Leading is a Complex Problem

Considering level of complexity, leading is a complex problem. It can’t be solved by same approach in every situation. It needs to be solved in the given context, with emergent practices.

In a complex domain, we can still abide by a set of principles. Those principles guide us in choosing actual practices. My current guiding principles as a leader are following three.

Cynefin framework by Dave Snowden, from Wikimedia Commons.

1: Get results with my team under given circumstances right now.

We are there to achieve a goal or to produce value somehow. We need to get that done, no matter what the circumstances. If there is a blocker, remove it. If there’s an obstacle, work around it. Just get stuff delivered.

2: Get even better results with my team in the future.

We want to continuously improve the circumstances we work in, to enable even higher performance in the future. I aim to increase conditions that are helping us. I aim to get rid of conditions that are hindering us.

3: Make myself useless.

I want to grow the team and the whole organization to take care of themselves. If I need to help with something or do some specific task once, it’s all great. I can even do it couple of times. But if I find myself solving the same problem or facilitating workshop with the same goal over three times, I start to think something’s going wrong. I want to help others to take responsibility, which in turn enables me to turn my focus to new, more interesting challenges.

With these three guiding principles in mind, I look at upcoming challenges and situations and try to decide what is the best practice to choose in a given situation. Do I need to step forward and take an active role, or step back and let things play out with someone else already assuming the lead for solving given issue, task or problem. The actual leadership practices will emerge and my choices evolve over time, with guidance from these principles.


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