After the recent World Economic Forum Meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai, Managing Director Lee Howell argued for the need for systems leadership. For quite some time, the World Economic Forum has been a key promoter of systems leadership as a tool to deal with the complex challenges of our times – and rightfully so.
Systems leadership focuses on the importance of knowledge: for example, knowing the differences between risk and uncertainty, understanding how to interpret human error, or knowing the risks of hindsight bias. Systems leadership also focuses on the skills that people need to develop. We see this in the research of Lisa Drier who with her colleagues created a systems change framework consisting of five elements (Convene and commit, Look and learn, Engage and energize, Act with accountability, Review and revise).
While knowledge might be difficult to understand and skills are not easy to build, none of them seem like rocket science. So why is it that we see so few leaders being effective at systems leadership? Often, an “ability” is described as the combination of knowledge, skills, and mindset – and mindset is exactly what has been forgotten in the discussion of systems leadership.