The Challenge of Systems Leadership

The Challenge of Systems Leadership
At no time in history have we needed… system leaders more.”
— Peter Senge et al in their seminal 2015 SSIR article The Dawn of Systems Leadership

But, being a systems leader is hard work. It’s slow, painstaking, with many dead ends, limited fans and just when you think ‘why am I doing this again?’, a smattering of inspiring, life affirming moments that keep you committed to the cause.

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Interview: Systems change network builders

Interview: Systems change network builders

Some things I’ve learnt:

  • The people who live and breathe in the system are those who have to come up with the solutions to change it. Inputs from external experts are useful but they have to make sense to the people in the system.
  • The system, not the poor, must be the unit of intervention if we want sustainable impact at scale.
  • You have to listen to the system. Truly listen; without confirmation biases, without ego, without expectations, without intention, listen quietly and openly.
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Mutiny at your workshop 

Mutiny at your workshop 

Everyone who’s convened has been there.

Sometimes it looks like a huddle of people talking at lunchtime, avoiding your eye contact. It can be a friendly chat at dinner, “you should really do x”. Or a more direct hand up in plenary, "we've been talking and we just don't think we're focusing on the right thing." 

Psychologists talk about ‘emotional contagion’. This is where one person's emotions and behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people. Emotional contagion means that if you don't nip it in the bud, you can have a full blown mutiny on your hands. 

In my experience, there are some important moves you can make to prevent it happening in the first place. Here they are: 

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Interview: Systems change network builders

Interview: Systems change network builders

Some things I’ve learnt:

  • The people who live and breathe in the system are those who have to come up with the solutions to change it. Inputs from external experts are useful but they have to make sense to the people in the system.
  • The system, not the poor, must be the unit of intervention if we want sustainable impact at scale.
  • You have to listen to the system. Truly listen; without confirmation biases, without ego, without expectations, without intention, listen quietly and openly.
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“The joy is in the journey”. Really?

“The joy is in the journey”. Really?

When you think of evolving institutions, professions and organizations, joy isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind. Change is hard. It feels heavy, political, exhausting and serious. 

But at The Systems Studio joy is front and center of what we do. It is our reason for being.

And here’s why- joy is a brilliant strategy for systems change.

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Systems change: What makes it different from the rest of the buzz words? 

Systems change: What makes it different from the rest of the buzz words? 

Systems Change is about seeing a problem from multiple perspectives. Systems change initiatives typically work on many failures within the system at once. They are defined by their focus on the root cause of an issue, rather than solving the symptoms of a problem. They typically employ a combination of many interventions at once because one strategy will rarely solve a complex challenge. 

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