5 Ways to Bring a Holistic Approach to Leadership

When you’re handling scattered employees, multiple projects, and more unread emails than you thought were possible in the midst of a busy day, trying to visualize your business as a whole can make you feel dizzy — not to mention trying to nurture and fix it when problems arise.

Business leaders and industry experts have always been on the lookout for ways to theorize effective business leadership. First, there are trait theories, which assume that there are innate qualities that all good leaders share. There are also behavioral theories, which focus on what leaders do to solve problems.

Contingency theories, on the other hand, suggest that different situations affect leadership. Each relationship with an employee represents a different situation, so each will demand a new leadership approach. Lastly, there are the power and influence theories, which pinpoint the source of a leader’s power by asking him what he values most. Is it others’ approval, status among peers, or something else? The answer affects how he values and rewards co-workers.

Individually, all of these theories make perfect sense, but no single approach can effectively describe how the sprawling organism of your business works or solve problems in a lasting and meaningful way. To do this, you need to use a holistic approach.

How to Be a Holistic Leader

Holistic comes from the Greek term “holos,” which means “whole.” Holistic thinking in business suggests that you can achieve effective leadership by considering every part of the business together.

Although it may look wired and fractured sometimes, your business is much like an organic entity — if one part of it is injured, the rest is affected, as well.

But just like your overflowing inbox, imagining a holistic approach for the unique animal that is your business can make you want to hide in the bathroom, so here are five manageable methods to start developing a holistic approach:

1.      Build a stakeholder map. To begin thinking about your business as a multidimensional body, you need to be able to picture it. Your first step is to create a living chart, which will illustrate the major systems, sources, and connections in your business.

You can compose your living chart however you like — whether that’s as a tree, a network, or even as a spreadsheet (if you really must) — but make sure your map is answering key questions, including: “Who are the key players and influencers?” “What are their roles?” and “How do they participate in the business process and interact with one another?”

2.      Find your aim. “A system is a network of interdependent components that works together to try to accomplish the aim of the system,” wrote author W. Edwards Deming in “The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education.” Keep the aim of your work central to your day-to-day operations. Form your aims first, and then direct your strategy toward realizing those aims.

3.      Think about interconnections. Part of the holistic approach is considering how your business fits into the world. Your business is not only complete in itself, but it’s also part of an interconnected network of other entities. Keeping in touch with your economic and social surroundings will help your business flourish and stay relevant.

4.      Find meaning in what you do. Instead of trying to find immediate meaning in every task or situation, promote a sense of connectedness so that every action your company performs comes organically from a team effort.

5.      Inspire trust and loyalty. Holistic leadership is often linked to team effectiveness because it focuses on meaningful work and gives members of the team the responsibility to act on behalf of the company. When you trust your team members, they’ll be faithful in return.

Developing and sustaining a living, united entity instead of a scattered collection of separate parts takes hard work. The most effective method for leading your team toward this goal is to encourage collaboration and communication. You’ll still have to get started on those unread emails, but with your connected team surrounding you, it might feel a little easier.

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