The quantum skills model in management: a new paradigm to enhance effective leadership
Charlotte K. Shelton, Assistant Professor, School of Management, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
John R. Darling, Distinguished Visiting Professor, School of Management, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
The traditional management skills of planning, organizing, directing and controlling are inadequate in the fast-paced, constantly changing, highly complex world of twenty-first century organizations. This article uses concepts from quantum mechanics and chaos theory as metaphors for a new management skill set that can enable managers to actualize more of their leadership potential. The seven quantum skills are ancient and futuristic, scientific and spiritual, simple and complex. Together they form a model that balances the traditional left-brain management skills with new skills that more fully utilize both hemispheres of the brain. As managers master these skills, they transcend the limitations of mechanistic, deterministic, reductionistic thinking and become authentic change masters, changing themselves and their organizations at depth.


The beginning of the twenty-first century encompasses an era that technologically could be called The Quantum Age. Computers, the Internet, bar code readers and laser surgery represent only a few of the new and innovative outcomes of a twentieth-century theory of physics called quantum mechanics. This term was introduced in the 1920s to describe the new physics, the physics of the subatomic realm. The subatomic realm refers to everything in the physical world that is smaller than an atom. The word quantum literally means "a quantity of something"; mechanics refers to "the study of motion." Quantum mechanics is, therefore, the study of subatomic particles in motion (Shelton, 1999a, pp. 1-2). However, subatomic particles are not material things; rather, they are probability tendencies – energy with potentiality.

Subatomic particles interact across time and space in unknown and unknowable ways. Their unpredictable and seemingly random behavior violates Newton' first law of continuous motion, as well as his second law of motion which states that every action is accompanied by an equal and opposite reaction. This does not mean that the movements of these subatomic particles are totally random, but it does mean that they are not brought about by any discernible specific cause (Shelton, 1999a, pp. 3-4). Due to this phenomenon, until recently quantum concepts have not been applied to human behavior. This perspective and tendency is, however, shifting. Recent research in psychology, biology, and neurophysiology suggests that human beings are, indeed, quantum beings. Even though a person may be viewed primarily as a material being, there is also an invisible, nonmaterial dimension (referred to as the mind, consciousness or spirit) whose functioning appears to be affected by quantum principles (Dyer, 1995, pp. 1-2).

In this article, quantum theory is being used as a metaphor for management behavior and, more specifically, the development of a new paradigm that can appreciably impact the effectiveness of managerial leadership. The traditional beliefs about management and leadership, and the nature of organizational workplaces, have been limited by a 300-year-old mechanistic, deterministic, and reductionistic world view. Contemporary thought about managerial leadership necessitates new models and new skills – skills that are more appropriate for meeting the complexities of The Quantum Age – skills that will enable managers to function more effectively in a world that is changing at warp speed.

In theory as well as in practice, there is a profound difference between management and leadership – but without doubt both are important within organizational dynamics. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have responsibility for, to conduct. To lead means to influence, to guide in direction, course, action, or opinion. The distinction is crucial. The difference may be summarized as activities of communication and coordination among people, which facilitate effectiveness as a leader, versus activities of controlling resources, and mastering procedures and routines, which facilitate efficiency as a manager (Darling, 1999, p. 316). In today' business and organizational operations, people want to be led – not managed!To be successful, managers must therefore also develop and nurture leadership skills – skills that are congruent with the perspective of organizations as human-based systems that are fundamentally unpredictable, interactive, living systems, rather than stable, mechanistic-like operations.

Since the management tools of planning, organizing, directing and controlling are derivatives of classical Newtonian physics, perhaps the principles of quantum physics can suggest an updated set of skills – a set that also brings into focus leadership-related qualities that are necessary for success in today' world of business. Though many new paradigm writers prefer to use a biological metaphor, the basic principles of quantum mechanics provide meaningful insights into an organizational world that is both objective and subjective, logical and irrational, linear and nonlinear, orderly and chaotic; a world in which human observation somehow affects that which is observed (Shelton, 1999b, pp. 71-2). In short, the principles of quantum mechanics challenge managers to turn their view of reality upside down and inside out, and acknowledge that there is much more to effective leadership than has been considered in the past.

