ILA Podcast

Simple Complexity

Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders

with William (Willy) Donaldson


Quotes From This Episode
  • “Systems thinking really is a worldview.”
  • “Dana Meadows’ really sparse, elegant definition of a system is ‘a set of elements that interrelate for a particular purpose or characteristics that have behaviors.'”
  • “The leader is the system architect…They need to understand that they are managing and running and leading a system.”
  • “The first thing is to be humble and realize you don’t know it all, and that’s really a challenge…I don’t see enough humility in leadership.”
  • “You’ve got to realize how your biases get assembled through the silos that you come up through in the organization. If you came up out of finance, you view the world as finance or operations.”
  • “Leaders don’t realize how much the system drives behaviors.”
  • “Building a company that’s sort of poised on a razor’s edge of change is hard to do when you have to get people comfortable in that environment.”
  • “Bounded systems are ones that have some form of governance that’s readily apparent. It may not be good governance, but there is a group or somebody who’s responsible – maybe a board of directors, an association, etc. Unbounded systems are natural systems that we can’t do anything about.”
  • “An inversion has to occur, where followership becomes the most important function and followers have to rise up and demand leadership of an ilk that is humble and does use systems thinking.”
  • “Academics is so siloed into these swim lanes – chemistry, physics, math, accounting, finance – that we don’t cross disciplines, we don’t share our disciplinary knowledge, we use different language to talk about the same phenomenon.”
  • “Systems have this property called an emergent property where things emerge from the system, it’s not just a collection of parts, but they actually start to evolve and take on a character of their own. And culture is an emergent property of a system.”

About the Guest

Dr. William (Willy) Donaldson is a Professor of Management at the Joseph W. Luter, III School of Business at Christopher Newport University. Willy has over 30 years of experience as a board member and president and has been CEO of eight companies including a publicly-traded company and an international joint-venture. Willy is the Founder and President of Strategic Venture Planning, a management consulting firm that helps boards, investors and senior management teams maximize results. His experience runs from start-up to International 50 companies, private and public companies, from services to manufacturing, from low to high tech, and from for-profit to not-for-profit. He is a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering, where he chairs the Enterprise Systems working group world-wide.

Host Scott J. Allen

Scott Allen

Scott J. Allen, Ph.D., is the Standard Products—Dr. James S. Reid Chair in Management at John Carroll University. He is an associate professor and teaches courses in leadership, management skills, and executive communication. He is also a communications coach, consultant, author, podcast host, and entrepreneur. For almost two decades, he’s worked with clients to improve their leadership and communication skills. Learn more about Scott here.

About Phronesis

Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders offers a smart, fast-paced discussion on all things leadership. Scott and his expert guests cover timely, relevant topics and incorporate practical tips designed to help you make a difference in how you lead and live.