Leading in Complex Systems

Our work in Leadership Development has been an evolving process with us participating in training on developing leadership within systems of care within childrens’ behavioral health, leadership development within community based organizations, and developing the capacity of emerging leaders in behavioral health in addressing health disparities. As we move into 2014 we are working with leaders of diverse organizations and communities who have come together as coalitions/collaboratives to address health equity within their communities. What we have come to realize is that this type of leadership requires a very different set of KSAs (knowledge, skills, attitudes/awareness).

When you are the designated leader within an organization — you are clearly aware of the culture and climate of the organization. You are governed by the policies and SOPs (standards of practice) of that same organization. These organizational boundaries dictate your decisions and actions. However when you are serving as a member of a collaborative or coalition of leaders your decisions and actions are less clear. With diverse stakeholders at the table the culture and climate of that collaborative is less clear and there are no specific policies and SOPs except those developed by that collaborative.

Often times collaborative are created and very little attention is paid to developing that collaborative as a nascent organization. Assumptions are made that all members will understand how a collaboration functions and will immediately bond and function to meet the articulated vision, mission, and objectives. What we do know from how teams form, is that there is a progression in the development of a group from —forming, storming, norming, and performing.

When the process of forming is not guided effectively and very little time is taken to develop the covenants for the group, the group goes through an elongated process of storming. On-going confrontations and conflict impede any progress in the work of the group. When this period of storming is extended beyond a reasonable period and no efforts made to mediate the controversies raised – the atmosphere within the collaborative deteriorates and trust and goodwill is lost. Then the process of norming takes a lot of time and is often impossible without mediation and facilitation.

Over this next year Change Matrix will focus on the impact of leadership in collaborative environments, such as leadership principles and practices within collective societies. We will also go beyond our understanding of the tasks of the leader in adaptive leadership to develop clear knowledge, skills, and attitudes/awareness in putting our theories of the tasks of a leader in adaptive work into practice.