35 Magnificent Margaret J. Wheatley Quotes

Margaret J. Wheatley is an American writer, focusing on organizational behavior and the theory of change, leadership, and chaos. With her decades of experience, here is a look at some of the most memorable Margaret J. Wheatley quotes.

“[A]ll change, even very large and powerful change, begins when a few people start talking with one another about something they care about.”

“A leader is one who… Has more faith in people than they do, and . . . who holds opportunities open long enough for their competence to re-emerge.”

“A leader these days needs to be a host – one who convenes diversity; who convenes all viewpoints in creative processes where our mutual intelligence can come forth.”

“All of us need better skills in listening, conversing, respecting one another’s uniqueness, because these are essential for strong relationships.”

“Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart. Yet if this period of dissolution is used to create new meaning, then chaos ends and new order emerges.”

“Circles create soothing space, where even reticent people can realize that their voice is welcome.”


“Determination, energy, and courage appear spontaneously when we care deeply about something. We take risks that are unimaginable in any other context.”

“Disorder can play a critical role in giving birth to new, higher forms of order.”

“Everyone in a complex system has a slightly different interpretation. The more interpretations we gather, the easier it becomes to gain a sense of the whole.”

“I believe that our very survival depends upon us becoming better systems thinkers.”

“I think a major act of leadership right now, call it a radical act, is to create the places and processes so people can actually learn together, using our experiences.”

“In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.”

“In our daily life, we encounter people we are angry, deceitful, intent only on satisfying ere is so their own needs. There is so much anger, distrust, greed, and pettiness that we are losing our capacity to work well together.”

“It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do.”

“I’ve wanted to see beyond the Western, mechanical view of the world and see what else might appear when the lens was changed.”

“Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.”

“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”

“Listening moves us closer, it helps us become more whole, more healthy, more holy. Not listening creates fragmentation, and fragmentation is the root of all suffering.”

“Probably the most visible example of unintended consequences, is what happens every time humans try to change the natural ecology of a place.”

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”

“There are many benefits to this process of listening. The first is that good listeners are created as people feel listened to. Listening is a reciprocal process – we become more attentive to others if they have attended to us.”

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

“Very great change starts from very small conversations, held among people who care.”

“We are, always, poets, exploring possibilities of meaning in a world which is also all the time exploring possibilities.”

“We can no longer stand at the end of something we visualized in detail and plan backwards from that future. Instead we must stand at the beginning, clear in our mind, with a willingness to be involved in discovery… it asks that we participate rather than plan.”

“we can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for what’s new. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing.”

“We don’t have to agree with each other in order to think well together. There is no need for us to be joined at the head. We are joined by our human hearts.”

“We each create our world by what we choose to notice, creating a world of distinction that makes sense to us. We then ‘see’ the world through the self we have created.”

“We have created trouble for ourselves in organizations by confusing control with order.”

“We would do well to ponder the realization that love is the most potent source of power.”

“Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances.”

“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”

“Without aggression, it becomes possible to think well, to be curious about differences, and to enjoy each other’s company.”

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

“You can’t hate someone whose story you know.”

Margaret J. Wheatley is an American writer and management consultant who focuses her studies on organizational behavior. In this segment, Wheatley discusses capacity building in emergence during this I-Open Community conversation.

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