The Living Organisation :

What Is the Leader’s Role?

Lions might look to us like the kings of the jungle, but there’s an awful lot more ants, bees and bacteria. Survival is not so much about being the fittest or strongest (all that work in the gym won’t get you far if all the antelope have moved to a new territory) but about being responsive and adaptive in a changing and unpredictable environment that you are not in control of.

If organisations are “iterated patterns of interaction between people,” the job of leadership, at all levels in an organisation, is to build responsiveness and adaptability into these patterns of interaction, building, evoking, encouraging and supporting structures, behaviours and actions that result in good outcomes. Leaders need to: “increase the emergent capabilities within the company to have any chance of keeping pace with change and the de-centralised forces impacting upon them.” (Western.)

But this is not to suggest that leadership is all about grand strategising from a distant corner office. Whilst effective leadership requires reflection, it’s also a day-to-day kind of thing, integrating theory and strategising with intimate action i.e. how you behave with and are experienced by others.