BREXIT and Systemic Intelligence in Leadership


Systemic Intelligence (SIQ) is the number one sought after skill of a 21. Century leader. We see that leaders need to operate in a more and more complex, network and matrix based global environment that is constantly changing and involves multiple stakeholders. SIQ is this “virtuoso” intelligence of navigating your ship with a full crew in awareness of the larger system and systems that you are also part of. A simple example is that if you are a UK citizen in Gibraltar, you are also part of a larger system called the UK, and you are part of larger geographical and cultural entity called Europe, as well as from a historical point of view you are even part of the Spanish “diaspora”. You are also part of the world economy as a system and you are in the global playfield of politics. If you then vote leave (which they didn’t in Gibraltar) it will influence every element of the system. Spain will start to claim sovereignty, other countries in the EU will react in a certain way, the markets will react unfavorably and other parts of the UK may begin to seek independence and review of existing political and economic ties, like Scotland does already etc…

1+1= can easily equal 3, or you can have what social psychology coined group think and 1+1= may turn out to be -1. Here comes the responsibility of leadership. Systemic Intelligence is not inherent in the system. Or perhaps it is, but the art of leadership will determine whether it can come out or not, or worse, even turn to collective negligence.  Individual members of the team/community will not always be aware of the multiple consequences of their choices. Like an iPhone not connected to the Internet will not have the same functions then when it is connected to the “cloud”. Once it is connected and then a whole new array of possibilities arises. Hence, it is the leader’s job to lead and manage with the larger systemic benefits and risks in mind and to show a strategic helicopter view to the members of the “local” system so that they can make their choices with systemic wisdom. Hence the idea of taking multiple perspectives in negotiation and leadership.

The first Brexit vote and the aftermath will remain a tragic example of how leaders may misuse their position and feed false information from a non-existent single prospective. Moreover, the use of finger pointing and scapegoatism (Migrants) and escapism (Isolationist view) to influence is the direct opposite of Systemic Intelligence. It has been used many times in history by politicians, especially by extremists and dictators (it is easy to spot them around us right now, in every part of the world). The tragic irony is that those who voted leave only considered their little system and were led to believe that it is possible to look at their country in isolation of the larger geopolitical impacts. Just like in a business, when a division begins to act independently from the larger context in which it operates, falsely believing that it can succeed on its own (how can “Production” be successful when the company as a whole doesn’t reach its goals? Or when a company starts acting without consideration of its impact on the environment and community in which it exists. There is an on-going debate whether we can be successful if we lead and act from an individual point of view only. I strongly believe that the lack of systemic wisdom eventually gets punished. It may be your health, the company’s health or the health of a whole continent effecting the entire world, that is at stake.

What more will it take for humanity to learn from history and start applying systemic intelligence in business and politics, every day?

mickey feher