The systemic leaders: new leaders in the global economy

Jon‐Arild Johannessen (Oslo School of Management, Oslo, Norway and Harstad University College, Harstad, Norway)
Hugo Skålsvik (Harstad University College, Harstad, Norway)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Publication date: 4 January 2013



One of the problems we face in the transition from an industrial society to a global knowledge economy is the need for a new breed of leaders and a new understanding of leadership. Creativity in organizations is traditionally considered to be the domain of the R&D department, and design and marketing functions. The consequences of this way of thinking are that creativity, innovation and the implementation of innovation have not been a part of everyday life throughout an organization, but rather things that are the responsibility of a few people often located in departments far away from the “front line.” It is the front line that is in daily contact with users/customers, and which, in the knowledge society, will become increasingly important. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how we can develop a new type of leadership in the knowledge economy. The authors suggest that the necessary conditions for this new type of leadership, which is refered to here as “innovation leadership”, are developed in a holistic model which includes the following elements: entrepreneurial action, innovative leadership, creative energy fields within the organization, high‐tech wealth creation and innovation as a business process.


The authors' perspective here is that of a holistic integrated model where leadership and administration coordinate and balance each other, promoting creativity, innovation, productivity and change. The methodology used is conceptual research, where an analytical model is discussed.


For the established policy in enterprises and other social systems it is important to open up to fields of contagion, cutting down parts of the forest and allowing the principle of the order of succession to reign freely. In established enterprises it is important to: uncover creative energy fields; identify innovation leaders; spread contagion by cutting down areas of the forest where you want the principle of the order of succession to apply; and ensure that you have active spreaders of contagious new creative energy fields in the enterprise.

Practical implications

If one freely interprets Hamel, then in order to promote the development of relational competence, 80 percent of the resources involved in high‐tech wealth creation should be allocated to innovation culture, and 20 percent to performance culture. Hamel says that innovation culture is constituted by “passion, creativity, initiative”. The most important aspect of innovation culture is not so much developing many new ideas and patents, but rather converting these ideas to profit for the company; the motto “from idea to invoice” springs to mind here. However, in most companies it is perhaps the performance culture rather than the innovation culture that is given priority.

Social implications

The social implications can be stated by citing Hamel, who outlines five important lessons that need to be followed: go to the root of any problem; build what is new on new ground; commit to revolutionary goals, but reach the goals by taking small steps; evaluate continuously, but do not paralyse the system with analysis and quarterly results; and be persevering.


To the authors' knowledge, few authors (if any), have related systemic thinking (cybernetics) to the new leaders we need in the global economy.



Johannessen, J. and Skålsvik, H. (2013), "The systemic leaders: new leaders in the global economy", Kybernetes, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 13-34.

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