Systems Thinking


A few weeks ago, Apple, one of the most successful companies around today saw their leader step down, presumably for health problems.  Immediately, consumers were worried and stock dropped with the announcement.  Obviously, many were worried about the fall of Apple with the leaving of their fearless leader, and you would see headlines such as “Steve Jobs Resigns, Apple Visionless“.  Fear, uncertainty, and doubt probably started to not only creep in the mind of consumers, but employees as well.

Yet with the leaking of the iPhone 5, stocks again rose for Apple which probably started to put some of the fear to rest. Yes, Steve Jobs obviously is extremely intelligent, dynamic, and a major reason behind the success of Apple, but as the years go on, we will see how great of a leader he was.  A leader can possess a range of qualities, but the most important quality is how they empower others.  Great leaders create systems where people thrive after the leader walks away.  We see too many schools that are dependent on dynamic individuals and when they leave, everything falls apart.  That is not a leader.  Leaders create systems that create other leaders. I love this Covey quote that sums up quickly this imperative of leadership:

Management works in the system; Leadership works on the system.

As Apple continues, we will find out how great a leader Steve Jobs really was.  The definition does not only come from his time there, but he will also be defined by what they do in his absence.

One Comment

  1. Carla Silver said:

    This is a great post and I think it is essential for schools to spend time looking at ALL challenges they face with a systems thinking lens and to really know the “social science/history” of their schools. As Peter Senge discusses in the Fifth Discipline, organizations must consistently explore their artifacts, espoused values, and underlying assumptions. How do these contribute to the culture of the school?

    School leaders who do not have a good sense their schools artifacts, espoused values and underlying assumptions (as well as an understanding of how they contribute to the evolution of these things) are doomed.

    Steve Jobs is at the heart of the culture of Apple. Living in the SIlicon Valley, I have no doubt that the organizational culture of Apple is integrally connected to Jobs. The question will be now about the leaders that follow him and their ability to understand and absorb the culture as well as move it in the right direction for the best future of the company.

    September 20, 2011

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