Leadership Imperatives for Complexity #3

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nandini/ Creative Commons License

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nandini/ Creative Commons License

Don’t make false choices (part 1)

Complex situations are full of places where we have to make tough choices. Expand the current market or enter a new one? Let an aging product die or re-energize it with new features. Some of these may truly need to be either/or choices. And there are lots of places where we need to move from OR to AND.

There are two of these both/and paradoxes that are especially key to managing complexity.

  • Stability and fluidity
  • Connection and autonomy

In each case, the two poles support each other; both sides of the paradox or polarity are key to healthy systems.

In this post, I’ll talk about fluidity and stability. The next post will cover connection and autonomy


If your system lacks fluidity, every change can feel like a shock to the system. People get stressed; “change fatigue” abounds.

You can add fluidity to your leadership and to the organization with small actions such as

  • Accessing multiple perspectives (See previous post)
  • Letting go of a “sacred cow”
  • Launching a small experiment to learn
  • Practicing yoga or Qi Gong to cultivate fluidity in your body


Things are often in a near constant stat of flux in a complex situation. And when anything changes, other parts of the system change in response. In the midst of this flux, there is a need to enhance stability in the system.

Here are small actions that support stability.

  • Reminding your team that your core values or mission are not changing.
  • Setting consistent times for recurring meetings or events and sticking to them.
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation to develop your ability to find inner stability in the midst of outer turmoil.
  • Developing core strength (e.g. with Pilates) to add stability in your body.

Fluidity and stability require and support each other like inhaling and exhaling require and support each other. Pay attention to places in the system where one or the other seems weak. Then make small moves to support the weaker aspect and observe what happens.

Join me at the Mission Driven conference in Austin on September 27 where I'll be presenting an afternoon session on “The Paradox of Change: How to Lead Change by Enhancing Stability”