There is so much talk about Leadership these days. It’s ironic when there are so few examples of effective Leaders. It does make sense though, because people have the intuition that Leadership is really key when it comes to moving out of a crisis.
The urgent question here is, what is the context for leadership? It is radically different from even ten years ago. And yet, the institutions that people attend to learn how to become leaders, including most business schools, are repeating content from decades ago. They have not caught up with the deep shifts and transformations taking place.
It’s the complexity, stupid
Our world is increasingly interconnected. It is therefore inevitably complex. There is a lot of confusion about what complexity means. Let’s provide some clarity.
“Complexus”, the Latin word for “complex”, roughly means “twisted together”. In other words, when several elements come together and interact, they form a “complex system” and this originates complexity. Such interaction is highly non-linear and produces properties that may not belong to any of the components that come together; in other words, the system created by these interactions can be very different from its components and cannot be understood in terms of them.
Complexity is an intrinsic feature of life in all its manifestations. From the biological aspects addressed by life sciences to the cognitive and behavioral aspects originated by human relations. Anyone who wants to be a Leader today needs to understand this in order to frame situations and make appropriate decisions. It is precisely a lack of this understanding that is creating so much havoc. It is also the reason why so many people in leadership positions experience a sensation of fear and overwhelm. They would like to be able to control things, but they do not have the knowledge of how control can be exercised in a turbulent and confusing reality.
Leadership: definition and role
The word leadership has triggered so many books and articles that it’s hard to know what it really means. Indeed, relatively few names come to mind when we think of true leaders. A leader is somebody with a theory, a well-defined and solid conceptual model to support their ambitions to the goal. A theory is NOT something that is not practical. A theory is a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based. So everybody has one. No leader or executive goes to work without a set of principles in mind. The problem today is the validity of those principles. Today, if they are not based on an understanding of complexity, they will seriously impede the ability of a leader to navigate situations and lead with clarity. Moreover, this understanding of complexity needs to be accompanied by an ability to lead continuous innovation.
This is cumbersome, cognitively and emotionally. It requires confidence, not just in the sense of self-esteem. A leader gains confidence and inspires confidence in others from:
- knowledge of a valid set of principles (theory),
- a clear vision for a more desirable future that the stakeholders (their people, customers, suppliers and the community at large) want to be part of
- an ability to communicate and live with that vision that embues the future into the life of the organization
- the capacity to constantly elevate people by enhancing their abilty to work and learn
We’ll be looking at how leaders can gain the new leadership and management skills for complexity in upcoming posts.
Since 1999, we have been presenting a new model for a systemic organization in detail, both in terms of the thinking behind it and how to conduct operations. We work alongside CEOs and Executive Teams to support the shift towards more effective, systemic strategy and operations. Our books include ‘Deming and Goldratt: The Decalogue‘, ‘Sechel: Logic, Language and Tools to Manage Any Organization’, ‘The Human Constraint‘ and most recently, ‘Quality, Involvement and Flow: The Systemic Organization’ . We support our international clients through education, training and the Ess3ntial multi-project software using Critical Chain to schedule competencies and unlock the potential of human resources. Based on our proprietary Decalogue methodology.