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  • Writer's pictureWoW Study Circle

Tending the Stew

by Nora Bateson

I keep hearing people say we have a crisis of leadership. I agree. But the leadership required now is not old-school leadership. 

Whatever leadership used to be—it used to be. Now, it has to be something different. Now, we all have to be more than we were.

Leadership models come in many flavors. Strategic leadership, leadership from behind, organizational, innovative, creative leadership, collective leadership, transformational leadership, cross cultural leadership, team leadership—the list goes on. But the kind of leadership that I want to explore may not be identifiable as leadership at all. I am interested in a kind of mutually alert care and attention to the well-being of all people and ecological systems. This kind of leadership cannot be found in individuals, but rather between them. It cannot be found in organizations, nations, religions or institutions, but rather between them. I have called it Liminal Leadership to highlight the relational characteristics.

Inter-systemic change is at hand. More than change, and more than system change, the interdependency between systems of economy, health, politics, ecology and communication is where the change lies. This is a murky territory of alive in-betweeness. The interdependency we are discussing should not be thought of as a part that can be replaced in an engine. It is elusively not in the economy or the education system, it is not in politics or the health system, it is not in the media, or even the culture—it is in the way in which these aspects of our world are steeped together in a slow-cooked stew. The ingredients of the socio-economic stew cannot now be pulled out, but the chemistry can be tended.

We, as citizens, as human beings, cannot point to these institutions as “them”— there is no them. All of these contexts of society (and more) are in a kind of ecology of interdependency, pattern and relationship. You and me, we are simultaneously in the systems, and occupying the position of observer, or change-maker. We cannot get out.

But, we are also within another ecology; the ecology of the biosphere. 

Nora is the daughter of Gregory Bateson. This is from a 2017 Facebook post.

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