Servant Leadership and Systems Thinking (Pillar VI)

When you look at anything or consider anything, look at it as “a whole” as much as you can before you swing on it”

~Robert Greenleaf

James Sipe and Don Frick discuss the seven characteristics of servant leadership in their book, Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership: Practicing the Wisdom of Leading by Serving. Since I am a conceptual thinker most of the time (I took the Emergentics Personality profile with a group of board members), I jumped right to the systems thinker chapter. Servant leaders who thinks systemically:

  • Connects system thinking with ethical issues
  • Applies Servant Leadership to systems analysis and decision making
  • Integrates input from all parties in a system to arrive at holistic solutions, and
  • Demonstrates and awareness of how to lead and manage change.

Servant leaders use tools such as Baldridge National Quality Program, Six Sigma, Appreciative Inquiry, Change Management, and a plethora of other tools designed to see things whole and find the appropriate language to express it. Looking at the whole means to zoom out in order to see the problems in the context of patterns and structures of the entire organization and that organization’s relationship to its environment; its community and country.

System thinkers generally refer to the Systems Pyramid to illustrate the dynamics of systems thinking; Events, Strategies, Culture and Beliefs.

Events – Are at the top of the pyramid and is considered above ground and in conscious view. These are the situations we see and react to.

Strategies – Are below the events and often created in response to events or to a vision of what should happen.

Culture – Can either support or sabotage strategies, but is certainly more powerful than strategy. An organization’s culture is a mash-up of causal connections, relationships, and a history of patterns that are rigid and have become a part of the policies and assumptions of the organization.

Beliefs – Quietly run the entire show in organizations. Beliefs run the individuals to. An organization bent on the bottom line only fosters a radically different culture than an organization that runs its enterprise of the belief that it should contribute to the growth of the people and serve the wider public.

Edward Deming said that workers are only responsible for 15% of the problem while the overall system is responsible for the other 85%. For servant leaders, this is huge. Robert Greenleaf listed four requirement for the Servant-Leaders who wish to think systemically;

  • Wholeness requires moving in the right direction. If you are certain of the direction, the goal will reveal itself in due course.
  • A Servant-Leader sees life in all its glorious messiness without all the loose ends tied up neat, simplistic bows. One must learn to live peacefully and sleep well with a submerged awareness of constant danger.
  • A Servant-Leader loves the sheer beauty of this world. They cultivate a heightened sense of awareness and is able to see the connections between history, people, events, possibilities, and deep intuition.
  • A Servant – Leaders deeply understands that ethical conduct in central to seeing things whole. A Servant- Leader takes personal responsibility and acts ethically, doing what can be done with the resources at hand.

Are you willing to stand out as a Servant – Leader Systems Thinker? If so, we know that you are one who goes out ahead to show the way (Servant-Leader) and uses a well-researched method (Systems Thinking) for moving ahead on the journey.

To Leading,

Dr. Crystal

Crystal J Davis is a servant leader, blogger, and researcher. She holds a Doctorate in Management specializing in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Davis is passionately engaged in Servant Leadership and selfless service to the nonprofit and public sectors having served both large and small organizations throughout her career and consulting business. Follow Crystal @DrDavis2126 (Twitter) and, Lead.From.Within. (Facebook).

© Copyright 2015 ~Dr. Crystal J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a Reply