Leadership and decision making in a complex system constitute a balance between the risks associated with practicing restraint and taking action. On the one hand, if the context requires it, one needs to consciously practice restraint and create space that allows the emergence of ideas, trust, opportunity, and even epiphany to loosen the tangled problem knot. There is a strong need for a certain slowness (Cilliers 2006) in taking time to allow emergence to unfold. On the other hand, one needs the courage to take action in a mist of uncertainty because, in a complex system, the consequences of our actions are never entirely predictable, and no matter how good our knowledge, there is never an objective “right” decision. Being conscious of, and comfortable with, this paradox is critical to successfully fostering and practicing adaptive leadership.

Navigating this paradox is part of the Balance within an organisation.

Decisiveness/willingness to act under tension

Restraint under tension

Restraint/action paradox is similar to ‣.



See also: