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Staying Alive In Complex Challenges Of Leadership And Organizations

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SYSTEM BLINDNESS

A typical error of leaders and anyone in organizations that prove to be costly is a direct result of the five hindrances, as well as our simplistic approach to complex systems. The hierarchical systems in which the power is distributed asymmetrically, in which some are tops, some are bottoms, and some middles, create similar and typical dynamics that are independent of people, personalities, culture, and socioeconomic realities[5]. Everyone who enters the field and context of tops, middles, and bottoms are impacted by these systemic dynamics; and to the extend they are not able to objectively see these impacts on themselves and others, react in predictable ways:

  • Tops, as those who are in charge of the whole system and everyone in it, and the results as a whole, will experience pressure of accountability and having to deal with complexity (VUCA).
  • Bottoms, as they are at the bottom of the power chain, will experience disregard and vulnerability.
  • Middles, as they will be receiving demands from every party that they need to go to others to satisfy, will feel tearing.
  • And customers (internal and external) will experience anxiety and neglect as they will expect delivery.

The systemic and contextual inability to see the system we are in and the complexity (VUCA) of it, the impact of the system on us, the conditions it creates, the situation and the experience of ourselves and others in the system, namely “system and context blindness” is both the reason and the result of this. What makes it even more difficult to deal with this is our predictable reflexive reactions to these very normal and predictable systemic realities; and these reflexive reactions are fueled by the Five Hindrances of Leadership (you may also see how SCARF factors are also implied in the below statements):

  • Tops, in their attempt to deal with the complexity and the burden of accountability, try to control the system even more, and assume more responsibility, and thus end up with more complexity and more accountability.
  • Bottoms, in their reflexive attempt to deal with the bottom vulnerability and disregard, and with the luxury of being innocently at the bottom, hold all others responsible for their situation and as a result feel more powerless.
  • Middles, in their attempt to deal with the tearing, try to make everyone happy, ends up making no one happy, and experience more tearing.
  • Customers, in their attempt to deal with their experience of neglect, move themselves away from the system and to a position of judgment, and making it more likely they will end up dissatisfied.

Most of the issues we coach leaders around have a sense of these vicious cycles in the background. The thing we do to alleviate our pain makes it even worse (which is a common human error).

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