Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Synthesizing Leadership

The substance of leadership never changes, it’s all about making the positive influence, and providing direction.

Digital is about changes, closer to reality is that 'change' is continuously happening in such a dynamic environment of a company. The desires of stakeholders, clients and employees are evolving naturally, not to mention that many of organizations today are facing a more radical digital transformation, and some of them are at the inflection point to radical digital. Businesses need to recognize the change and help leaders meet the challenge via business savviness and agility. Improvisation, fact finding, analysis and synthesis, trial and error, all are necessary ingredients of leadership. In particular, synthesis becomes an important element in digital leadership due to the "VUCA" characteristics of digital, Here are three perspectives of synthesizing leadership:


Synthesizing leadership is more future oriented, perceives “what could be”: At the industrial age, businesses are considerably static, with slower speed of changes, therefore, analytics is a predominant management style, while analytics describes “what is,” and it is the breaking down of a complex system into pieces that are small enough to be understood, in such a way that you can reassemble them as you broke them down to gain a deeper understanding of "what is." And the management improves the operational efficiency via hindsight gaining from historical data. However, with accelerating speed of changes, leaders and managers have to spend more time on pondering the future, and perceive “what could be,” under the “VUCA” digital normal, and thus, synthesis stands out. Uncertainty acknowledges that one can never know everything about a problem or a business completely, the manager is required to look beyond what might be the known facts to consider what is not known about the situation, as well as what is not known about the known facts. This is most likely the area needing greatest attention in management development. Digital leadership is more future oriented. And synthesizing leadership would be labeled as such based on
-the knowledge/insight/skills/capability/ actions/results (the past )
- the level of understanding via analytics/synthesis/Systems Thinking (the present)
- the relevance of the past and present for the future desired transformation or outcome. (the future)


Synthesis is about looking at the system as a whole and not being part of a whole: Synthesis is about combining things into a whole. The analysis is understanding the thing by examining it as parts. Analysis without synthesis is a reduction. Synthesis without analysis is intuition. They should complement each other. Digital is about hyperconnectivity and interdependence, synthesis is understanding a thing by examining it as a whole. Interconnections and interdependencies are distinguished, wise choices and decisions are made via the full cycle of analytics and synthesis. Solutions are also made from a much broader and encompassing view that is not possible in linear or analytical thinking only. It is both detailed and holistic pictures. It is to understand how the “part” interconnected with the”whole.” From a leadership perspective, this is always a good start when working to break down the silo mentality, go beyond crunching numbers, harness cross-functional communication, build cross-functional collaboration: understanding where each is coming from and having some trust from them, with the ultimate business goals to ensure business a whole is superior to the sum of pieces.


Synthesizing leadership tackles the business problem by taking a longer term approach. A business needs to make money, just as a human needs to respirate, but that is not their purpose. A different living-context may require a different set of values be adhered to,  synthesis can see a full business picture more vividly via timeframe. Thus, it will help to take long term approach for strategy implementation. In addition, digital means CHANGE, the emergent strategy is nowadays a fact. Systems Thinking - the full cycle of analytics-synthesis thought processes helps business leaders to manage such Strategy-Execution dynamism more effectively. It is particularly crucial for managing ongoing digital transformation. One could look at change (things happening now) as the consequence of a transformation journey. Transformation is the change, but on a grand level, at the level of the system, differentiate in terms of the end result on a systemic level, therefore, synthesis is not the “nice to have,” but a “must have” scenario to embrace the emergent business properties, approach problems and build business solutions via future driven, and long-term perspectives.

The substance of leadership never changes, it’s all about making the positive influence, and providing direction. Synthesizing leadership is more future driven, look at the business ecosystem as a whole, approach the problems more holistically, and run business with long term perspectives.

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