Meg Wheatley (born Margaret J. Wheatley in 1944) is an American writer and management consultant who studies organizational behavior. Her approach includes systems thinking, theories of change, chaos theory, leadership and the learning organization: particularly its capacity to self-organize. Her work is often compared to that of Donella Meadows and Dee Hock. Proposing that "real social change comes from the ageless process of people thinking together in conversation,"[1] she describes her work as opposing "highly controlled mechanistic systems that only create robotic behaviors."[2]

Early life and education

Born in Yonkers, New York, in 1944, to an English father who was a mechanic running a foreign car service, and a Jewish American mother, Wheatley grew up in the New York City area.[3] Her grandmother was Irma Lindheim, and the first Jewish woman in the Army Corps during World War I.[3] Wheatley graduated from Lincoln High School (Yonkers, New York), in 1962.[3]

Wheatley completed her baccalaureate degree in 1966 at the University of Rochester, where she majored in English and history, and spent her junior year abroad at the University College London.[3]

From 1966–1968, Wheatley served in the Peace Corps in Cholla Namdo Province, Korea, teaching high school English.[4][5] She returned from Korea via the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and recalled she and her travelling companion were assumed to be CIA agents in the Peace Corps, and were called "thugs wearing peace masks."[3]

She received her M.A. in communications and systems thinking from New York University, advised by Neil Postman.[3][6] She moved to the Boston, Massachusetts, area when she was 30 years old, to earn her Ed.D. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy in 1979 with a dissertation titled Equal Employment Opportunity Awareness Training: the Influence of Theories of Attitude Change and Adult Learning in the Corporate Setting at Harvard Graduate School of Education.[7]

She married a widower with five children in 1977.[3] They had two more children together, and by 2013 Wheatley had 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[3] She and her family have lived in the mountains of Utah since 1989.


Her practice as an organizational consultant and researcher began in 1973.[6] She has worked on every inhabited continent in "virtually every type of organization"[8] and considers herself a global citizen. Since then she has been Associate Professor of Management at the Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University, and Cambridge College, Massachusetts,[6] and served as a professor of management in two graduate programs.[9] She has served in a formal advisory capacity for leadership programs in England, Croatia, Denmark, Australia and the United States, and through her work in Berkana, with leadership initiatives in India, Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil as well as Europe.[6] She is co-founder and President Emerita of the Berkana Institute,[9][10] a global charitable leadership foundation.[6]

Wheatley retreats annually for two months to Gampo Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia, with her teacher, Pema Chödrön.[3] She cites Namkhai Norbu as her Tibetan teacher.[3]

Awards and tributes

Wheatley has received multiple awards and honorary doctorates.[3]

In 1992, her first book, Leadership and the New Science, won the award from Industry Week as the best management book,[3] as well as one of CIO Magazine's "Top Ten Business Books of the 1990s," and one of Xerox Corporation's "Top Ten Business Books of all time."[11]

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) has named her one of five living legends.[6] In May 2003, ASTD awarded her their highest honor: "Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance," with the following citation:

Meg Wheatley gave the world a new way of thinking about organizations with her revolutionary application of the natural sciences to business management. Her concepts have traveled across national boundaries and through all sectors. Her ideas have found welcome homes in the military, not-for-profit organizations, public schools, and churches as well as in corporations. Through the Berkana Institute, a charitable foundation which she started in Provo, Utah, Wheatley is supporting the development of local leaders in over 40 countries to foster societies that tap and evoke the best of human capability. Through her interdisciplinary curiosity, Meg Wheatley provides new insights into the nature of how people interact and inspires us to build better organizations and better societies across the globe.

— American Society for Training and Development[6]

She was elected in 2005 to the Leonardo Da Vinci Society for the Study of Thinking.[3]

In 2010, she was appointed to the National Park Service advisory board by the Obama White House and the United States Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.[3]

She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association (ILA) in 2014.[12] An interviewer from ILA said:

Margaret Wheatley inspires people. She has worked for more than forty years as a consultant, speaker, writer, teacher, and poet. She has brought a multidisciplinary, cross-cultural perspective to leadership, systems, and organizations—taking an approach that emphasizes relationships and service—one that brings both the head and the heart to bear on a probing examination of the human condition. She says on her website that she has been applying the “lens of living systems theory to organizations and communities” asking the central question “How might we organize differently if we understood how Life organizes?”

— Philip Scarpino[3]

The introduction to her interview with staff from the Association for Talent Development notes, "Meg Wheatley writes, teaches, and speaks about radically new practices and ideas for organizing in chaotic times. She works to create organizations of all types where people are known as the blessing, not the problem. Her last book, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, proposes that real social change comes from the ageless process of people thinking together in conversation."[13]

In 2016, Wheatley was honored with the Clara Snell Woodbury Distinguished Leadership Award,[14] as well as recognition from Leadership California.[15]


Her books include:

  • 1996. A Simpler Way. co-authored with Myron Kellner-Rogers
  • 1996. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (1999, 2006)
  • 2002. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future
  • 2003. Finding Our Way: Leadership For an Uncertain Time (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005)
  • 2011. Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now co-authored with Deborah Frieze (Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
  • 2012. So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World
  • 2017. Who Do We Choose to Be?


  1. ^ Influence, Weaving. "Weaving Influence - How Can a Town Become a Community?". Weaving Influence - Digital Marketing Agency. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  2. ^ "Margaret J. Wheatley, Finding Our Way". margaretwheatley.com. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Scarpino, Philip (October 31, 2014). "Margaret Wheatley Oral History Interview, Audio, Transcripts, Oral History, Research". Tobias Leadership Center: Indiana University. Retrieved 2017-12-26. 
  4. ^ Margaret J. Wheatley, President, The Berkana Institute at National Public Health Leadership Institute. Accessed April 10, 2013
  5. ^ "Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare". cmeregistration.hms.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-12-26. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Meg Wheatley leader of the month". www.leadernetwork.org. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  7. ^ John W. Collins; Leslie F. DiBona (1 January 1989). Harvard Graduate School of Education: A Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations, 1918-1987. Meckler. ISBN 978-0-88736-414-3. 
  8. ^ Neale Donald Walsch (2011). The Storm Before the Calm. Hay House, Inc. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-1-4019-3693-8. 
  9. ^ a b "Authors Walk Out Walk On". walkoutwalkon.net. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  10. ^ "The New Science of Leadership: An Interview with Margaret Wheatley". www.scottlondon.com. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  11. ^ "Margaret Wheatley: Leadership, Organizational Development, Organizational Skills, Transformational Leadership". www.thespeakeragency.com. The Speaker Agency, Corporate Speakers & Entertainment, Los Angeles. 2013. Retrieved 2017-12-26. 
  12. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree: Margaret J. Wheatley". www.ila-net.org. Retrieved 2017-12-26. 
  13. ^ "Interview with Margaret Wheatley". Main. Retrieved 2017-12-26. 
  14. ^ "Join us Friday, April 15, 2016 from 10:30am-1:30pm". Woodbury University. 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  15. ^ "Leadership Lines 4/16 - Leadership California". webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 

External links