The most effective leaders and organizations recognize that achievements and triumphs are dependent upon the strength of their people, processes, and programs. Effective leaders are able to glean valuable insight from these three elements. They understand the imperative to develop and leverage their unique ambit, or sphere of influence, to drive organizational success at all levels.

A systems approach is a methodology for creating sustained high performance, usually in conditions of complexity and uncertainty. With this approach, leaders establish a clear path, empower their team to manage risks and challenges, and maximize opportunities along the way. Individuals are encouraged to grow, develop, and stretch beyond their comfort zones in order to achieve their, the company’s, and the leader’s ambit. This results in better decision making, more strategic thinking, improved performance, and a competitive advantage.

There are three aspects in successfully implementing a systems approach to leadership: strategy, execution, and results.

A systems approach to leadership employs strategies that address:

  • How work is divided or distributed throughout an organization, team, or project
  • What incentives are put forth to motivate an organization, team, or project
  • Processes around decision making and personal development
  • How an organization defines values and culture to drive success
  • Evaluating networks and how they tie to both individual/team performance and overall success

Successful execution of these strategies starts with clearly identifying and defining your purpose for any given activity. Planning and organizing around your purpose helps a strong leader clarify and mobilize his or her team towards specific goals and priorities. Execution of a systems approach to leadership involves analyzing current capabilities, resource planning and management, project and process management, and leveraging the appropriate relationships. For leaders of consequence, a systems approach to execution relies on empowering your team to drive success and opportunity. When executing these strategies, organizations determine the “right fit” rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, taking into account different environments, needs, and styles of individuals and teams within the organization. The successful leader uses a systems approach to developing tactical steps that deliver structured, achievable change and improvements in individuals, projects, and program performance.

In a similar vein, identifying what success looks like is a critical aspect in driving outcomes and results in this system. A systems approach to leadership will identify results in terms of measurable outcomes such as reduced costs, improved client satisfaction, better functioning teams, accelerated project completion, improved efficiencies, and enhanced innovations. Any result from such a system should speak to some combination of customer stewardship, effectiveness, innovation, performance, and influence.

A systems approach to leadership will help the leader define strategy, determine execution methods, and drive specific results, ensuring individual, team, project, program, and organizational success.

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