Systems Inspired Leadership is a new and unique approach to addressing 21st century leadership challenges.
Here you can read 10 short posts about the special qualities and possible misunderstandings of Systems Inspired Leadership.
The word system puts some people off, as it can seem impersonal, cold, and mechanical. However, Systems Inspired Leadership refers to relationship systems.
System describes the web of connection and interdependence between people. The stronger this web is, the more easily information can flow, and wisdom be tapped.
Systems inspired leadership values the voice and experience of everyone in the system. It holds that everyone is right … partially.
This opens up a powerful field of possibility and inspiration. The focus on relationships makes Systems Inspired Leadership deeply human and purposeful.
Some people get the impression that Systems Inspired Leadership focuses too much on people and relationships, and risks losing focus on results. The reality is that while adding value and results are equally important to systems inspired leaders, we focus on more than just results.
One approach sees people as interchangeable – a way to get the job done, rather than as full human beings. When we see people as replaceable, we reduce our ability to collaborate. Teams innovate best when there is a sense of trust and belonging.
Systems Inspired Leadership builds a web of connection between people. It is by tapping into everyone’s wisdom and experience, that we create the most value.
The core belief of Systems Inspired Leadership is that when it comes to creating sustainable results, relationship matters.
Does Systems Inspired Leadership still have formal leaders? Frank Uit de Weerd and Marita Fridjhon often hear this question. The answer is yes – but we look at the role of leader in a different way:
In Systems Inspired Leadership the system itself leads the way. This doesn’t mean that organizations don’t need people in formal leadership roles. Leadership as a role of the system points to a constant dance between leading and following. Yet we still depend on formal leadership roles to provide the structure.
The role of the leader changes significantly in Systems Inspired Leadership. Rather than directing and controlling people, systems inspired leaders provide the space to tap into collective wisdom.
Systems Inspired Leadership takes “the boss” out of leadership. It invites you to embrace a new style of leadership that helps the system to become aware of itself and make conscious choices.
Rather than assuming one leader must know and impose the answers, we support the system to lead from collaboration, innovation and shared purpose.
Systems Inspired Leadership reveals the brilliance of the system.
Some people imagine that Systems Inspired Leadership means endless talking, compromise and watered-down decisions. This is a misconception.
While Systems Inspired Leadership has a powerful model for hearing from all stakeholder voices, it also suggests different ways of making decisions.
Decisions might be made by:
To maintain trust, it is vital to clarify the way that decisions will be made upfront. Making decisions at the top without collective input can lead to unintended consequences. This might include weak strategies, team disempowerment and fear, and perhaps even sabotage.
Leaders can be conscious and intentional about decision making, whilst still collecting rich input from the system. It’s about making conscious and well-informed decisions.
Systems Inspired Leadership lifts the gaze from individuals to the team or system itself. As a result, some people are afraid that their own voice will get lost using this approach. This is not the case at all.
Systems Inspired Leadership emphasizes the importance of all voices being heard, including the silent and marginalized ones. Hearing these brings the full tapestry of experiences and insights to the surface.
The biggest contribution that individual team members can make is to express themselves fully rather than holding back. This includes the voice of the Systems Inspired Leader, by the way! It is possible that your views and perspectives may not always be fully embraced on the chosen way forward. However, this input process tends to create understanding and ownership of decisions.
We count on the maturity of individuals in looking beyond their own interests, connecting with the needs of the whole and taking co-responsibility for the direction that is chosen. In a world that is polarized and driven by personal interests, these abilities are key.
Systems Inspired Leadership hears all voices of the system and connects to the needs of the whole.
How does your organization ensure all voices are heard?
Frank Uit de Weerd and Marita Fridjhon are sometimes asked whether the collaborative approach of Systems Inspired Leadership makes sense in a world that demands speed and agility. Our answer is yes! We start slow to go fast.
In a world that requires fast decisions and urgent solutions, some might think that the collaborative approach of Systems Inspired Leadership takes too long.
Even in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment, Systems Inspired Leadership invites you to slow down. We know this is not easy. It may feel counterintuitive.
