Leadership for whole systems

Welbourn, D., Warwick, R., Carnall, C. and Fathers, D. (2012) Leadership for whole systems. Project Report. King's Fund.

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This paper forms part of The King’s Fund 2012 leadership review, addressing the topic from the perspective of those seeking to provide leadership extending well outside their own immediate organisational boundaries. To establish firm foundations on which to study this whole-system aspect of leadership, the paper first explores leadership, management and administration, responding to the first King’s Fund commission which identified that the NHS is over-administered, but under-led. The simple message that management is about control while leadership is about influence becomes supremely important as we explore more deeply into the different demands of increasingly complex systems. The paper then considers the difference between organisations and systems. In this we identify four different styles of whole system:
• Networks
• Markets
• Collaborations
• Social movements
We note that the latter of these is rarely considered in relation to organisational studies, but with the rapid development of social media technologies we believe that social movements are rapidly becoming a serious contender as a major influence on leadership of whole systems. This exploration of whole systems is further developed by applying complexity science. This study demonstrates that the increasing stress facing organisations lowers the threshold at which we must treat them as complex systems. It also demonstrates that such systems respond to influence, but are not susceptible to control, thereby demonstrating that we must strengthen leadership in preference to management. The most important aspects of our paper arise when we bring these two parts of the study together, to explore which characteristics of leadership are required when working across whole systems. We make seven recommendations to leaders about characteristics commonly associated with success in whole systems.
• Go out of your way to make new connections.
• Adopt an open, enquiring mindset, refusing to be constrained by current horizons.
• Embrace uncertainty and be positive about change – adopt an entrepreneurial attitude.
• Draw on as many different perspectives as possible; diversity is non-optional.
• Ensure leadership and decision-making are distributed throughout all levels and functions.
• Establish a compelling vision which is shared by all partners in the whole system.
We include two case studies reflecting the importance of the right approach to leadership across whole systems.

Publication Type: Monographs (Project Report)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Academic Areas > Business School
Depositing User: Rob Warwick
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2014 11:10
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 15:13
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/1231

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