Growing Our 21st Century Collective Leadership Skills

Joan O'Donnell
Systemsbeing
Published in
5 min readMay 16, 2022

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What do we do when we do not know what to do next, but are under pressure to do something? Too often something becomes anything, and anything is something that we have done before.

Credit to: Photo by Lena Khrupina from Pexels

The pandemic prompted speedy innovation and improvisation: it showed us what we could do under difficult circumstances, and gave many people agency to take action that cut across the usual red tape and hierarchical ways of doing things. The extent to which people took positive social action unconditionally in their communities gives some sense of how we can take meaningful action in the face of deep uncertainty, and how we can do so together.[1] And while we are at our most innovative at the early stages of change, before routine sets in,[2] as we move into the post-Covid recovery period, it can be tempting to seek the solid ground of certainty and business as usual. It is as if an inner pendulum swings between wanting the high dry ground of certainty and wanting to step out into the swamp of uncertainty and engage with real issues on the ground. One approach works with numbers and structures; the other with patterns, and the quality of the interrelationships between different elements of the whole. One calls on our individual tenacity to take action, even if it means ‘doing the wrong thing righter’[3]

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