Getting started


This section is a bit like an online self-study course.

Begin learning about systemic leadership here.

Using the four sub-menu buttons below, begin by understanding the Definitions, Principles and Theories.  Move on by appreciating the Key Questions. Then explore Understanding Systemic Leadership before learning the practicalities of Applying Systemic Leadership.

Definitions, principles and theories

“It works in theory. But does it work in practice?”

By way of introduction, and choosing from the list provided, we suggest you start with the fishtank metaphor. Follow by reading the short synopsis on systemic leadership. You’ll find more detail after that in the point-by-point overview.

At a practical level, at different times, managers need to be able both to manage and lead. To understand the difference between the two roles, go to managing versus leading. In a similar vein, management and managing are different, as are leadership and leading.

The more academically minded can read how systemic leadership draws on the discipline of systems thinking in basic principles of systems thinking as applied to management and leadership.


Get the full list here

The key questions in systemic leadership

The key questions break down under six headings. Questions are about:

  1. Systemic diagnosis
  2. The thinking challenge
  3. The observational challenge
  4. For individual leaders to ask themselves
  5. Assumptions and expectations about leadership practice
  6. What organisations need to know about their managers’ leadership

Read the questions

Improving understanding of systemic leadership

Systemic leadership views leadership from the organisation’s end of the telescope. The approach treats leadership as a property of the organisation as well as of individual leaders. It asks questions like ‘What does the organisation need to do if it is to become better led as a whole?’ And it recognises that it isn’t just managers who need to learn, develop and change: the organisation needs to do these things too.

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Applying systemic leadership practice

Acting systemically means taking a whole systems (or ‘holistic’) approach, rather than selecting individual parts of the system and ‘fixing them’. Classical leadership development programmes make this error, because individual managers’ competence is only one component of the wider system. Other components include, for example, the way incentives are designed to influence managers’ performance, the way the hierarchy and grading structure impose constraints, the process for holding managers to account, and so on.

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