"The deep changes necessary to accelerate progress against society's most intractable problems require a unique type of leader—the system leader, a person who catalyzes collective leadership."
"We believe system leadership is critical for the times in which we now live, but the ideas behind it are actually quite old. About 2,500 years ago Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu eloquently expressed the idea of individuals who catalyze collective leadership:
The wicked leader is he whom the people despise."The real question today is, Is there any realistic hope that a sufficient number of skilled system leaders will emerge in time to help us face our daunting systemic challenges? We believe there are reasons for optimism. First, as the interconnected nature of core societal challenges becomes more evident, a growing number of people are trying to adopt a systemic orientation. Though we have not yet reached a critical mass of people capable of seeing that a systemic approach and collective leadership are two sides of the same coin, a foundation of practical know-how is being built."
The good leader is he whom the people revere.
The great leader is he of whom the people say, “We did it ourselves.”
"Second, during the last thirty years there has been an extraordinary expansion in the tools to support system leaders, a few of which we have touched on in this article. We have observed numerous instances where the strategic use of the right tool, at the right time, and with the right spirit of openness, can shift by an order of magnitude the ability of stakeholders to create collective success. With the right shifts in attention, networks of collaboration commensurate with the complexity of the problems being addressed emerge, and previously intractable situations begin to unfreeze."
"Last, there is a broad, though still largely unarticulated, hunger for processes of real change. This is undoubtedly why a person like Mandela strikes such a resonant chord. There is a widespread suspicion that the strategies being used to solve our most difficult problems are too superficial to get at the deeper sources of those problems. This can easily lead to a sense of fatalism—a quiet desperation that our social, biological, economic, and political systems will continue to drift toward chaos and dysfunction. But it can also cause people to be more open to seeking new paths. Compared to even a few years ago, we find that many today are exploring new approaches that move beyond the superficial to ignite and guide deeper change. Organizations and initiatives like those described in this article have succeeded because of a growing awareness that the inner and outer dimensions of change are connected. As our awakening continues, more and more system leaders who catalyze collective leadership will emerge."