Wall Street. Main Street. Politicians. The Middle Class. Us. Them. Watching the financial turmoil unfold in the markets, the anger and finger pointing over who is to blame, I’m reminded of Einstein’s advice that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” What manner or level of consciousness led to this current predicament? I hope we can have a discussion on this and how it pertains to leadership. More importantly, what level of consciousness would we need going forward? I would like to offer some initial thoughts for discussion.
As Garret Hardin and the Tragedy of the Commons remind us – self-interest and short-term thinking is a level of consciousness that might have got us into this. We are part of this problem, by virtue of action or inaction. Leaders acting in the interest of their own group can lose sight of the larger commons that they are a part of. And even well meaning action comes with unintended consequences.
How can we move to a level of consciousness where leaders work collaboratively for the Prosperity of the Commons? I’m struck by the image of a “Nexus” as a metaphor of leaders working across differences to address the pressing issues of our time. The word nexus comes from the Latin word nectere, which means “to bind.” The Random House Dictionary describes the word nexus as a connection across groups and to the center of a matter or situation. Alfred Whitehead, the English philosopher, similarly described a nexus as a system of relationships where the whole is greater than its parts.
How might this apply to leaders and leadership? We could think of a Nexus Effect as the collective outcomes achieved when leaders (the parts) work across boundaries for the larger whole. To return to Einstein – to address the collective problems of our time, we require a level of consciousness different from divisive “us vs them” mindsets to one of collaboration, partnership, and of leaders working across boundaries for the common good.
This can be described in the formula of 1 + 1 > (is greater than) 2
The challenge of global proportions such as poverty, climate change, access to healthcare and education are issues that cannot be addressed in isolation. Corporations, non-profits, and governments today have the collective resources and technological capacity to make a significant impact in addressing some of the most challenging problems of our time. Achieving the Nexus Effect is not easy – it requires leaders to work together across differences that traditionally divide them. Where the historical challenge for leaders has been about expanding the boundaries of their group, the Nexus Effect comes when leaders think and act across boundaries.
How can leaders create a Nexus Effect in times of crisis? What are examples of the Nexus Effect among leaders in our world today?