System Leadership Solves Systemic Business Problems

Systemic problems, like the ongoing pandemic, continue to plague businesses. Ergo, business leaders need to adopt systems thinking and become system leaders.

1. What is system leadership?

System leadership is defined as a collective leadership where the interconnected nature of core societal challenges requires a systemic orientation and systemic approach.

Stanford Social Innovation Review released a publication that elaborates on what constitutes a system leader and the role that a system leader plays in redressing systemic problems that affect businesses locally, regionally, and globally. The article also explains that although a critical mass of system leaders is yet to exist, the outlook is promising.

2. What are a system leader’s core capabilities?

  • Competence in looking at the bigger system and building a mutual and cohesive understanding about how each part complete the whole – this understanding will then facilitate organizational collaboration in developing solutions that nurture and improve the whole system rather than only fixing piecemeal and symptomatic individual patches.
  • Proactiveness in fostering reflection and generative conversations – this is about introspection whereby assessing how your mental models may curtail your best approach. Through introspection, you search for different vantage points from within you. By shared reflection, you empower groups to build trust while letting collective insights and creativities prevail.
  • Ability to shift from the collective focus from reactive problem-solving to co-creating the future – apply crafty system leadership to help people build positive visions rather than only reacting to immediate problems. This is not limited to building visions as effort should also pervade into building the capacity to face harsh and present realities while learning how to create new and effective solutions.

Although the persona and style of system leaders vary, their core capabilities remain similar.

3. What are the factors involved in the journey of becoming a system leader?

  • Learning as you do the required job
  • Doing away with boundaries as you engage with people
  • Working with other system leaders
  • Balancing advocacy and inquiry by being attentive to new perspectives

eCornell offers a Systems Thinking program that is timely for you to spearhead system leadership and apply it in your organization’s process.

eCornell courses are approved by SkillsFuture Singapore for SkillsFuture Credit as well as by HRDF Malaysia under its SBL Scheme.


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