Quantum skills model

The purpose of this article is to examine quantum concepts (adapted from Shelton, 1999a) as a new foundation for leadership in management – a foundation that provides a new interactive model of skills and paradigm of thinking to enhance effectiveness. These skills are referred to as quantum skills because they are premised on the assumption that the quantum realm of energy is of primary importance and thereby causal to everything else in the universe, and the material aspects of this universe are consequently of secondary importance. The skills are seven in nature:
  1. quantum seeing:is the ability to see intentionally;
  2. quantum thinking:is the ability to think paradoxically;
  3. quantum feeling:is the ability to feel vitally alive;
  4. quantum knowing:is the ability to know intuitively;
  5. quantum acting:is the ability to act responsibly;
  6. quantum trusting:is the ability to trust life' process; and
  7. quantum being:is the ability to be in relationship (see Figure 1).

The quantum skills model shown in Figure 1 reflects the interrelationships among these seven skills. The three skills represented on the inverted triangle – quantum seeing, quantum thinking and quantum feeling – are primarily psychological in nature. They are premised on three widely accepted psychological principles:

  1. Human perception is highly subjective (quantum seeing).
  2. Creative thinking requires the development of the right hemisphere of the brain (quantum thinking).
  3. Human feelings are not the result of external events but of internal self-talk (quantum feeling).

Understanding these basic psychological constructs helps leaders to create more intentionally and more creatively, but these three skills alone do not necessarily give leaders a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment. In order to bring more spirit into leadership roles, additional skills are needed by managers – skills that shift the focus from narrow self-interest to concern for the good of the whole. The model labels these skills as spiritual skills. They are grounded in three universal spiritual principles:

  1. We live in an intelligent universe (quantum knowing).
  2. Everything in the universe is interrelated (quantum acting).
  3. The universe uses chaos to create order (quantum trusting).

These three spiritual skills are shown on the model' upright triangle. The seventh skill, quantum being, is intricately connected to each of the other quantum skills. Its central position in the model reflects this connection.

These quantum skills are ancient and futuristic, scientific and spiritual, simple and difficult, common and uncommon. They are key skills for enhancing leadership effectiveness today, but they originated in the somewhat mystical wisdom of ages past. Many of civilization' ancient spiritual practices, as well as many current state-of-the-art psychological theories, are based on concepts that are similar to the quantum mechanical principles from which these skills are derived. These quantum mechanical principles thus become an important focus as well as foundation upon which the Quantum Skills Model is based as a key to enhancing managerial leadership effectiveness.

Psychological quantum skills

Quantum seeing

The first skill, quantum seeing, is based on the leadership premise that managers function and make decisions within the context of a subjective organizational environment. Both quantum theory and contemporary research in human perception suggest that over 80 percent of what is seen in the external world is a function of internal assumptions and beliefs. Yet managers, for the most part, continue to manage themselves and their organizations with little regard for the subjectiveness of external reality. The word reality is derived from the Latin words for think (revi) and thing (res). Reality, or at least the individual experience thereof, is directly related to those things that individuals think about. Zukav (1979, p.310) summed it up this way:

Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.

Hence, managers' beliefs reinforce their perceptions and their perceptions reinforce their beliefs. Consequently, individuals in managerial roles often function in a paradigm that is based on a continuous cycle of repetitiveness, seeing the world as they have always seen it and making their decisions within a relatively narrow band of possibilities, not because opportunities are limited, but because perceptions always are. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to change one' perceptions. These are learned early and they are controlled primarily at an unconscious level of awareness. However, managers can learn to become more aware of their intentions and as they learn to change these intentions, their perceptions shift accordingly and leadership is enhanced.

Csikszentmihalyi (1990, p. 27) believes that intention is the psychological process with which reality is constructed. Intentions cause managers to pay attention to certain stimuli while totally ignoring a plethora of other perceptual possibilities. The skill of quantum seeing enables managers to consciously select their intentions, thus aligning their perceptions with their desires. For example, if an executive sets a clear intention to improve inventory costs, he/she will begin to notice (attend to) information that normally would not have been perceived. The manager may begin to discuss the matter more thoroughly with other individuals in the firm, seeking out suggestions for improvement. He/she may consult with suppliers as to how they can assist with the matter. Production runs may be carefully reviewed for possible improvement. Just-in-time inventory techniques may be studied and considered for implementation. An inventory consultant may be hired to provide advice. The manager may visit other noncompetitive business firms to search out new ideas. Professional publications may be reviewed for new techniques and procedures. Transportation networks and services may be more carefully analyzed. This information was, of course, already available to the executive. It was, however, perceptually ignored until a conscious intention was made that shifted attention. Clear intention serves as a magnifying glass. It provides a new lens through which managers can make new perceptual choices – choices that otherwise would have been missed, thus creating lost opportunities.

