In a 24/7 news cycle, we focus on events as if they are discrete and separate from each other. This way of reporting doesn’t help us understand or make meaning of the world around us. It’s like our stories are all moving parts on a dance floor. Dancers would tell us that when you are on the dance floor that the focus is on individual moves and the joy of the dance. It’s not about bumping into each other. But even the dancers’ view doesn’t give us perspective on the whole floor, only the individual movements in our part of the dance floor.
To see all the patterns and dynamics of the dance floor, we need to move up to the balcony and look down on the people and all their interactions. This perspective helps us see how people are responding to each other, and lets us focus on the larger patterns emerging from the dance. Viewing things from the balcony helps us see our interdependence rather than our individual actions.
Leadership also requires this perspective. We need to learn how to see patterns that are occurring in our organizations and the world. When we look for patterns, we add a powerful aspect to our leadership. Patterns teach us how different systems are connected to build leadership adaptation and strategy.
Feedback helps us understand what’s happening on a system level.
Nature balances and innovates with feedback. If we are too focused on the micro-parts of everyday events, we can’t see the interconnections and use that information to position our future strategy.
Nature is an interdependent system and can teach us about this dynamic connectivity. Nature uses feedback to curb excess and maintain dynamic equilibrium and we can too! Currently, we have political, health, economic, social, and scientific systems interacting with each other. These factors constantly create new dynamics and shifts that make understanding the overall meaning of what’s going on in our environment difficult to understand. When we report on the details (like our 24/7 news reporting) it provides data points without meaning. Nature teaches us to see patterns and use those patterns to help the system adapt. We need to go up to the balcony to see the patterns, not down to the parts.
I like to make sense of the world by following feedback loops. This requires me to go up to the metaphoric balcony – which is a systemic point of view. In a systemic view, I look for all the systems in play and whether there is a directionality to the feedback. For example, we are seeing a pattern of feedback on interdependence when we look from a systems point of view. When we acknowledge interdependence and build strategies based on interdependence, the feedback tends to be reinforcing. When we don’t acknowledge interdependence and lead from autonomy and separation instead, we tend to get feedback that resists or throws more challenges and negative implications over time. That is how you can tell if the way you are working is aligning with the direction the system is moving or if you are moving against it.
A smart leader learns to read the feedback loops on a systemic level. Step up to the balcony, look down and tell me what you see.