Great leadership systems provide both structure and flexibility.

A leader guides an initiative and a team forward. Great leaders often have a method to their magic. They are constantly making progress. Their teams are productive and enthusiastic. How do they do it? Even though their work is constantly changing as they move forward, they have some consistent practices that form the foundation for their progress.

The Power of Leadership Systems

Systems are omnipresent in our everyday work and life. A system is a set of components and functions that are interconnected and work together to achieve a goal or outcome they wouldn’t have been able to on their own. A leadership system is a set of practices a leader does on a regular basis to move forward toward their mission. You may be able to think of practices you do on a regular basis (or try to do regularly) in order to cover your responsibilities for the week, plan, and stay balanced. A leadership system creates greater accuracy and efficiency. It opens time and focus for the more interesting aspects of leading like strategy, learning and development, and team bonding. The most successful leaders have a system that gives them a structure for aligning with their team members, responding to change, staying focused and energetic, and making progress.

Systems that serve provide structure…

Without a system, every day feels as though you are shooting from the hip and not achieving any real, long-term objectives or progress. A leadership system contains regular, structured practices that enable you to fulfill technical needs, like giving direction and aligning the team in action. A leadership system also contains regular practices for keeping the team motivated and developing individually as well. Here are five practices to consider adding to your regular leadership practices.

  1. Returning to your mission and values weekly
  2. Meeting with your team members to discuss goals and progress weekly
  3. Regularly measuring progress
  4. Regularly celebrating wins
  5. Regularly learning new things and making improvements


… as well as flexibility.

Systems provide structure but also must provide flexibility. If systems are too rigid, they don’t leave room for responding to change and evolution. In business, things change quickly and teams must be able to respond to change while continuing to move forward toward the vision. Leaders must also be able to experiment. If there is no room for experimenting, we never know if there is a better way to evolve our current processes. There must be room for special cases that come up and changes that happen like team changes and context changes. Here are five ways leadership systems should be flexible:

  1. Your tasks change in order to accomplish your vision
  2. Your metrics for success change over time
  3. Your wins change from week to week
  4. What you need to learn and improve changes from week to week
  5. The individual team members change and evolve


A leadership system that serves provides a structure of essential practices and the flexibility for the how and what to change. A leadership system should feel supportive, not limiting.

It takes time to develop a leadership system that works for you and your team. We often need to try different systems of practices and iterate before finding the rhythm of leading that balances healthy challenge with ease. To begin intentionally designing your system of leadership practices, start with just two or three practices you do weekly in order to return to your key goals, align with your team, or rejuvenate.

What are some of the regular practices you do in order to stay focused and progress toward your mission?

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What’s Next?

For exercises, ideas, and inspiration for designing your own leadership system and practices, learn from my guidebook, Awake Leadership. The guidebook is a system of seven vitals, with essential exercises and guidance for modern leaders. It contains essential exercises and soulful guidance for developing your ideal leadership system of practices that serve.

Awake Leadership Guidebooks


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