Business organizations would be quite different if managers were all able to create intentionally, fully conscious of the role that intention plays in all that is seen and experienced. Well-known techniques like affirmations, dream boards and mind maps can serve as reminders of intentions. As leaders use these verbal and visual aids, they become increasingly more conscious of their intentions and their attentions spontaneously follow. At the organizational level, this skill is a reminder of the need to have all stakeholders involved in visioning and planning processes (Näsi, 1995, pp. 21-4). If employees are not involved, they are likely to be perceptually incapable of seeing and, hence, of creating new possibilities. Instead, they remain committed to their current mindsets, unable to make the perceptual choices required for successful execution.

Quantum thinking

The second skill, quantum thinking, is derived from quantum physics research which suggests that the universe functions in illogical, paradoxical ways. The most obvious quantum paradox is that the visible, three-dimensional world, is composed solely of invisible energy. Furthermore, this energy often makes sudden, totally unpredictable quantum leaps, tunneling through barriers in ways that are both illogical and impossible at the macro level of reality. For example, microscopic electrons are able to tunnel through energy barriers that macroscopic objects would be unable to penetrate. This is not only irrational; it is a major paradox, since the electron on its way through the barrier has negative kinetic energy – a classical absurdity. Quantum tunneling is totally illogical; yet it is the basis of the Josephson junction, a key process in superconductivity. Josephson junctions operate as extremely fast switching devices. They are a key design feature in a highly sensitive measuring instrument called a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID). Because of the highly illogical quantum tunneling effect, physicians can now identify minute abnormalities within the human brain. Illogical processes can therefore result in highly practical applications.

Unfortunately, many managers still rely primarily on logical, linear, black and white thinking skills. Rosch (McNeill and Freiberger, 1994, p. 85) believes that the obsession with binary thinking originates in the structure of the brain. Over the centuries, the human brain has added layers, evolving from the early reptilian, to the limbic, to the much more recent neocortex (outer layer of the brain). The two lower brain centers are actually incapable of conceptualizing multiple options. So even though the neocortex can create and choose among unlimited options, much of the time individuals still operate out of lower brain centers, categorizing and organizing information with minimal cognitive effort. Our logical, linear educational systems and either-or organizational decision-making processes reinforce this neurological propensity. Consequently, most adults generally demonstrate less than 10 percent of the creativity of a typical child.

If managers are to think "out of the box," it is apparent that logical, rational, binary thought processes are inadequate. Logical thinking has made little headway in solving the enormous challenges facing business organizations today. After all, many organizational issues are paradoxical, and pose questions that cannot be answered by rational, binary thinking. For example, how can managers balance the responsibility to stockholders with responsibility to employees, customers, and the environment? How can short-term operating goals be achieved while maintaining a long-term focus? Or, how can errors be decreased while improving speed? The ability to think paradoxically will no doubt be a key to creating highly innovative solutions to these questions and addressing a myriad of other organizational challenges in the future (Näsi, 1995, pp. 20-1).

In order to think paradoxically, leaders must awaken the capacities of the right hemisphere of the brain – the side of the brain that thinks in images not words and is, therefore, not bound by verbal language and logic. The right brain can gather up seemingly unrelated ideas and arrange them into highly creative idea constellations, thereby bypassing the left brain' propensity for binary thinking. The right brain has another important creative advantage. It can process millions of visual images in microseconds, and solve problems exponentially faster than the clock-bound left hemisphere. Each time a manager chooses to visualize versus think in words, he/she literally disconnects from the linear passage of time. Thus, through the process of imagistic thinking the manager can escape the tyranny of time and enter a realm where seemingly opposite options can effortlessly superimpose themselves into highly creative solutions. The skill of quantum thinking provides an ongoing stream of highly innovative, often illogical ideas that help the managerial leader transcend the box of binary thinking. The ability of an organization to thrive, and perhaps even survive, demands that this skill be recognized and developed.

