Sunday, July 26, 2015

How to Interpret Digital Leadership in “Systems Thinking” Language

Leadership is about learning to manage the 'system,' in an 'open' manner, the way it is, in "System Thinking" language.

Leadership is an influence and a practice, there is no magic recipe otherwise. With the paradigm shift from the industrial age to the digital era, what are the most vital factors in leadership? What’s the digital leadership all about in “Systems Thinking” language?


The multi-dimensional values, inspirations, and motivation are vital for digital leadership. Leadership that looks for multidimensional values (finance, customer, societal value, etc)  beyond the quarterly outlook would go a long way. Leaders need to be more value-driven rather than bottom-line-driven; more people rather than product-focused; more adaptable, flexible and accepting of diversity of ideas, and mindful. Leadership that seeks to make a difference must engage both hearts and minds. Leadership is the ability to influence the values, decisions, and actions undertaken by others, for example by those leaders who are in a position by formal authority or those with personal authority. Relevant in organizations, groups, networks and so on. So the 'new' modern leader might need to adapt and become a better communicator, putting more emphasis on motivation and involvement. The first part is what inspires and the second is what motivates, although there is some crossover between the two.


From a ST perspective, leadership is perhaps best understood as the capacity to create and sustain a shared vision. The prime actions of a good leader are to set the vision of where and possibly why things are going, and to clear the way so that others can do their very best work to get there. When there is a genuine vision (as opposed to the all-too-familiar ‘vision statement’), people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to. But many leaders have personal visions that never get translated into shared visions that galvanize an organization. What has been lacking is a discipline for translating vision into shared vision – not a ‘cookbook,’ but a set of principles and guiding practices. Further more, leadership has to do with the future as much as it has to do with the present and the past. The leadership of the past has molded and structured (good or bad) the dynamics of the leadership of the present and future leaders. Without the accomplishments and failures of past leaders, present leaders would not know what mistakes not to make. With that being said, all of our past leadership (good or bad) have done their best with the hand that was dealt. Leaders normally carry the aspirations of the followers. In fact, leaders are created by the aspirations of the followers. Leadership is a promise of fulfillment of the aspirations of the followers.


Leadership is an INCLUSION process from a systems perspective. Because workers now are more educated than what they used to be, they are at least more informed as to what is going on and the changes taking place around them. That is a result of our transforming to a society that is less conscious of diversity and more conscious of inclusion. Inclusion is the new start that awakens in all of us the common-unity we share. We want leaders who recognize the gifts that all people have and are willing to share the leadership role. Open communications with lots of trusts will assist us in moving from a society of force to one of power. When we allow the passions of people to do good and to move the right person at the right time, into the right place, we will be generating leadership in the spirit of everyone winning. Leadership powers up when this happens. As we move forward and upward, we will understand that we are all leaders with different expertise in the different arena. It's a knowing when you are the right person at the right time in the right place, and then moving it on with the permission of the whole. Communication is one of the things that is included in the 'clear the way' action. If communication is poor or there is a very high lack of transparency - these are items that will impact on the staff capability to progress and the leader needs to resolve this impediment.


Talking in Systems thinking language, leadership is about learning to manage the 'system,' in an 'open' manner, the way it is. People normally 'close' the boundaries of the system, so that less energy is transferred and, therefore, less changes happen in the system. We all try to 'close' the system, so to say, to reduce its complexity. But the adaptive attitude is to manage its complexity via Systems Thinking and agility enhancement. An unstructured leadership can be active only in open alive social systems. In such systems undeniably the leader has special roles and functions by keeping the interaction with the other elements of a system. We cannot speak about a difference between leadership and collaboration or co-operation, because both concepts, collaboration, and co-operation are included in a positive interaction among the elements of an open system. Sure it is possible that temporarily a system can stay in a chaos or even a crisis situation, where exists negative interaction among the elements. Under such circumstances, the system either will be dissolute or it will continue to exist but under other forms of system life and new conditions.So we need to look at each situation individually and ask what leadership model is required, will it be emergent, will it self-organize, does it need an attractor-leader to consolidate, is a facilitator best, should it be distributed... no one answer fits all situation.


The digital leadership is not rocket science, but by leveraging Systems Thinking, leadership can be perceived with both broader scope of the open system and in-depth understanding of its interconnectivity and interdependence. It should be based on the future trend, based on varying situation; based on what the system requires for its long-term sustenance. And if that long term sustenance clashes with immediate short-term objectives, leaders need to strike the right balance, both “keep the light on,” and do the best for long-term business transformation. The business is complex, the world is complex, and leadership is complex, the future of leaders have to deal with opposing views, cultures, constraints and competition. As always, leadership is both the art and science.

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