Are You Thinking About Us Too?


“At no time in history have we needed such system leaders more. We face a host of systemic challenges beyond the reach of existing institutions and their hierarchical authority structures.”

The following is a brief and partial summary of an article originally published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review article, The Dawn of Systems Leadership (Senge et al 2015), leaders who “remain firmly anchored to the myth of the heroic individual leader”, and in turn fail to embrace system leadership are less effective at creating impact and the changes needed for a sustainable future.

Core Capabilities of System Leaders

According to authors Senge, Hamilton & Kania (2015), individual personalities and leadership styles may differ but system leaders are profoundly “committed to the health of the whole” and commonly demonstrate the following:

  • Encouraging and embracing the perspectives of others
  • Building relationships based on deep listening and trust
  • Demonstrating a deep appreciation for opportunities to try something new
  • Valuing and recognizing the contributions and opinions of others
  • A commitment to on-going learning, development  & growth for themselves and those around them.

The article argues that as more leaders embrace a systems approach, “organizational self-interest” and “short-term reactive problem solving” are less likely to dominate the collective culture thus allowing the system to innovate and create more effective long-term solutions.  The message being, real and impactful change is only possible when leaders stop thinking about themselves and their organizations and instead focus on, “creating well-being within the larger systems”, a system which they are both dependent and interconnected upon.

The power of success lies within the following three “core capabilities” of leaders to promote and spread the benefits of a collective leadership approach-

  1. The ability to see the larger system.
  2. The capability to foster reflective and more generative conversations.
  3. Shifting the collective focus from reactive problem solving to co-creating the future.

Gateways to Becoming a System Leader

The Dawn of of System Leadership goes on to further explore in great detail some specific “guides” and “gateways”  that developing system leaders can use to continue their learning journey. The complete article is highly recommended to anyone interested in learning more about the possibilities of creating  real change in their communities.

This summary provides only a small fraction of the original article and is provided to introduce you to the topic of collective system leadership. Hopefully, you will be inspired to read the entire SSIR Article here- The Dawn of System Leadership 

Additional Resources relating to Collective Impact & System Leadership

A panel discussion video with Peter Senge 

Framework for Collective Impact

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