Quantum feeling

The third skill, quantum feeling, is based on the premise that human beings are composed of the same energy as the rest of the universe and are, therefore, subject to universal laws of energy excitation. Recent research at the Institute of HeartMath (1993, p. 3) suggests that the human heart is a primary source of power for the mind-body system. The heart generates the strongest electromagnetic signal in the human body and the power of that signal is primarily a function of thoughts and emotions. Negative emotions (e.g. frustration, fear, anger, conflict, and stress) decrease coherence in the heart' electromagnetic waves, causing the mind-body system to lose energy. Positive emotions (e.g. love, caring, compassion and appreciation) increase coherence, thus increasing energy.

This research confirms what many individuals already know intuitively. Negative emotions exhaust and positive emotions energize. Knowing this to be true does not, however, solve the pervasive epidemic of stress, conflict and burnout that is common throughout the business world today (Nurmi and Darling, 1997, pp. 157-65). Fast-paced schedules drain one' energy. Stress-filled jobs exhaust people. Interpersonal differences create conflict. Individuals desire health and vitality; but, too often experience tiredness and disease. The skill of quantum feeling enables the business executive to feel good internally, regardless of what happens externally. As this skill is recognized and implemented, the manager learns how to change the physics of his/her body by changing the feelings of the heart (Dyer, 1998, pp. 211-13). Such an individual becomes increasingly aware of the perceptual choice point between an external stimulus and a subsequent internal response; and begins to recognize that one' energy is never depleted by other people or events, but rather by one' perceptual choices and reactions thereto.

The Institute of HeartMath research also suggests that today' manager can maintain higher levels of energy and vitality simply by choosing to focus on the positive aspects of his/her experiences (Childre, 1996, p. 70). Seeing "negative" events from a positive perspective does require one to think paradoxically. If a person suddenly finds him/herself unemployed, it is only logical to catastrophize. However, if that person does so, he/she will only see those perceptual clues that support negative thinking. They will see bills accumulating. They will see unemployed people everywhere they turn. On the other hand, if they can view the situation in an "atypical way," seeing it with appreciation, they can begin to see the hidden opportunities. Focusing on the positive aspects, the heart' electromagnetic waves become coherent and the brain' waves spontaneously follow (physicists call this entrainment). From this more coherent state of mind, one sees opportunities that would have been missed had the individual remained in a state of negativity. The opportunities would have been there all along; but the person' emotionally-induced cognitive incoherence simply made them perceptually unavailable.

When managers nurture and develop high-energy paradigms, organizational change programs will make a much greater difference in productivity and job satisfaction. Organizational redesign efforts and empowerment processes are necessary but not sufficient. It' the new-wine-in-old-wineskins phenomenon or, in more contemporary language, the second-marriage-same-spouse syndrome. Without an internal shift in consciousness and a new set of emotional choice skills, managers keep following the old patterns in their organizations – committed to the old paradigms – regardless of the new opportunities available to them. The skill of quantum feeling enables leaders to change the constructs of their minds. This skill will have an enormous impact on issues such as motivation, burnout, stress, and job satisfaction. Organizational life will change significantly when individuals, and particularly those in managerial roles, release their collective dependence on external rewards and take full personal responsibility for bringing purpose, passion and vitality to their business firms.

Spiritual quantum skills

Quantum knowing

The fourth skill, quantum knowing, is derived from quantum field theory. Energy fields are, in the language of physics, the ground state of all that is. Einstein once commented that "fields are the only reality" (Capra, 1983, p. 211). The universe is not filled with energy fields; rather, the universe emerges out of an underlying quantum field. This underlying sea of potential appears to be infinite, omnipresent, and omnipotent. It is both indescribable and incalculable. The quantum field is believed to contain Bose-Einstein condensates which are the most highly ordered and highly unified structure yet found in the universe. Zohar (1990, p. 226) is one of a growing number of physicists who believe that Bose-Einstein processes in the brain may create the neurological structures that are prerequisite to human consciousness. If subsequent research validates a relationship between Bose-Einstein condensates and consciousness, it will lend support to the hypothesis that the quantum field itself is conscious. Consciousness, therefore, may not be a function of evolutionary sophistication, but instead may be the primary substance of physical reality. Wald (1984, pp. 1-2) noted:Mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality…the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create.

