is frequently overlooked in our efforts to cope with the daily demands and expectations of our outer life. One enabling metaphor that helps us look at this is the ecology of a tree. The outer life is symbolized by the leaves and branches; they correspond to a life of reactivity and busyness—of action plans, performance goals, desired outcomes and results. Sometimes we direct our attention down a little, to the trunk and lower limbs. Here we look at structures, strategies and processes. Where we spend the least of our time is the ground underneath. Yet it is the roots and the soil that give the tree resilience and the strength to grow and weather sudden changes year after year.

Read more

Slouching Towards Flatland

by Zaid Hassan, 2007

In 2000, the United Nations articulated eight development goals that all member countries agreed to try to meet by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These development goals are intended to address the eight greatest challenges in global development and alleviate extreme poverty. Many have questioned whether the MDGs are viable or even desirable, but writer Zaid Hassan goes a step further. Hassan likens the MDG mindset to Edwin Abbott’s notion of “Flatland,” a two-dimensional world governed by bureaucrats and powerpoint presentations. Writing from his own experience working within an MDG construct, Hassan invites us to consider the world of possibilities that might be available to us if we reject the development game entirely.

Read more

Reflections on Now Activism

by Manish Jain and Bob Stilger, 2007

An introduction to a booklet produced by Shikshantar: The People’s Institute for Rethinking Education and Development on the theme of the Now Activism. This is the activism of today, of right now, and it shows up as people everywhere are stepping forward with the leadership they have to offer to make a difference in their communities and organizations. In 2006 Shikshantar and Berkana hosted an event in Oaxaca, Mexico on Now Activism and the following year Shikshantar took the lead in assembling a collection of more than 50 stories and essays exploring what this idea means to people around the world.

Read more

Lifecycle of Emergence: Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale

By Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, 2006

For more than 10 years, The Berkana Institute has been working with the “lifecycle of emergence,” the ways that networks of relationships become communities of practice and that communities of practice become systems of influence. Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze explore these transitions and what this lifecycle of emergence means for the future of our world. (Also available for download in Spanish.)

Read more

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

by David Korton, 2006

By what name will future generations know our time?

Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth’s capacity to sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet’s resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population? Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and Earth?

Read more

Spiritual Activism and Liberation Spirituality

by Claudia Horwitz and Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey, 2006

For agents of change, and all those who we work with, the detriment is twofold. We are killing ourselves and we are not winning. A life of constant conflict and isolation from the mainstream can be exhausting and demoralizing. Many of our work habits are unhealthy and unsustainable over the long haul. The structures of power have become largely resistant to our tactics.  Given the intensity of our current historical circumstance it would be easy for us to rely on what we know, to fall back upon our conditioning and our historical tendencies, in our efforts to create change under pressure. Many lessons of the past carry wisdom; others are products and proponents of dysfunctional systems and ways of being in the world. A new paradigm requires a complex relationship with history; we must remember and learn from the past, but we cannot romanticize it.

Read more

Journeying to a New World

by Margaret Wheatley, 2006

Twelve years after preparing the Second Edition of Leadership in the New Science, Berkana co-founder Margaret Wheatley says she’s “still trying to come to terms with the experience of seeing, feeling, tasting and working earnestly from a new paradigm while living in the old one.” She expresses deep concern, once again calling our attention to how crucial it is that we stay together and support one another. In this reflection Wheatley realizes that often it is not as easy as it might seem to simply ask people to change their perspective or worldview. Of course this is threatening. Yet, despite these challenges we continue to see how  the dominant world view of Western culture–the world as machine–doesn’t help us to live well in this world any longer. We have to see the world differently if we are to live in it more harmoniously.

Read more