450th Post: Leaders, Why You Need Disequilibrium (Part 1)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is the 450th Post on the Leading in Context Blog! In case you missed it, here is the 400th Post: The Journey to Meaning (Growth Required).

Disequilibrium is the sense of imbalance we feel as we deal with increasing complexity and change. This post, the first in a series, starts by exploring why leaders need to embrace it.

Avoiding Disequilibrium Is Harmful

Disequilibrium is not harmful to our leadership, unless we try to avoid it. That can cause us to retrench when change demands that we adapt.

“In today’s business world, change is inevitable. And if you’re only striving for equilibrium — which is all but impossible — you will merely continue doing the same thing, year after year, as the world moves on.”

Today’s Leaders Must Learn To Thrive In Disequilibrium, Forbes.com

If we try to avoid disequilibrium, we focus our attention backward, on returning to some “steady state” in the past instead of adapting forward.

Equilibrium Should Never Be Our Goal

We cannot return complex situations or systems to “normal” due to the rate of catastrophic change. “Normal” has become a perpetually moving target, never pausing long enough for us to get a good look. Understanding that equilibrium should never be our goal helps us make better leadership choices.

“Leadership is about knowing what the range is and managing others through the range of acceptable disequilibrium.”

Talenpac.com, The Range of Acceptable Disequilibrium

It helps for us to think about disequilibrium as a necessary part of leadership. It helps us grow and support others as they deal with change. Accepting disequilibrium as “the way things are” (and not something to be avoided) is important for successful leadership.

Ask yourself these questions about how well you’re dealing with disequilibrium:

  1. When do I avoid complexity and try to return situations to “normal?”
  2. How well am I handling the discomfort caused by disequilibrium?
  3. Do I routinely look backward or adapt forward?

Watch for the second post in this series, coming soon!


Special 5 Post Series Celebrating the Second Printing of 7 Lenses

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 1)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 2)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 3)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 4)

Why Ethical Thinking Matters (Part 5)


Top 100 Leadership Blog


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