The universe is basically a set of signals or a field of information. It is much more like a great thought than the great machine metaphor of the Newtonian paradigm. Quantum knowing is the ability to connect in non-sensory ways with information in this quantum field of potentiality. William James used the term "radical empiricism" to describe the process of direct knowing – knowing beyond sensory input (Taylor, 1994, p. 353). Houston (1982, p. 195) explains this ability by using the metaphor of superconductivity as follows:

In most electrical flow systems there is a resistance, analogous to a turned-on light bulb impeding the flow of current, which creates the practical uses for the electrical current. But in superconductive states the electrons can flow unimpeded in perpetual motion through a flow loop. This may be what is happening in the experience of deep meditation: neurons become superconductive flow systems, phase-coherent with other neurons by virtue of quantum tunneling. Resistance is overcome, the usual kinds of perceptual and psychological lenses are no longer operative, and the brain becomes a very different instrument, one that is available to receive messages from the primary reality.

In this superconductive state, one' ability to access previously unknown information increases appreciably. The individual discovers a capacity for wisdom that may be infinite. He/she becomes one with the quantum field. It is difficult, yet intriguing, to imagine an organization with managerial leaders who know how to intuitively access the cosmic database. Research suggests that many executives do acknowledge a strong reliance on intuition, but few make their intuitive abilities public and even fewer attempt to propagate and integrate intuitive knowing into daily organizational development activities and practices. However, the overwhelming amount of available data mandates that leaders in management explore and experiment with new ways of knowing. There is simply too much information to process in traditional, analytical ways.

Langer (McCarthy, 1994, p. 28) has developed a theory of mindful decision making. Langer' research suggests that gathering information does not necessarily lead to better decisions. In fact, organizations are typically focused on an impossible goal – reducing uncertainty through data collection. This is futile because even the amount of information that could be gathered about the simplest of decisions, such as developing a new product or selecting a supplier, can involve limitless research. Rather than focusing on gathering information, Langer' theory focuses on staying aware (mindfulness). She points out that a belief in certainty is actually a huge disadvantage in management and leadership. Certainty leads to mindlessness. When someone is certain, he/she typically ceases to pay attention. On the other hand, uncertainty keeps individuals attentive both to the external conditions and to one' internal intuitions. Mindfulness keeps the manager' connection to the quantum field of infinite information open.

As managerial leaders begin to incorporate the space for mindfulness into their daily work routines, they will nurture whole-brain organizations – organizations that fully utilize both sides of the brain, valuing intuitive knowing as much as rational analysis. Some day managers will look back at concepts such as empowerment or open book management with amusement. After all, how can one person empower another if everyone has access to the same cosmic database? As more and more managers learn to use the skill of quantum knowing, they will help create true learning organizations – organizations in which all the stakeholders deeply value learning from the inside out, thereby recognizing the importance of intuitive ideas.

Quantum acting

The fifth skill, quantum acting, is premised on the quantum mechanical concept of interconnectivity and its byproduct, nonlocal causation. At the subatomic level, two systems once connected remain connected, even across great distances of time and space. Any measurement of one of these systems affects the second system instantaneously. These complex "from a distance" interactions are explained by a uniquely quantum principle, the principle of nonseparability, which violates the most basic principle of relativity, that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

Even though Einstein never accepted the principle of nonseparability, today this principle is a fundamental concept in quantum theory. Its technological applications will soon create quantum computers in which all the components respond instantaneously to a change in the state of one component. The potential capacity of quantum computers is truly significant. They will be capable of performing all possible computations simultaneously (quantum parallelism). Strings of hydrogen atoms will hold bits of information rather than arrays of transistors. Atomic encoding will enable a quantum computer to simulate the behavior of any quantum system using quantum processes such as superimposition and nonlocal correlation. According to a recent Scientific American article, "a 40-bit quantum computer could recreate in little more than, say, 100 steps, a quantum system that would take a classical computer, having a trillion bits, years to simulate" (Lloyd, 1995, p. 144).

Action at a distance (nonlocal causation) is about to transform life as it is presently known through astounding technological advances; but more importantly, this same principle has the potential to shift a manager' view of him/herself and relationships to other individuals and to the universe. Gribbin (1984, p. 229) explains why:

They [research studies] tell us that particles that were once together in an interaction remain in some sense parts of a single system, which responds together to further interactions. Virtually everything we see and touch and feel is made up of collections of particles that have been involved in interactions with others right back through time, to the Big Bang in which the universe as we know it came into being. The atoms in my body are made of particles that once jostled in close proximity in the cosmic fireball with particles that are now part of a distant star, and particles that form the body of some living creature on some distant, undiscovered planet. Indeed, the particles that make up my body once jostled in close proximity and interacted with the particles that make up your body.

