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Systems Leadership

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Michael Gray

on 14 September 2015

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Transcript of Systems Leadership





Bearing in mind the tenacity of the status quo....


Listening to the song beneath the words


Recognising competing commitments


Leading from the heart

“The difference between linear and complex adaptive systems is the difference between throwing a rock and throwing a bird”

Jake Chapman, “Systems failure”
Complex adaptive systems
Involving many people, with many different interests.

Can't simply be controlled or project managed.

An emerging direction
Thinking about systems and issues
Making sense of what we see
How do places work?
Complexity
When we are a long way from certainty, and a long way from agreement.
Systems Leadership

How do we do it?
OPM
Far from
agreement
Close to
agreement
Near to certainty
Far from certainty
Ordinary Management
Technical and rational decision making
Simple structures
Effective procedures
Monitoring/co-ordination
Providing direction
Extraordinary Management
Saying "yes to the mess"
Encouraging connectivity and conversation
Fostering diversity/amplifying difference
Challenging habits and assumptions
Reducing power differentials
Containing anxiety
Dominant approach
Organisation
Power through hierarchy
Mission and vision
Making sense through rational argument

Leadership driven (top down) innovation
Tried and tested, based on experience

Transactions


Emerging direction
Community
Power through connection
Shared purpose
Making sense through emotional connection
Viral (grass-roots driven) creativity
Open approaches, sharing issues and data, co-creating change
Relationships

Six dimensions of system leadership: How do systems leaders practice?
Ways of feeling (personal core values)
Ways of perceiving (observations and hearing)
Ways of thinking (intellectual and cognitive abilities)
Ways of doing (enabling and empowering)
Ways of relating (relationships and participation)
Ways of being (personal qualities)
Ways of feeling (personal core values)

– value & commitment



Ways of perceiving (observations and hearing)

- observing ‘from the balcony’ as well as ‘from the dance floor’
- allowing for the unseen and unpredicted
- seeking and hearing diverse views
- sensitivity to other narratives

Ways of thinking (intellectual and cognitive abilities)
- curiosity
- synthesising complexity
- sense-making

Ways of doing (enabling and empowering)
- narrative and communication
- enabling and supporting others
- repurposing and reframing existing structure and resources

Ways of relating (relationships and participation)
- mutuality and empathy
- honesty and authenticity
- reflection, self-awareness and empathy


Ways of being (personal qualities)
- bravery and courage to take risks
- resilience and patience
- drive, energy and optimism
- humility and magnanimity

Biggest danger in systems change?
WORK AVOIDANCE
Defining the problem as technical and applying a technical fix.

"Turning down the heat." Denying a problem exists.

Taking options off the table

Shooting the messenger

Delegating the work to people who can't do anything about it- consultants, committees, juniors

Creating a "proxy fight" to avoid grappling with the real issue
What do Systems Leaders do?

"Get on the balcony." Observe events and patterns

Decide to lead when driven to act by personal values

Interpret what you see- understand the scope for changing the system

Choosing interventions that will address the situation
They do all this by......
Adaptive leadership- When we don't know the answers and we can't direct action
Identify the challenge
Frame key questions
Disclose threats-
"If we don't change"
Disorientate rules- find new ways to do things
Expose conflict-
"cooking the conflict"
Challenge norms-
"why don't we?"



(From Heifetz and Linksly "A survival guide for leaders")
(From: "The practice of adaptive leadership" Grashow, Linksy and Heifetz)
From hero to host
Provide conditions for people to work together
Provide the resource of time and space
Insist on learning from experience
Offer unequivocal support
Keep the bureaucracy at bay
Protect the freedom to experiment
Reflect on progress
Make achievements visible
Value conviviality
(From: "leadership in an age of complexity", Wheatley.)
What do Systems Leaders do?
Find the ‘real’ leaders who are making change happen
Create a holding environment - bring the right people together –
Keep the work where it needs to be
Create an honest, difficult conversation
Build a long-term sense of shared endeavour
(From OPM-Systems Leadership)
Systems Leaders design spaces that make things happen
Think about meeting design and creating the conditions for a different kind of conversation.

For a meeting to be really useful – it has to change something

Disturbance is important – we need to learn to do different things

Difference is more interesting than consensus – cherish the ‘outliers’ and the difficult questions

Conflict can be useful – if we make it creative – don’t duck the important issues.
Once you have intervened...
Hold steady

Watch as people respond

Keep the work at the centre of peoples' attention

Build your authority-find alliances

Stay close to the opposition- explore difference

Understand yourself in the system
Identify your loyalties

Name your "unspeakable" loyalties

Know your "triggers."

Broaden your bandwith

Discover your tolerance


From "The Practice of Adaptive Leadership" Grashow, Linksy and Heifetz
Try to operate self-consciously through all six dimensions. Ask yourself.....
How am I feeling?
– in what way are my values engaged?

What am I noticing?
What is my diagnosis of what is going on?

What am I – and others – thinking?
What is the analysis and the synthesis that needs to happen?

How am I relating to, and supporting others?

What are my actions?
Am I behaving in ways that lead to change

How am I being?
– what am I bringing and contributing to the leadership effort by the way I am?


Practical first steps
Follow the energy

Create "clarity for now"

Change by doing

Link "big picture thinkers" and doers

Understand that other people have different ways of leading- empathise!

Find space for an observing eye
After Ralph Stacey
What do systems leaders do?
SKinsella@opm.co.uk

Source @helenbevan
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