Independence Day 2020 is nothing like what we may have collectively planned or imagined. We have experienced a renewed respect for the importance of skilled public leaders, educators and professionals during this world-wide health crisis. The professionals on the front lines have made tremendous personal sacrifices on our behalf. Reported levels of exhaustion from the four months of long workdays, rapid learning curves and critical decision making have left many public leaders ready for a time-out which we hope they can take.
Most importantly we encourage all of you to reflect on what we are learning. Public leaders skilled in applied Systems Thinking are using their skills preemptively to avoid and contain the many types of crises facing us now (public health, financial, public safety, civil rights).
For many years the Public Sector Consortium, a nonprofit dedicated “to reinventing the practice of public leadership” has considered Systems Thinking an essential skill set for anyone practicing Public Leadership as a profession. The ability to understand systemic structures and intervene early can avoid tremendous loss (human, financial and natural). We are now experiencing the results of not understanding both applied systems thinking and the structure of exponential growth. The results are growing loss of life and looming financial challenges.
We are preparing for an on-line leadership program called:
Systems Thinking for Public Leaders in the Age of Contagious Diseases…
Learn to Lead Preemptively to Avoid Crises
We have completed three systems maps based on the current health crisis. The maps address the following three questions and are available for you to review (click here).
- Why Are We Not Able to Preserve and Enhance Strong Immune Systems Which Protect Us From Contagious Diseases and Chronic Illnesses?
- Why Is It Difficult for Public Leaders to Take Preemptive Actions to Halt the Spread of Contagions Diseases?
- Why Are We Unable to Control the Spread of Contagious Diseases in Nursing Homes?
Having a structural understanding of any system can help leaders practice foresight and appropriately intervene on behalf of the public good.
In his article “Foresight as the Central Ethic of Leadership”, Daniel Kim defines foresight as “being able to perceive the significance and nature of events before they have occurred.” Forecasting is largely based on looking at the performance of the past and extrapolating that into the future. The prevailing mental model underlying this notion is that the past is a good indicator of the future. As systems thinkers, we know the fallacy of this mental model. What is required is for leaders to understand and appreciate the power of structure in driving performance.
The failure (or refusal) to foresee may be viewed as an ethical failure; because a serious ethical compromise today (when the usual judgment on ethical inadequacy is made) is sometimes the result of a failure to make the effort at an earlier date to foresee today’s events and take the right actions when there was freedom for initiative to act.
The action which society labels “unethical” in the present moment is often really one of no choice. By this standard, a lot of guilty people are walking around with an air of innocence that they would not have if society were able always to pin a label “unethical” on the failure to foresee and the conscious failure to act constructively when there was freedom to act”.
Robert Greenleaf, The Servant as Leader.