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  • John Moyer

Leadership and Anxious Systems

In the animal world, hierarchy is the key to survival. Bowen Family Systems Theory views hierarchy as foundational to the survival of both mammals and non mammals. What does this have to do with leadership?


When human groups get anxious, we tend to behave more instinctually. That is, our behavior becomes less thoughtful and more reactive. We tend to think in linear terms; blame others and consider who is "on my team". We "regress" so to speak; and our behavior becomes strikingly similar to the animal kingdom.


As in lower forms of life, effective leadership becomes even more important when times are tough. Members of the group turn to the leader for cues; including safety and the desire for certainty. It's during the most anxious times that leaders are most prone to stress- the feelings of the group that turn to them for leadership.


Leaders who take time to grow themselves up- cultivating their guiding principles along with caring for themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally while inviting others to do the same- can increase the maturity of any group. Groups will automatically respond to the leader to the leader's own maturity. It's a zoo out there. Let's learn from it.


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