“The temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing. A gardening approach to leadership is anything but passive.
The leader acts as an “Eyes-On, Hands-Off” enabler who creates and maintains an ecosystem in which the organization operates.”
― Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
Coaching and Leadership from a Complexity Perspective
Complexity science and application alter the way we look at change, transformation, leadership and organisational development.
Today’s leaders are asked to navigate in complex environments, while most of their technical skill sets enable them for more transactional, expert-style interactions. The distinction between complex and complicated domains has become a crucial one in the VUCA world, with a capital C for Complexity.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it quite clear that the world has become more volatile and unpredictable. Uncertainty and ambiguity are no longer buzzwords, but people have a felt sense of what it means to face these challenges for real on a daily basis in both personal and professional life.
“In a world where causality is systemic, entangled, in flux, and often elusive, we cannot design for absolute outcomes. Instead, we need to design for emergence. “ Ann Pendleton-Jullian
How to respond to an increasingly ‘white water world’ is the primary challenge facing today’s leaders and leadership, and it changes coaching and leadership development accordingly in these contexts.
There is an emerging quality, a different dimension, that defines coaching and leadership development from a complexity viewpoint:
The complexity part signifies, that we draw on a multitude of perspectives based on a coherent theory and practice of leadership for today’s disruptive, volatile, and intensively networked society. We are committed to working with what is, with probing, sensing and safe-to-fail experiments for adaptive contexts.
The coaching aspect means that we don’t come with ready-made solutions and recipes and that we enable our clients, private and corporate, to find their own solutions in the circumstances of their everyday challenges. However, complexity coaching goes beyond the aspect of bringing out the fullest personal and professional potential in a leader. It brings in the whole relationship with people’s embeddedness in different systems and environments. Complexity coaching looks as much at the systemic context, the ‘in-between’ and the relationship dynamics as well as the actions and skills of individual leaders.