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Systemic Leadership: Master complexity and uncertainty

Leadership is a masterpiece, particularly in uncertain and complex times. Old management models - based on clear causalities - have mostly lost their effectiveness. In a world of high complexity and therefore increasing uncertainty, new and more intelligent approaches of leadership are urgently needed. Systemic leadership provides useful concepts to deal with increased complexity and uncertainty more constructively.


Transcript of the video

Welcome to the space beyond right and wrong.

We will jointly explore the meaning and value and the approach of systemic leadership. For a start, I suggest it is helpful to briefly consider the difference between complicated and complex systems, in systemic thinking you also speak of trivial and non-trivial machines. Of course complicated machines can be difficult to examine and understand, but they always follow clear causalities and rules. To be precise: there are clear input factors, precise rules and states according by which this input is processed and a defined output. Social systems, as for example an organisation or a company, consist of people who are continuously in interaction with each other, define the borders of their own system and interact with the system environment. These interactions are highly complex, constantly changing and dynamic. You can also find an interesting parallel in game theory, which describes finite and infinite games. The former are characterized by the fact that the players are known, there are clear and defined rules and an agreement about the goal of the game as well as a beginning and an end. Infinite games allow known and unknown players, the rules can be adapted at any time and the goal of the game is to keep as many players as possible in the game for as long as possible. You may already have become aware of the completely different view and perspective a systemic leader acts from. Classical management models being mostly linear, i.e. based on simple cause-and-effect models, differ significantly and in my view are only of limited effectiveness in a complex, networked and dynamic world of today and tomorrow. And as much as we wish and think that static models of organizations and leadership would give stability - it is the approach of the organization and its members towards complexity and dynamics that ultimately gives stability. To master these challenges, a different form of structure and leadership is needed. Hierarchy Structures with their top-down approach, are subject to the illusion of being able to control complex systems. In systemic leadership, however, the model of heterarchy is clearly preferred, meaning that each member of the organizational system contributes to its health, survival and success and that everyone is always both leading and being led. It is the challenge of the leader to help design and create a framework in which all members of the system can interact dynamically and constantly develop their capacity for self-organisation and personal competence. To create, you could say, a world in which other people want to be a part of. This guarantees the development of the organisation, whose task it is to scan the environment for problems and offer appropriate solutions.

Leadership is truly a masterpiece. The prerequisite to bring this masterpiece to fruition is self-regulation and self-reflection. The former enables you, even in challenging, or let's say stressful situations, to maintain an overview and to regulate your physical and cognitive functions. Self-reflection allows you to observe and question your own thinking, perception and actions. Which values determine my thinking? Which assumptions underlie my thinking and decisions? Why do I react in certain situations this way and not differently? And many more... Besides metacognition, thinking about thinking, self-reflection includes observing myself and how I interact with the world. It increases the number of choices you have on how to respond and act and allows you to fluidly adapt your behavior to the respective context. Because behaviour that is meaningful and useful in one context can very quickly become harmful in another. You enable yourself to grow from a digital, binary thinking of either - or to a higher level in which as well as is possible - leading to significantly better solutions and where you are able to utilize differences and different perspectives as well as opinions constructively. If you have a deeper interest in self-regulation and self-reflection, you are welcome to watch the video on Mindful Leadership.

The so-called systemic principles are derived from the observation of living and social systems. They are of fundamental importance for the sustainability and health of the system - in other words, the organization. The prerequisite for the application of systemic principles, the foundation, so to speak, is to be in a state of non-denial. If challenges, problems and mistakes are not communicated, neither the individual nor the organization will be able to respond constructively. The first systemic principle is that of membership. Meaning: it is useful to define exactly who is part of the system and who is not. Traditionally, in organisations this is defined by the employment contract. In matrix organisations, however, the question of membership can often not being answered so precisely. Who belongs to the department, who belongs to the team and who belongs to the project team, etc. The second systemic principle is that of chronological order and here a distinction is made between two types of order. The chronological order I honours the elements, meaning the members who have been longest in the system the most as they have ensured its survival the longest. The chronological order II describes how new subsystems are created within the system. In order to strengthen their own borders and their immune power, they require a period of protection and development. Which leads us to the next principle: to strengthen the immune power of the system, be it a team, a department or the whole organization. To create a framework in which people want to contribute - not have to - and are willing to go the extra mile for the community. To create a world where others want to be a part of! This immune power, you might also say strength, enables the community to survive even in challenging and stormy times. And last but not least, the common goal, the sense and purpose of the organization. This collectively agreed goal not only provides orientation, but is also the basis for an intrinsic motivation to make the contribution of each individual possible. If these systemic principles are not sufficiently considered, perceived and practiced, processes and interactions are always impaired. They are the groundwork for creating a constructive framework in which people can evolve in their capacity for self-organisation and personal competence, while at the same time the organisation can learn and grow. Nothing is more beautiful than to see the joy in a person's face, whether it is based on being part of a community or their success and creating a world in which others want to be a part of - and maybe even grow above themselves. Systemic leadership naturally includes many other aspects: such as paying attention to interdependencies, communication, dealing with uncertainty and instability, ambivalence, change processes and much, much more. I hope I can wake your interest for a more modern and efficacious way of leadership and that we can meet personally in a workshop on systemic leadership to explore different topics in more detail.

Do not believe anything I say - but try it for yourself and practice the art of possibility.

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