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How Magical Leaders Approach Problems and People

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  • Magical Leaders Fit their Approaches to their contexts.
Magical leaders tailor their responses to challenges based on the type of challenge. Simple problems, like hand washing, are addressed with best practices like protocols.  Cause and effect are clear.  Complicated problems, like what product to build next, are typically solved with a team of experts who can help you pick from a number of acceptable options. In this case, there is no one right solution, but there is still a solution.  Complex problems, like culture change, have no clear cause and effect or even best approach, let alone solutions. As the people and systems involved engage, they behave in unpredictable ways and a leader's best option is to deal with what is "emerging." This requires the skill of running experiments, learning from them and making the next move based on both.  These kinds of problems are unpredictable and you only know the "right answer" after the fact (if there even is one.)  Chaotic problems, like crises that erupt, call for a "just stop the bleeding" approach.  They require a rapid response, which starts with creating a boundary to limit the impact of the crisis (send people home to work in a pandemic.) The goal is not to delve into data gathering and analysis, but to act quickly to limit the damage, like plugging the hole in a hull of a sinking ship. First and foremost, leaders choose an approach that fits the type of problem they are trying to solve, like picking up a hammer to drive a nail and not a screwdriver.
  • Like magicians, Magical Leaders continuously examine assumptions about the way things work to invent what has not been invented.
Complex challenges that organizations face today mean leaders have to continuously re-examine what they know about how things work, which requires unlearning and re-learning.  For example, the tendency when a situation is feeling out of control is to push harder on controls to get control, which not only doesn't work but might make the situation worse.  Stifling what is emerging, whether it is a behavior in a culture, a new meme spreading in the organization, or a flock of birds only produces interactions
  • Take the risks necessary to test new theories and ideas.
  • Develop approaches that account for unpredictability, emerging factors and unexpected behaviors across people and systems.
  • Practice making sense out of complex conditions to create a new direction when a solution is unavailable.
  • Discern patterns and events underlying the surface of problems to detect a new approach.
  • Bring the “invented” future to the present, rather than accepting the “default” future that occurs without focused intent.
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