Episode #5: Dysfunction of Chaos

We all love the idea of the “cool boss”. You know, the one who dresses casually, doesn’t hassle us for timelines, and parties with us like he’s just “one of us”. Seems great, right? The problem is that the boss is trying so hard to be our friend, that we’re never sure what’s expected of us. This is the leader that suffers from the Peter Pan Syndrome. If you’ve never heard of it, think of all the qualities of Peter Pan – doesn’t take responsibility, isn’t there when you need them, just wants to have fun, and doesn’t take issues seriously.

In today’s episode, Anne & Heather explore the Dysfunction of Chaos (also known as the Peter Pan Syndrome), illustrate it by telling a client story that will be shocking because of how obvious and common this leadership behavior is and share what you can do if it is being acted out in your organization.

 If you want to know more about Anne & Heather’s work with dismantling dysfunctions in organizations and leadership behavior at Caliber Leadership Systems, check out:




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  • [01:40] Episode introduction and overview 
  • [02:51] What is the Peter Pan Syndrome (Dysfunction of Chaos)? 
  • [12:38] Our client story experiencing the Dysfunction of Chaos 
  • [15:32] Root causes we identified that contributed to the dysfunction 
  • [19:42] Our approach to helping the client overcome the Peter Pan Syndrome 
  • [25:00] Outcomes and successes for our client 
  • [29:29] Episode gem & practical takeaway 
  • [30:42] Episode wrap up



  • The Dysfunction of Chaos is found in most entrepreneurial businesses and growth oriented organizations. The personality and work style of the leaders / founders are the major drivers of the organizational culture and the way the business is led and performance is managed is a laisse-faire fashion. 
  • Organizations that have experienced rapid growth and success without the implementation of systems that provide structure and role definition are extremely likely to experience the Dysfunction of Chaos. 
  • Peter Pan leaders deny the existence of issues and problems. They just act like nothing’s a big deal. And when they find something challenging, they actually switch to something easier. It’s easy to see how the chaos develops in an organization when the leaders are tolerating or avoiding the very things that need their attention. 
  • Sometimes leaders have to experience setbacks and consequences for them to slow down and get the help they need. Ask yourself, where do you or the leaders around you need help that you’re not asking for, or ignoring that need altogether? Where is the organization getting stuck and the leaders not wanting to shift their approach and take responsibility? Identifying these will support you to reach out for the help you need, rather than staying stuck in the Dysfunction of Chaos.


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