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Systems Leadership for Effective Services Report

This brief thinkpiece summarises the key features of a model of leadership that is increasingly being accepted as the most appropriate way of describing what Directors of Children’s Services in England do when they are at their most effective. Termed ‘systems leadership’, it echoes the way in which school leadership is being reconstructed by thinkers such as David Hargreaves who writes about headteachers as ‘system leaders’ , and it matches the increasing emphasis in the health service on ‘collaborative leadership’. What all three have in common is that they replace the traditional notion of the leader as the sole source of power and authority, with a version of leadership which reflects the complexity of modern society and the decline of deference, a position argued strongly by Margaret Wheatley who suggests that ‘in these troubled,uncertain times, we don’t need more command and control, we need better means to engage everyone’s intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise’.

Systems leadership is a marker of the more general shift in modes of transmission from hierarchical to viral, and, in forms of social organisation, from analogue to digital. Arguably, it is the only kind of leadership likely to survive the advent of social media.

Systems leadership for effective services

Systems Innovation Discussion Paper

Why successful innovation goes beyond products

Charlie Leadbeater – January 2013

Steve Jobs was often late. Apple has not always been first to market with cutting edge technology. Often it turned up when the party had got going but before it was in full swing. Apple brought some of its key products to market only when it knew it could wrap around them a supportive system which would deliver content and services to customers with one hand and with the other collect all their credit card details.

The Apple that started making computers to sit on desktops was a product company. The Apple that has become the most valuable company in the world does something different: it creates products that are entry points to systems. It is a systems innovator…

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Systems innovation discussion paper

Leadership in the Age of Complexity

Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host

Margaret Wheatley with Debbie Frieze ©2010

published in Resurgence Magazine, Winter 2011

For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her. Somewhere…

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Leadership in Age of Complexity

Leadership Centre NHS Leadership Academy Public Health England The Staff College