Leading Through Complexity

Complexity requires a different kind of leadership. We’re still exploring what leadership means in our increasingly fluid world. In order to create new ways of leading, we first need to let go of some of our old beliefs about what makes a good leader.

The main function of leadership in stable business environments is to direct and control resources. When business conditions change slowly it makes sense to pass  decisions up the chain of command because the people at the top are the ones setting the direction and steering the ship.  Leaders tell people what to do, solve their problems and require compliance.

In our complex world of ever changing challenges and opportunities the core assumptions of command and control leadership stifle growth and development, rather than promote it.  Telling people what they need to do, having leaders make all the decisions and expecting rote compliance strangles initiative and innovation.

When faced with complexity, command-and-control leaders now find themselves leaning harder and harder on these old ways of getting things done and it’s choking the energy out of organizations.  Many leaders are beginning to realize that their leadership approaches are falling short, however, they simply don’t know any other way to lead.

We need to support our leaders in making the transition from command and control to coaching and engaging.  Coaching-based leadership shifts people’s perception of what it means to be a good leader and provides them with the skills they need to try out new ways of engaging and supporting others. It also gives them the perspective and tools they need to explore new ways of being a leader in a complex environment. While there are still some situations suitable for command and control leadership, increasingly “coaching in the moment” is what’s needed to engage people’s full talents in this new world of opportunity.


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