Everything in the universe is a part of a correlated, complex whole in which each part influences and is influenced by every other part. Quantum acting is the ability to act with concern for the whole – the whole self, the whole organization, the whole society, and the whole planet. This skill can be used to design lives of impeccable action – lives that focus on intentions that are good for both self and for the larger system. Using the skill of quantum acting leads the manager to choose to make responsible choices. Responsible choice also mandates a commitment to making managerial choices ever more conscious. Each conscious choice that a manager makes not only influences the probability of future choices; it also, because of interpersonal quantum interconnectedness, affects the future choices of others as well. Thus, organizations and workplaces are designed one choice at a time. When managerial leaders choose acts of kindness, compassion, or integrity, they are, in the words of Zohar (1990, p. 184), "loading the quantum dice" and increasing the probability that others inside and outside of the organization will choose to act accordingly. Each individual self is in nonlocal correlation with every other self, and each of one' decisions influences the entire system. Managers help to nurture win-win relationships in organizations when they lose their sense of us versus them and realize that we are all us (Dyer, 1995, p. 69).

The quantum principle of nonseparability puts a new perspective on social responsibility in decision making. If everything in the universe is intricately interconnected, what a person does must in some way have a reverse effect on that individual, the doer. Therefore, if one wants prosperity in life or in an organization, that individual begins by giving and serving. This is based upon the principle that a person' rewards come from the services he/she first gives (Waitley, 1995, pp. 240-1). In a correlated universe, the more that is given, the more one receives. So-called socially responsible behaviors (e.g. treating all stakeholders respectfully or taking good care of environmental resources) are in actuality merely common sense. As leaders begin to use the skill of quantum acting, they discover that organizations can, indeed, do well while also doing good.

Quantum trusting

The sixth skill, quantum trusting, is derived from chaos theory. Chaos theory provides a new way of viewing change and the turbulence that accompanies it. This theory demonstrates that chaos is inherent in the evolutionary process. It is the catalyst that creates the disequilibrium necessary for system evolution. Chaos is the progenitor of all progress. Without the chaos, and commensurate conflict brought about by change, life stagnates and entropy ensues (Darling and Fogliasso, 1997, pp. 1-2).

Prigogine discovered the positive role that chaos plays in the universe (Prigogine and Stengers, 1984, p. 13). He differentiates between active and passive chaos. Passive chaos occurs when a closed system reaches equilibrium and its elements move around in a random fashion. Active chaos occurs in an open system that is in a state of disequilibrium. In such a system, environmental feedback serves as a catalyst, disrupting the system and moving that system to higher levels of order and coherency.

The system' new direction appears to be the result of chance and uncertainty. However, a growing number of scientists believe that an invisible ordering principle is at work. Bohm' concept of subatomic particles with "quantum potential" suggests that directions received from the primary order, the quantum field, influence an electron' behavior (Briggs and Peat, 1989, p.183). Bohm acknowledges that this potential has such complexity that any attempts at prediction are futile. One' inability to make predictions does not mean that a system' evolution is totally random. It simply means that it cannot be explained.

Bohm' concept of an invisible ordering principle applies to the subatomic world of quantum phenomena. Chaos theory, based on classical physics and applicable to the macroscopic world, has a similar concept, the strange attractor. This is a computer term used to trace the evolution of a chaotic system. As chaos theory would predict, a computerized system in chaos behaves in a totally unpredictable manner. However, over time even the most chaotic systems never go beyond certain phase space boundaries, the boundary of the strange attractor.

Strange attractors provide visual images of a world in which structure emerges out of chaos. Structured chaos is a remarkable paradox. It suggests that managers function in a universe that is both orderly and chaotic, a world that displays structure without clockwork regularity – potentiality without predictability. Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers (1996, p. 35) reflect on what this might mean for today' managerial leaders. They write: "If order is for free, we don't have to be the organizers. We don't have to design the world. We don't have to structure existence…Organization wants to happen."

For many, these ideas are deeply appealing. Most managers become exhausted from their attempts to predict and control. They suspect that there really is a simpler way. Yet, they continuously find themselves face-to-face with the ego' fears. Quantum trusting is the ability to trust the natural process. This skill enables managers to ride the rapids of change, fully participating in the adventure without having to control the course; deeply aware that it is easiest to ride a raft in the direction it is headed. As a leader appropriately uses this skill, he/she begins to focus on the mystery of existence, rather than on mastery over it; becoming less intent on manipulating existence and more intent on simply appreciating it. In other words, he/she helps to free the organization to spontaneously evolve without the excessive interference that is brought on when the manager' ego becomes unnecessarily involved.

