Fixing Systems with Hammers

Respect for leaders is far more volatile than ever. Leaders deal increasingly with environments where confidence quickly ebbs away. Leaders need to take a systemic approach to design, to deliver and to sustain their changes. Winning authority in networks is key.

Transactional leadership is the model of leadership that we expect. If something is broken send in a leader with a hammer. We may not agree with the actions but we see this kind of leadership as decisive and action-oriented at least initially.  However, systems don’t respond well to hammers. They outlast the blows and the leader finds that confidence across the system in their ability to lead change erodes.

Leading in a system is the new challenge. In a networked world, every leader is surrounded by connections to followers, competitors and stakeholders.  Much more of the system is accessible and visible.  That also means that much more of the effects of a leader’s actions in the system are known, discussed and ultimately influence the leader’s authority to act. Hammer blows ring far and wide.

Leadership in systems is more adaptive. Successful paths emerge for leaders who manage both the problem, the group and their authority. There are fewer hammers blows and much more dialogue. That involves leading with regard to a much wider group of stakeholders. The path to a solution may not be as direct or as directly attributable to the leader’s vision or action.  However, it is likely to be one which sustains an effective solution for the group and builds the leader’s authority.

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