The OD(d) Blog – Drawings from Meg Wheatley on Perseverance in Collective Leadership

Linda Hunter
Oct 1 · 3 min read

On 1 October Workforce Scotland’s Collective Leadership group hosted the first day of a 2-day free and open gathering for people working in and for public service, to hear from and work with author and practitioner Meg Wheatley.

Drawing on her books and work on Perseverance (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010) and Who Do We Choose to Be (Berrett-Koehler Publishers,2017) Meg shared stories, wisdom and questions with the people in the room. I spent the day participating in the conversation and also capturing some of the key themes in illustration.

This blog captures the images created and written transcripts of the drawings.

Image 1: What is perseverance and how does it relate to leadership

Perseverance is the capacity to lead, to keep going with clarity…

The image has the Workforce Scotland Collective Leadership logo in the far left corner. In the bottom left is the hashtag for the event #PerseveranceScot. In the bottom right corner is the Health Improvement i-hub logo – a part funder of the event.

The illustration draws on abstract foliage and flower imagery in a traditional style. These were inspired by Meg’s knitted cardigan, which had a border.

The text and themes captured from Meg’s talk in the illustration are:

  • Perseverance is the capacity to lead, to keep going with clarity
  • As leaders, who do we choose to be, who do we choose to be when things come undone?
  • Ethics is what we do when we decide to belong together
  • When nothing is clear and everything keeps changing
  • Sane leaders need to face reality, to restore sanity where we can, to maintain an unshakeable confidence that people can be generous, creative and kind
  • Rooted in the belief that people need to earn, learn and belong
  • To be faithful to your purpose, and to ask regularly ‘have I been faithful?’
  • “We are faithful, therefore we are not afraid” quote from Catholic nuns living in America

Image 2: Conditions are Changing

For we are the ones we have been waiting for (Hopi Elders)


Image two follows the same format as the first. The theme for this illustration is water, a person swimming against currents.

The text and themes captured from Meg’s talk in this drawing are

  • As we go about work we are always at risk
  • Conditions change as the system, relationships and times change
  • We need to work and live with the knowledge that we may fail
  • Opening our hearts to compassion
  • To learning and working through our own and other’s exhaustion, aggression, criticism, betrayal, failure and fear
  • The work is to keep our head above the water
  • “For we are the ones we have been waiting for” quote from Hopi Elders

Image 3: What is a conversation that would be important to begin?

As before, the image also contains the same branding. This image returns to the traditional flower and foliage pattern, showing growth, flowering and seeding of connection and relationship.

The text and themes captured from Meg’s talk in this drawing are:

  • What is a conversation that would be important to begin?
  • Ask, ‘what is happening here?’
  • How do we respond when something goes wrong?
  • How do we respond when something goes?
  • Paying exquisite attention to relationships, does this action reduce or create problems?
  • Avoiding blame, a blocker to learning, accountability and progress
  • Actively creating spaces for learning, to work together on improving quality thinking
  • Gathering people involved and related to the work in a way that is regular, inclusive, focused on relevant issues and sacrosanct – protect it, whatever it takes.

For coverage of this event follow #PerseveranceScot hashtag and @Workforce_Scot on Twitter. This event is also being filmed and a close captioned video will be published after the event has completed.

Linda Hunter

Written by

Views my own. Odd blogger. Organisational development specialist, visual scribe and coach.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade