Meg Wheatley

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Margaret (Meg) Wheatley (born 1944) is an American writer, teacher, speaker, and management consultant who works to create organizations and communities worthy of human habitation.  She draws from many disciplines: organizational behavior, chaos theory, living systems science, ancient spiritual traditions, history, sociology, and anthropology.  

Early life and education[edit]

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.[1] Her grandmother, Irma Lindheim, was a well-known activist, writer, and fund-raiser for the creation of the state of Israel. Lindheim lived in the kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, frequently visiting her family in the U.S.A. She was Wheatley’s primary guide and role model.[2][1]

Wheatley graduated from Lincoln High School (Yonkers, New York), in 1962.[1] She 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.[1]

From 1966–1968, Wheatley served in the Peace Corps in Cholla Namdo Province, Korea, teaching high school English.[3][4] 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."[1]

Advised by Neil Postman, Wheatley received her M.A. in communications and systems thinking from New York University.[1][5] She moved to the Boston, Massachusetts area when she was 30 years old to earn her Ed.D. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation was titled Equal Employment Opportunity Awareness Training: the Influence of Theories of Attitude Change and Adult Learning in the Corporate Setting.[6]

In 1977, while completing her doctoral work at Harvard, Wheatley married a widower who had five children aged five to sixteen. They added two more children together for a total of six boys and one girl. They divorced in 1992 and remain a very strong and loving Italian-American family.  As of 2020, there are 23 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.  Most of the family lives in Utah, where Wheatley has resided since 1989.[2][1]


Wheatley's practice as an organizational consultant and researcher began in 1973,[1] working with Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the firm Goodmeasure, Cambridge MA.  Kanter mentored her well and is the reason Wheatley moved so quickly into being both a keynote speaker and author.[2]

Since 1973 Wheatley has worked on every inhabited continent in "virtually every type of organization"[5] and with people in all positions, from government prime ministers to small town religious ministers, from teen-age social entrepreneurs to corporate CEOs, from the head of the U.S. Army to the Dalai Lama. [1]  She has considered herself a global citizen since her youth.

Wheatley has been Associate Professor of Management in two graduate programs: the Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University, and Cambridge College, Massachusetts.[5] She served in a formal advisory capacity for leadership programs in England, Croatia, Denmark, Australia, and the United States. Through the Berkana Institute,[7][8] (a global charitable leadership foundation,[5] founded by Wheatley and friends in 1991) she worked with leadership initiatives in India, Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil as well as Europe.[5] The Berkana Institute has worked globally (especially in the Global South) with dedicated, creative, spiritually-grounded leaders, all of whom are experimenting with new forms of leading and organizing.  Berkana’s current work is training leaders and activists as Warriors for the Human Spirit.[9][2]

Wheatley has a strong spiritual practice.  From 2010 to 2018, she did long winter retreats to Gampo Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia, under the direction of her teacher, Pema Chödrön.[1] She cites Namkhai Norbu who died in 2018 as her Tibetan teacher.[1] She is now a student of the Indian mystic and yogi, Sadhguru.

Awards and tributes[edit]

Wheatley has received multiple awards and honorary doctorates.[1]

In 1992, her first book, Leadership and the New Science, won the award from Industry Week as the best management book,[1] 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."[10]

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) has named her one of five living legends.[5] In May 2002, 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[5]

She was elected to the Leonardo da Vinci Society for the Study of Thinking[1] in 2005.

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.[1] She served until 2018 when the twelve member advisors resigned en masse in protest of the new policies of the government of President Donald Trump. [3]

She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association (ILA) in 2014.[11] 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[1]

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."[12]

In 2016, Wheatley was honored with the Clara Snell Woodbury Distinguished Leadership Award,[13] as well as recognition from Leadership California.[14]


Her books include:

  • 1992. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (in 3 editions and 20 languages), Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781576753446.
  • 1998. A Simpler Way (with Myron Kellner-Rogers), Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781576750506.
  • 2002. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781576757642.
  • 2007. Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781576754054.
  • 2010. Perseverance (paintings by Asante Salaam), Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781605098203.
  • 2011. Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now (with Deborah Frieze), Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781605097312.
  • 2012. So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World, Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781609945367.
  • 2014. How Does Raven Know: Entering Sacred World /A Meditative Memoir,  Berkana Publications;  ISBN 9780982669914
  • 2017. Who Do We Choose to Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity, Berrett-Koehler Publishers; ISBN 9781523083633.
  • 2020. Warriors for the Human Spirit: A Songline. A Journey Guided By Voice And Sound. An mp3 with accompanying book. (music by Jerry Granelli), Berkana Publications; ISBN 9781792346101.


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b c Personal communication January 2021
  3. ^ Margaret J. Wheatley, President, The Berkana Institute at National Public Health Leadership Institute. Accessed April 10, 2013
  4. ^ "Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Meg Wheatley leader of the month". Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Authors Walk Out Walk On". Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  8. ^ "The New Science of Leadership: An Interview with Margaret Wheatley". Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  9. ^ Margaret, Wheatley (March 6, 2020). "Margaret Wheatly".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Margaret Wheatley: Leadership, Organizational Development, Organizational Skills, Transformational Leadership". The Speaker Agency, Corporate Speakers & Entertainment, Los Angeles. 2013. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  11. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree: Margaret J. Wheatley". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  12. ^ "Interview with Margaret Wheatley". Main. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  13. ^ "Join us Friday, April 15, 2016 from 10:30am-1:30pm". Woodbury University. 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  14. ^ "Leadership Lines 4/16 - Leadership California". Retrieved 2017-12-27.

External links[edit]