CHAPTER 8A Complete System of Roles: Stage 3, Distributed Leadership

Leadership is a distributed or collective capacity in a system, not just something that individuals do. Leadership is about the capacity of the whole system to sense and actualize the future that wants to emerge.

—Otto Scharmer

It's a big step to recognize that your organization needs to change—to face that truth, to accept it, even embrace it. But for those leaders who do, it's another thing altogether to successfully manage that shift. As IBM pointed out in a recent report on organizations struggling with the complex challenges of change management driven by disruptive forces in the marketplace, “The gap between the magnitude of change and the ability of organizations to manage it continues to widen.”1 In other words, more and more companies know they need to shift from stage 2 to stage 3, but they have no idea how to do it.

To start with, even the idea of “change management” may be a misnomer. Change and transformation in today's, and tomorrow's, world cannot simply be managed from the executive suite. Sure, you can go through a complex re-org that temporarily updates your entire structure, but by the time you're done, the world will have gotten ahead of you again. The clock starts ticking on its viability. The ossification timeline begins, as does the countdown to the next needed overhaul. That's why we need something more than occasional change efforts. We need a social system that can continue to adapt ...

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