Systemic Leadership Toolkit, William Tate (Triarchy Press, October 2009)


The toolkit is a companion to The Search for Leadership: An Organisational Perspective. It encourages users to think systemically about their whole system. The toolkit’s nine themes are ‘Leadership and … Management Development, Organisation Development, Learning, Competence, Culture, Decline, Systems, the Shadow, and Accountability’. Cases studies take real-life examples and illustrate points in the themes; they include subjects like Newcastle Football Club, the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand scandal, and ‘What the Baby Peter (Baby ‘P’) Case Teaches Us About Leadership’.

The toolkit diagnoses how well the user’s organisation works as a system in delivering leadership for the business, targeting its leadership culture, structure, processes, dynamics, etc., rather than the leadership ability of individual managers.

When used in large-scale interventions, the toolkit’s design is strongly participative and draws on the knowledge and experience that already exists in the organisation. Groups of managers and HR/development specialists are encouraged to use it to look deeply into the way their organisation approaches the challenge of leadership.

In the most popular format, groups of managers join roundtable discussions to consider questions contained in the toolkit. Some of the questions invite a write-in comment or a tick-box response, but most are designed and worded so that they can be scored. A four-point rating scale is used, as in this example from Module 1: ‘Leadership and Management Development’:

How well do these statements describe your organisation? Rate each one on a scale of 0 – 3, where 0 = not at all/untrue, and 3 = very well/true.

‘Your managers know what your organisation needs from their leadership at this time.’

Don’t know             0                      1                      2                       3

A high score of 3 equates to a favourable position for your organisation. You can convert your total score for a questionnaire into a percentage, as shown on the group summary sheet that follows each questionnaire. A low total score/percentage for a questionnaire suggests remedial action is needed for that module’s subject.

A sample of other statements against which to assess your organisation includes the following:

From Module 2: Leadership and Organisation Development

‘In the environment that surrounds your managers the system never imposes compliance in support of the current regime.’

From Module 3: Leadership and Learning

‘Your organisation plays an active role in considering whether and when particular senior managers would benefit from a job move.’

From Module 4: Leadership and Competence

‘Your organisation is clear about what it needs to do to release leadership and capitalise on the competence of individual managers.’

From Module 5: Leadership and Culture

‘Power is becoming less narrowly concentrated at the top of the hierarchy.’

From Module 6: Leadership and Decline

It is rare for people to avoid discussion at an appropriate level for fear of over-stepping the mark.’

From Module 7: Leadership and Systems

‘It is easy to talk the language of ‘systems’ without being ridiculed, shouted down or receiving a blank stare.’

From Module 8: Leadership and the Shadow

‘The risk of your organisation tipping unhealthily too far towards rigid stability and order, or towards anarchy and disorder, is low.’

From Module 9: Leadership and Accountability

‘It is clear with whom the main responsibility lies for monitoring and advising on the system’s health, design, functioning and improvement.’

In traditional top-down, leadership-push, change programmes, diagnosis is often seen as a forerunner to the intervention, with its output handed down to others to act upon. In using the toolkit, however, the meetings and conversations that happen at the initial diagnostic stage, and the exchange of perceptions across and up and down the organisation, constitute an essential ingredient in bringing about organisation-wide change and improvement. Those early conversations are part of that change. As they say, every conversation changes the future – however unknown and unknowingly.

Copies of the toolkit can be ordered either from the author ( or the publisher Triarchy Press (