Home Concepts Gestalt Principles Staying Alive In Complex Challenges Of Leadership And Organizations

Staying Alive In Complex Challenges Of Leadership And Organizations

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If we are not able to see, as coaches, the systemic complexity, and the influences of the context, we will be making the same error of turning contextual problems into personal ones, and thus be unhelpful to our clients. As Kurt Lewin says “Eighty percent of the behavior is determined by the context”.


When we look at the bigger picture, we can see that leaders are dealing with two kinds of problems: Technical and adaptive. Technical problems are the ones than can be solved with the current expertise, and exactly that expertise, coupled with some authority, is what we need to solve them. Adaptive problems, on the other hand, generally require adapting attitudes, approaches, values, beliefs, and as a result, behaviors to the needs of the presented challenges of the environment and the new vision we are moving towards. Adaptive change most of the time involves new learning, innovation, and letting of some old, espoused, yet ineffective structures and values. If we look at the job of the leader today trying to navigate a world of VUCA, we would see most of their job is exercising adaptive leadership. And to be able to do this, leaders should build enough capacity to maintain presence and mindfulness on the face of VUCA challenges, to stay awake against the five hindrances and to overcome system blindness.


So, how do we create adaptive change? This brings us to fundamental tool and the currency of leadership: Attention.

The movement of attention, or the figure and ground fluidity (or fixation, for that matter) has always been pointed out by Gestalt practitioners as what defines our subjective reality, how we see the world, and what determines our thinking, attitudes and behaviors. The most simplistic definition of the Gestalt approach can be that we are helping clients become aware of how their behavioral (and invisible) attending process defines their thinking, feeling and action, and thus helping them have more choices around that.

Neuroscientists like Jeffrey Schwartz[7] demonstrate the same phenomenon. Their research show that the powerful and automatic conditioning like the five hindrances and system blindness can be changed, and new approaches and behaviors can be learned. Schwartz demonstrates that even very difficult behavioral challenges like Obsessive Compulsive Behavioral Disorder can be treated by a learning strategy that involves using Attention in a strategic way, enabling deep Reflection, and facilitating new Insights and awareness, and designing new behavioral experiments and Action, hence the ARIA learning model.

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