Chaos Leadership

This is the story of an Adrenalin Junkie.

Not in the way you might be thinking, I don't like heights, speed or any of the traditional risk taking endorphin rushes.  I chase a different kind of buzz.  I chase center stage.  I chase being the fixer, the solver of problems.  I chase control. 

Little did I know that as I was chasing control, I was actually creating and chasing the adrenaline rush of chaos.

Maybe this will resonate with you;  as many of you work in a similar industry to aquatics, recreation or fitness. 

I believe I am a product of both my own human nature, and the evolution into a CONTROL from CHAOS seeker.  As a lifeguard for life, I love the energy and the rush that comes from emergency response and management.  I thrive in the fast paced world, where every day and scenario is unpredictable.  As a recreation professional, my motto is that Rec Happens!  What I mean by this is that every day you wake up and go into work, you don't know what awaits you.  If something can go wrong, it will.  Whether it be staff or client related, there is never a dull moment.  We are constantly juggling operational and strategic priorities.  We judge ourselves based on our ability to successfully manage what we fondly refer to as CHAOS.

As I observed myself and other colleagues in the weeks leading up to our summer program launch, I often found myself struck by the realization that we are creating CHAOS Coordinators & CHAOS Leaders!

Some are creating the perfect storm in our work places, forcing their colleagues and employees into Chaos Coordinators.  These people are struggling to control the outcomes and environment around them, which is already fluid by nature.  Others are leading, coaching, modeling chaos as a badge of honour; developing a standard of leadership which fosters a level of urgency to even the most mundane tasks.

What is CHAOS?  It is defined as behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.

Take a moment to reflect on your leadership style and values.  Now pause, and ask yourself if your actions, words and behaviours are aligned with your values.  This will be illustrated by how well you adapt to change.  In your consistency of leadership, communication and actions lies the truth to the style of leader you are.

Chaos catalysts are the triggers and events which can through us all out of alignment.  They push us into fight, flight or freeze, turning off our executive function or decision maker.  In these times of challenge, change and chaos think about if you:

  • Look for fires.

  • Chase them.

  • Start them.

  • Throw gasoline on an existing 'fire'

 I believe this CHAOS mentality is rampant in many industries.  I have worked for leaders, supervisors and managers who lead a CHAOS culture.  They 'thrive' on the perception of, embracing, creating, and valuing CHAOS. 

I have also found myself in both a chaos coordinator role, and leading from a place of chaos.  Through mirroring actions of those around me, behaviours and words in my own work & leadership from time to time.  CHAOS become a catalyst for me, sparking fires where I didn't want or need them.

What does this look like?

  • Mindless actions

  • Tail chasing behaviours that run in the opposite direction of sound logic and judgment

  • Random action

  • Constant intervention

  • Constant changes in thoughts, directions and decisions

It is important to know that we all have the ability to be or become a fire seeker, chaser, start or slayer.  The first step is being able to recognize our own triggers, tendencies with various catalysts.  Self awareness is the beginning of all wisdom.  We also need to be committed to our leadership through curiosity, courage and compassion.  Each of these elements will help us to move past the catalyst, into alignment and towards clarity.  Often what first seems like a 5 alarm fire, isn't.

As intelligent leaders we understand that chaos isn't a viable leadership approach.  We can recognize it in other quickly.  Yet, it often takes longer to  recognize it in our-self.     CHAOS Leadership at its extreme this mentality simply wears you out mentally and physically and  effects on our teams, colleagues the same way.

Many qualified bosses, managers and leaders share a need to create chaotic cultures that lead to a heightened state of vigilance creating anxiety. You may be asking yourself how you or someone you know got here in the first place.  Perhaps this stems from the belief that calm cultures mean or result in a lack of activity, purpose, drive.  That a certain level of stress or chaos leads to increased energy and productivity.  Alternatively, it may be a result of attention.  Maybe adrenaline junkies of chaos are also attention junkies?  Seeking validation, praise, or the acknowledgement that comes from others in their workplace who follow this practice.  It may also be as simple as we become what we are surrounded by, sometimes unknowingly.

Although change can be a trigger for chaos, we always have a choice.  We can choose a change for the better.  Instead of choosing chaos and drama, create an environment that will foster, stimulate, motivate and develop people.

From Chaos to Calm(er)

  • Know yourself

  • Draw a line in the sand

  • Resist micromanagement

  • Don't let yourself be squelched

  • Look for the best

  • Role model

  • Pause & ask

    • why are we doing this full tilt? What other options are available?

Together we can stop the cycle of behaviour.  Starting first with reflecting inwards, and recognizing it in ourselves.  True leadership is clear and concise. True leaders have  a vision for what needs to be accomplished with sound judgement to assess situations, themselves and their teams.  They have the awareness to know what they and their team can handle.

This summer season as the temperatures rise, and life gets busy remember you can choose CHAOS or CALM.  You and your teams deserve to enjoy the work we do, and the difference we are making in our communities.