Leading in Uncertainty with Cynefin – Cognitive Edge
Updated: Aug 6
What is the role of leadership in crisis?
Leaders are condition creators
Shape context (environment)
Nurture parts of the context that allow people to flourish.
Create conditions for all leaders within the system to co-create change
Work with the interface of authority
Allow collective-leadership to emerge within constraints
Help prepare others for adaptive environments
Help others embrace and understand complexity:
What is complexity?
Emphasise complexity is continuous. It’s not going away
Help increase comfort with complexity. Reduce threat.
Help people recognise complex situations vs ordered situations
Leadership behaviours that don’t work well in complexity
Humans try to respond to uncertainty with order – Build new habits to break these behaviours
More helpful response:
Let’s see whats going on now in the present moment.
I don’t know, I need to pay more attention
Leaders can fall into a reactive trap
Mistake – Leaders rely on the past – we did this ten years ago
Leaders try and overly control and shape the system
Leaders default to an order response and deny the complexity
Fail to seek novel solutions. Rely on what has worked in the past
How to enable an adaptive response?
Create an Adaptive space – conflicting and connecting
Engage with emergence with a sense of direction towards an outcome
Opposing forces in tension – push for novelty vs push for stability
Engage the tension – embrace conflicting – amplify diversity
Ordered response we try to remove conflict
Need to start connecting the conflict towards some outcome
Amplify connections towards some agreement
Turn this into new normal(reality) of the system
Inner-Capability of Leaders to lead others in Complexity
Not knowing is seen as a threat
We physically and emotionally experience complexity
Shame is important to learning – Potential of shame increases shame and drives learning
The experience of many today is: Not knowing plus fear of death
Leaders need to work on themselves to be comfortable to embrace this uncertainty.
Allow all voices to be heard: fear, shame, guilt. Embrace diversity. Create collective-intelligence
Learn to embrace the tension between formal (hierarchy) and informal(community) systems
People have a reactive response to complexity, driven by threat
Questions for leaders:
How do I prepare myself internally to handle the adaptive nature of the system/environment
How do I deal with all of the things coming at me?
Some leaders are natural complexity thinkers – not everyone will be able to think in this way but they can be trained in behaviours and skills
Leaders need to work at three levels – Myself, my environment, others
Individual v Collective Leadership
Leaders job is to create leadership through the system
Leader should drop the hero complex
Leadership is not a scarce resource
Leadership is meaningless without the the followship (and vice-versa)
What is the question that emerges in this complexity?
What is the task of leadership? How might it be forming and reforming?
How do we help all of us handle the complexity of our collective challenges?
How do we build more resilience into our complex systems?
Leadership in emergence
Leadership of emergence – How to run organisation
Paradox is at the heart of the system
Real change is happening at the micro-local level
Answers are transient and questions remain