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People Aren’t As Important As You Think


Whether or not you believe your organization functions as a whole or as a collection of separate parts has a profound influence on the way you lead and the nature of your organization’s culture.

An important part of  being an effective leader is thinking in systems – looking at the forest, not just the trees. A leader knows that her organization is in fact a dynamic and complex whole, not just a collection of parts.

Individual humans are complex and so a collection of humans is very complex. The network of relationships within the system of your organization – whether 10 people or 10,000 – is inherently complex. Any change in the group affects the group as a whole.

Effective leaders focus on the relationships, the lines between individuals, more than on the individuals themselves.

When there is a problem in an organization, the easy thing to do is to find an individual to blame (Jim has a bad attitude, Susan is overly ambitious, Bob is careless, Mary runs over people). So, the solution appears to be an easy one – get rid of Jim, Susan, Bob, or Mary and the problem in the organization goes away!

Only, the problem remains and we wonder why.

It’s because there are issues in the system – the interrelationships – that aren’t solved by scapegoating.

The answers to chronic problems in the organization are rarely if ever safely laid at the feet of any one person. The wise leader sees past personalities and focuses on the ways in which individuals within the group relate to one another.

In organizations with healthy interdependence, members say things like these responses from our survey, The Engagement Dashboard  (TED):
-When a problem repeats itself, I understand that I may be part of the problem.
-My actions are influenced by those around me, even though I am ultimately responsible.
-In turn, my actions influence those around me.
-The way people interact with each other takes on a predictable pattern over time and that offers real insight into the way things work around here.

Find out more about TED here.

A great resolve for a leader is to learn to think and see in systems rather than problems and relationships rather than individuals.