Tipping point leadership in a complex system: lessons from dancing guy

Here is Derek Sivers’ great TED talk about the role of leadership and followers when it comes to creating a movement.

Derek highlights the important moment when it becomes more uncool not to dance than to dance. This is the point where the leaders efforts pay off and the followers take on the leader’s ideas to create a movement.

And although he doesn’t put it in these terms, what Derek is describing is a tipping point. Hence what we are seeing is evidence of tipping point leadership.

In complex systems, a tipping point is a critical point at which which the system shifts radically and potentially irreversibly into a different state of equilibrium. It represents a sudden and extreme change of state, rather than a gradual shift.

Interestingly, researchers W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne have identified, how tipping point leadership can work in organisations.

They say that tipping point leadership:

“hinges on the insight that in any organization, once the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people are engaged, conversion to a new idea will spread like an epidemic, bringing about fundamental change very quickly.

The theory suggests that such a movement can be unleashed only by agents who make unforgettable and unarguable calls for change, who concentrate their resources on what really matters, who mobilize the commitment of the organization’s key players, and who succeed in silencing the most vocal naysayers.”

Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. (2003). Tipping point leadership. harvard business review81(4), 60-69.

And as dancing guy illustrates, if you keep at it long enough, anything can happen.

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