Still, it is only when we slow down that we create a space for reflection. The system can become aware of underlying patterns and ways of thinking. It can transform itself, developing new and often unexpected ways forward.
Those in the system can also be rejuvenated –filled with hope and energy rather than feeling stressed, burnt-out and depressed.
This environment nurtures a sense of purpose and belonging which is so key to any systems inspired culture.
Although Systems Inspired Leadership may look slow at first glance, in the long run we go faster and farther together.
Are you leaving space for your team to reflect?
Some might think that Systems Inspired Leadership puts so much focus on feelings and emotions that data takes a backseat. In reality, we rely on both forms of intelligence.
It is true that Systems Inspired Leadership begins with creating systems inspired safety and building a powerful web of connections between people. The systems inspired leader pays attention to people’s experiences and feelings. After all, emotions are the currency of relationships.
We create a safe space to tap into intuition, and ask questions to activate inner knowing. Questions like: “What is trying to happen?” and “If you embody the team, what does it want and need?”
Logical and analytical thinking is equally important! We ask questions like: “Does this make sense?”, “What are the risks of this approach?” and “What strategy and action steps can get us there?”
A systems inspired approach involves both analysis and intuition. How do you draw on both strengths in your leadership?
Frank Uit de Weerd and Marita Fridjhon are sometimes asked how System Inspired Leadership deals with tension and conflict.
We see conflict as the engine of change. Having a strong web of relationships is an essential condition…
Does your team avoid conflict? While some may think that great teams always work in harmony, in fact the opposite is true.
A few thoughts on why conflict is just something to be navigated – perhaps even welcomed…
Systems Inspired Leadership is focused on building right relationship. In this context, right means to be intentional about who you want to be in a team or system in order to best serve it. Some think this means that there must always be harmony.
In fact, Systems Inspired Leadership welcomes conflict and tension. Conflict is a sign form the system that change is needed. It also provides a map! Conflict means that the status quo no longer satisfies. Something new is trying to emerge.
We shift the perspective from “Who is doing what to whom?”, to “What is trying to happen?”
Productive conflict requires a strong web of connection and systems inspired safety. If not, conflict will lead to high emotion, polarization, damaged relationships and toxicity.
Nurturing right relationship is critical to productive conflict.
Does Systems Inspired Leadership require that team members must always be positive?
No – but when the atmosphere is mostly positive, teams have an easier time when conflict does show up.
Systems Inspired Leadership aims to create positivity in teams and organizations. Some might think this means that we gloss over or ignore what is difficult.
In fact, Systems Inspired Leadership acknowledges that difficult moments and unintended impacts are part of any relationship. We must deal skilfully with conflict when it does appear.
At the same time, a positive atmosphere benefits the team. Research shows that building up a positive balance in the emotional bank account of the relationship makes a big difference when we do encounter challenging moments.
Being generous with appreciation and leaning toward the positive lets us draw on goodwill when conflict does appear. When positivity is already high, difficult conversations and productive conflict become easier.
Teams with strong relationship at the core can tap into collective wisdom to develop better solutions.
How does your leadership have a positive effect?
Frank Uit de Weerd and Marita Fridjhon are sometimes asked about the being side of Systems Inspired Leadership, because the book focuses so much on the doing side.
The being side is super important. Our belief is that it develops naturally when you put Systems Inspired Leadership into practice. One cannot do without the other. This little post digs deeper – so read further to learn more.
Systems Inspired Leadership supports us in the doing –in taking action to evolve. Some people wonder about the being side of this approach.
Inside each of us are many, often opposing, voices that must be heard and integrated. Discovering and evolving the “system of me” is a massive and lifelong endeavor.
The systems inspired rule of “everyone is right… partially” reminds us to stay curious and open about the wisdom of all the voices in the system. This applies both to the voices of others, and those inside yourself.
Learning to listen to all of the voices of the system allows us to grow and become wiser. We are better able to deal with complexity, address dilemmas and ambiguity, and appreciate an interdependent and interconnected world.
Systems Inspired Leadership offers practical tools to evolve into a new way of being – meeting you where you are in your growth as a human being.
How does your leadership support evolution?