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Cloud Realities: The role of leadership

Dave Chapman, Sjoukje Zaal, Rob Kernahan with Alastair Kidd
8 Feb 2023

Welcome to the second season of our Cloud Realities series, in which we explore the practical and exciting alternate realities that can be unleashed through cloud driven transformation.

In one of our early episodes, we caught up with Alastair Kidd, a systemic leadership sherpa, to talk about how leadership styles and intentional leadership choices are critical to driving new value from the cloud.
As part of our discussion, we touched on the real role of leadership and the current perception of a leader as someone to bring into the fold when things are going wrong; an expert that will have all the answers, be able to untie the project knots, and be the ultimate savior. In essence, leaders are bought in to provide clarity to chaos.
But, as a leader you not only have to be asking whether the task is too big, whether there’s enough time, and if there’s enough budget, but also whether you feel empowered to fulfill the opportunity. This is equally a personal development journey for any individual taking on the role.
For this discussion we talk a lot about the cynefin framework – a model to distinguish ways of making decisions, approaching a situation, and navigating through complexity – once outlined by David Snowden. Let’s dive in.

Life outside the Matrix

We see that a lot of organizations struggle with cloud transformation, more so, a lot of agile projects that aren’t in fact agile at all. There are a lot of restrictions in these situations that companies are finding particularly challenging and a sense that agile cloud transformation is the answer to complexity.

But in an effort to find simplicity, leaders and teams will run into greater struggles if they stick with the same, traditional approach – focusing on the tools and tick boxes.

Operating with the cynefin framework can at first feel like Neo coming out of the Matrix – recognizing that you’re functioning in one reality but actually the situation requires a wholly different framing and understanding of what’s going on. Once you have this as a framing mechanism you can see very quickly why things are working or not and that there are alternative, more effective ways of reaching the goal.

Fight or flight?

When thinking about the world in which these transformations are existing now it’s only layering complexity on complexity.

But navigating these situations requires creativity and patience. They demand a clear and logical approach in order to move forwards. However, when we’re right in the middle of complexity it activates our fight or flight response – the opposite reaction needed when trying to find a solution or logical response when things go wrong.

For Alistair, his advice here is to: “slow down, and breathe”. An essential step for leaders on this journey is getting to know their own minds, noticing what’s happening, slowing down their automatic responses, and navigating their emotions so that they can be genuinely present in complexity and less susceptible to fight or flight reactions. 

In allowing themselves to do this, leaders can change their mindset from “I either succeed or fail in the complicated world, to I will experiment and learn”. 

So, let’s take a step back, come out of the Matrix and re-frame our reality before making our next decision.

Can’t wait until the next blog and want to hear more? Listen to the full episodes, featuring our own Dave Chapman, Sjoukje Zaal, and Rob Kernahan.