« UK Systems Society Conference 2009 | Main | Systems Thinking and Design Thinking »

May 24, 2009

The Search For Leadership

Dear Colleague,

Even the most sophisticated Leadership Development programs in even the most forward-thinking organizations can seem like little more than glorified fish polishing.

Systems Thinking (and our own experience) tell us that individual managers and leaders are like fish in a fish tank. All HR’s efforts to train, develop and polish the fish will be wasted if the water remains foul.

So, while 2009 might seem like a good year to look for heroic, archetypal leaders to lead us out of the fear and uncertainty wrought by recession, climate change, British MPs’ expenses and pig flu – maybe it isn’t.

Peter Senge started the discussion about Systemic Leadership. Now Bill Tate, formerly head of HR Strategy at British Airways, has developed the definitive guide to Systemic Leadership. Its starting point is simple:

  • a leader is only as good as the system he or she operates in
  • leadership isn’t just about leaders or people, it’s about the whole organizations (its values, culture, policies, shadow-side, strategies, systems, etc.)
  • ‘leader development’ [what Bill Tate calls ‘polishing fish before putting them back into the murky water of the fish tank’] is a fatally flawed solution
  • a more distributed leadership culture is vital if organizations are to tap into front-line experience and generate energy for change

To find out more, please visit the dedicated website at: www.TheSearchForLeadership.com

About Triarchy Press
Triarchy Press is an independent publisher of books and pamphlets focusing on organisations, how they work and the way we work in them.
[email protected] ~ www.triarchypress.com

Alison Melvin
Triarchy Press, Station Offices, Axminster, De EX13 5PF, United Kingdom.

Posted by ACASA on May 24, 2009 at 01:27 PM | Permalink



I read your short article with interest. You seem to be saying that if the management system itself is flawed, no amount of management training will make any difference.

Surely a great leader and communicator would see that and inspire and encourage all those under him to change things in line with his vision. However, I am more interested in whether you can ever ntrain somebody to be this great sort of leader. In other words "Are great leaders born or can they be made?"

I have been studying how various organisations and educational establishments claim to be able to train leaders. There are numerous courses at university and elsewhere. Quite a few private companies are offering highly recommended, though quite expensive, 2 day strategic leadership and management courses intended to inspire and develop the necessary skills to run a large organisation. Presumably overcoming any failings in that company's management structure.

This one in particular compares great wartime commanders and communicators to present day business leaders but I am more interested in the general principle rather than a specific course.

We are often told that great leaders are born not made - Do you agree with that premise or is it possible that leadership skills can be "taught" to delegates in such a short period.

I would be interested to hear what others think too and would invite further comments from your readers.

Many thanks for your time.

Mike Starr

Posted by: Mike Starr at Jun 14, 2013 5:08:56 AM

Post a comment