System Leadership - our Compass in the Age of Disruption #WFGM17



By Evgenia Peeva, Women's Forum Rising Talent alumna


Living in a ‘disrupted’ world, I am astounded that while so many issues are changing at light speed, others remain the same. This world needs leadership which will drive change on all levels of human relationships, not just in the realms of technology and science. We need leadership that helps individuals and communities evolve their conscience and live in peace sustainably.


In the past 20 years humanity has witnessed unprecedented progress favoring our wellbeing, joy and longevity. And yet, humanity has demonstrated far less progress in the softer elements of its existence – in its morals, in its ultimate goals, in its internal working dynamics. As a millennial, I've grown to cherish values which underline my beliefs about what. I too often find myself seeing in the world too many things that are absurd:


- I see global leaders and laymen citizens alike base their policies and actions on deeply engrained stereotypes resulting in utter discrimination against “the other”;


- I see war and continuous efforts of specific nation-states (and their supporters) to vie for natural resources and economic power over others (with any means);


- I see powerful people and state heads who are selfish and lack capacity to self-reflect and seek ways to truly be helpful to their constituents in view of the global reality facing us all, interconnected human beings on planet Earth.   


How can we bridge the gap and live in a world that is 'up to date' in all its aspects, where humans are just as advanced in the way they think and act as they are in the technologies they use to access Mars or avoid car accidents?


It’s time to rethink our definition of what a leader is all about. For sure, a leader is a role model that influences others through her own behavior. Today, we mostly see leaders as those standing at the helm, providing the guiding light with their vision, attracting followers to implement pre-conceived solutions to existing problems. Essentially this definition of leadership is inspired by hierarchical army-structures that allowed empires to be built and fall. This leadership, however, has led to far too little evolution of the human collective conscience and capacity to handle modern-day threats and opportunities.


What we need today is System Leadership (a term coined by Peter Senge et al of Stanford) – where the cult of the visionary, charismatic leader is no more. The effective leader in the disrupted world is one who helps people come together, facilitates their conversation, allows herself and others develop skills to design solutions together. System leaders nurture an empowered community of collaborators who don’t need a single leader to face future challenges – they act effectively through collective leadership.


System Leadership will allow humans to address their fears together rather than in factions, to embrace each other beyond inherent stereotypes and to build a peaceful world for a future that needs us all united to ensure the survival of our kind and planet.

This article is in our ‘Daring to lead’ series, highlighting voices from the Women’s Forum Global Meeting, in Paris, on 5-6 October #WFGM17