Leadership and Synchronicity

January 26th, 2013

In a rather obscure and yet surprisingly relevant talk on TED, Steven Strogatz addresses the issue of synchronicity.


In this extraordinary talk, he points out that fish, birds and other animals in nature naturally swarm—they act in unison. They follow a simple set of rules that appear at once obvious and yet at the same time are quite profound.  The rules are:

  1. All of the individuals are only aware of their nearest neighbors
  2. All of the individuals have

    a tendency to line up

  3. They are all attracted to each other, but they try to keep a small distance apart

It strikes me that understanding natural systems is crucial to leadership, especially as it relates to synchronicity. Among other things, it is the job of leaders to create conditions where all employees are aligned. They need to follow vision, a shared strategy, and a set of operational principles and values, the culmination of which represents an organ

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ization truly in alignment. Put simply, great organizations act in unison toward a goal and the job of the leader is to encourage or inspire that to happen.

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The human laws of synchronicity are not so different than the laws of nature. If we were to express them, they might be:

  1. All individuals are aware of one another, their needs and desires
  2. All individuals mutually adjust to one another
  3. They care about and are committed to each other
  4. There is a shared goal or reason for being

The laws of leadership might look like this:

  1. Offer a clear vision
  2. Invite commitment to that vision
  3. Create conditions where everyone can communicate toward that shared goal in a way that allows for mutual co-creation and mutual adaptation
  4. Reinforce all the above over and over again

Leaders that are guided by these laws and lead in a way that encourage the natural synchronicity of human beings and organizations seem more likely to accomplish great things and do it in a way that is ultimately satisfying.