Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Leadership as Open System

Leadership is an open system, too often the whole system is not considered when measuring values and success.

We are living in a complex world with continuous changes and disruptions, the companies don’t exist in silos but within systems, especially global ones. To develop sophisticated leaders with business acumen and global perspective, the soft leadership discipline needs to be dug through scientific angles, with systems perspective. 

As leadership today is neither static nor transaction driven, it has to continue growing organically and keep evolving to lead transformational change courageously.

Forethoughtful leaders are open system integrators of the holistic organization: Organizations are complex systems which keep evolving. To understand the business or the world as a complex adaptive system requires an understanding of how things have come together, and being “built.” Systems don’t exist independently and that there are interactions between systems such as system overlaps and real in-and output dependencies. Business leaders today can’t predict every turn or curve on the journey of business transformation as it is possible that temporarily a system can stay in a chaos or even a crisis situation, where there exists negative interaction among the elements. Proficient leadership expertise with systems thinking skills and sound judgment helps to understand a system is a necessary precondition for effective intervention.

Business leaders as system integrators can practice “structural leadership,” leverage systems wisdom to deepen understanding of interfaces and interactions associated with complex businesses, apply interdisciplinary science (engineering, math, psychology, sociology, etc.) to build dynamic business competency and engenders new perspectives or actions as part of the process to improve organizational agility. It is also important to understand how the people factor affects the business system and then, managing the complex system with the people as a center of the complex system.

“Leadership as a system" is wrapped in a culture of openness and emergence: Either for individuals or the businesses, if you stick and restrict, you cannot be dynamic. You have to be open to change, innovative to thrive. Culture is an indicator of the organization's capability to achieve results in competency parameters. We need the culture we want to cultivate, leadership needs to be “structural,” or “unstructured,” accordingly. An unstructured leadership can be active only in open, alive social systems. In such systems, the leader has special roles and functions by keeping the interaction with the other elements of a system undeniably. They do not focus on hierarchy but on ideas, openness, and creative problem-solving by harnessing cross-functional communication, fostering collaboration, embracing collective insight, and enforcing the multitude of business cycles seamlessly.

In business reality though, there is silo spreading in the different layers of the organization; functional/geographical gaps are enlarged in the open economy, overly rigid hierarchy creates bottlenecks which prevent information flow, and perpetuates bureaucracy. Culture is the “fingerprint,” that the organization writes about itself through the times of decisions, dynamics, and challenges; and revealed as a fabric of "value system" and "credibility." Thus, to improve organizational responsiveness and holism, “leadership as a system" needs to be wrapped in a culture of openness and emergence. Business transformational leaders need to unfold systemic relationships, solicit feedback, listen to different opinions to avoid falling into linear thoughts/actions traps; and create a cycle of continuous feedback, exploration, experience and a more natural process of improvement. They should become great problem solvers and inspirational culture shapers.

Leadership is an “inclusion” process from an open systems perspective:
In systems thinking language, leadership is about learning to manage the “system,” in an open manner, the way it is. The business leaders must work with the right mindset to create an inclusive organization with every dip in the business lifecycle. Because staff now are more educated than what they used to be, they are more informed as to what is going on and the changes taking place around them. That is a result of information based business transformation to a society that is less conscious of diversity and more conscious of inclusion. So the key is to embed the “inclusion” concepts and practical application, etc, into everything within the organization ranging from all people practices to engaging with the customers community, partners, etc, the beliefs, and the work needs to be sustainable.

Systems is about this side, that side, and the interrelationship of both sides. We cannot speak about a difference between leadership and collaboration or co-operation, because both concepts are included in a positive interaction among the elements of an open system. The adaptable global leaders are good at shifting from one leadership style to another, but keep the leadership substance on check; they are good at identifying and articulating paradigm shifts, molding leaders that go out and promote changes in people's mindsets and paradigms and make influence through vision and insight. Leadership is an inclusion process to create a new paradigm with an “inclusive” theme. Orienting people and making them aware of the inclusion in their organization or team, helps them understand the value of harnessing the differences. In some cases, organizational culture is so powerful and even then will be able to influence the surrounding societies of the organization.

Change is inevitable, it will come by itself. As we move forward and upward, we will understand that we are all leaders with different expertise in the different arena. Leadership is an open system, too often the whole system is not considered when measuring values and success. It’s crucial to make a periodical assessment of its effectiveness -it's knowing when you are the right person at the right time in the right place, and then moving on with the permission of the whole to drive transformative change significantly.


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