Using the skill of quantum trusting is especially challenging in traditional organizations where enormous value is placed on prediction and control. There are, however, many new organizational processes like Owen' open space technology (Owen, 1997, p.32), which demonstrate in quantifiable ways the ability of a group of people to quickly self-organize in meaningful and productive ways. Not only are the outcomes of such processes impressive, participants almost always prefer this open design to more traditionally structured options.

Open space technology is only one example of what Hock would call a chaordic organization (Waldrop, 1996, p. 75). As leaders individually and collectively begin to use the skill of quantum trusting, many more examples of self-organizing practices will emerge. Championing these practices requires leaders to confront their own internal demons of dependency and control. It takes clear intention, strong commitment, and daily practice to take the road less traveled. Such individuals must be willing to step into the chaotic abyss.

Focal skill of quantum being

The final skill, quantum being, recognizes the relational nature of the organization and its environment. At the subatomic level, matter comes into being only through relationships. Subatomic particles are abstractions. Their properties are definable and observable only through their interactions with other particles. The probabilities associated with particles are probabilities of relationships. Physics has not, however, always been viewed as a science of relationships. Newton saw particles as distinct entities with rigid boundaries, billiard balls moved around by external forces (Zohar, 1990, p. 129). Newtonian objects can influence each other' external behavior, but they cannot change each other' internal characteristics. This is not what happens in a quantum relationship where two particles can actually merge together, sharing boundaries and identities and thereby becoming a quantum system that is greater than the sum of the two individual parts.

Metaphorically, quantum relationships are prerequisite to human transformation. It is through relationships that one' potential is released. When a person approaches relationships with openness and vulnerability, a new entity is created that is greater than the sum of the two individuals. These quantum encounters may provoke unresolved issues and reopen psychological wounds, thus giving each party the opportunity to learn and heal, or deny and project. As individuals experience the perceptual transformations that are inherent in quantum relationships, they begin to understand that their outer realities are but a projection of their inner beliefs. As Emerson noted: "The ancestor to every action is a thought" (Dyer, 1995, pp. 299-300). Quantum relationships are, therefore, psychological mirrors. In them, individuals can see themselves reflected. When faults are observed in another, those observations are simply mirroring the individual' own issues, providing feedback about unhealed areas of his/her own psyche.

Quantum being is the ability to be in relationship – a relationship based on unconditional positive regard. This skill enables a manager to own his/her feelings rather than project them on to others. As this is done, the leader discovers that all relationships are extraordinary learning opportunities. And the individual begins to suspect that none of them occur without reason. The effective leader also discovers that those who have the most to teach him/her are not always the most favored people, but they are the most valuable contributors to his/her psychological and spiritual well-being and, hence, organizational effectiveness.

If managers are to fully integrate the skill of quantum being into their organizations, they must turn their organizational priorities upside down, creating the time and space for dialogue, trusting that improved relationships will translate into improved results. In so doing, they will discover that progress is a by-product of partnership and they will put away their outdated paradigms and become authentic change masters, changing themselves and their organizations from the inside out.

Summary and conclusions

The purpose of this article is to introduce quantum theory to the realm of management leadership. Quantum theory is a perspective that is based on quantum mechanics and derived from the scientific field of physics. The quantum paradigm presented is used as a metaphor for management behavior and provides a new set of skills that can have an appreciable impact on effectiveness in managerial leadership. These quantum concepts can thereby be translated into a highly practical new skill set for managerial leaders in the twenty-first century.

These skills are referred to as quantum skills because they are premised on the assumption that the quantum realm of energy is of primary importance and thereby causal to everything else in the universe.

As managers in the current era of organizational dynamics attempt to effectively fulfill their leadership role, as well as their management role, a new spirit must be born within them. This spirit will take them beyond the world of mechanistic, reductionistic, deterministic principles and practices to a new skill set that is based on a paradigm that is more congruent with the complexities of the quantum age. The purpose of this article was to introduce the various dimensions of this new quantum paradigm and the commensurate skills that will result in greater effectiveness in leadership. The authors welcome further inquiries and dialogue with interested management researchers and practitioners.

Figure 1 The quantum skills model