CEO Masterclass review: Forging a positive relationship with Complexity.

June 10, 2019
By Rowan Belchers

CEO Masterclass review: ‘Forging a positive relationship with Complexity.’


Leading a business in complex times is different. It is not the same as leading in ‘complicated’ times and the difference is important. CEOs need to understand the implications of Complexity on their strategy, people and their organisation’s performance. Our May Masterclass featured Casper Oelofsen, who led the dinner dialogue on the topic of Complexity.  

Below are some key concepts that came up in our conversation for you to contemplate:

  • A common question for today’s leaders is: “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?”. This is a triggering question for CEOs who are expected ‘to know’.
  • When faced with the above questions, our bodies respond by pumping adrenalin into our systems, which automatically lowers your IQ and EQ, which leads to poor decision-making. Thus, reactive leadership is ineffective in complex situations and can lead to collateral damage. There needs to be another approach to leading in a complex time.
  • That new way is to ‘nudge’ forward, feeling for firm footholds with each step and retreating when none can be found. The analogy is walking through a waist-deep river where the bottom can’t be seen. You take it step-by-step, never over-committing and moving forward only when it’s safe to do so. Sometimes it’s better to stake no step at all and wait.
  • Complexity needs to be normalised, but that means we have to be ready for it. What are the exercises that we can do to ready ourselves? One way is to look at unsuccessful attempts not as failures but as ‘something that didn’t work’. This allows us to try and fail again, knowing that we will do both.
  • Another is simply asking the question: “What is the next best step with the current information available?”
  • Diversity of views and perspectives is a natural antidote to Complexity because there is a greater chance ‘the solve’ being present in the room.
  • So is curiosity an antidote: it keeps you light, interested, positive and adventurous as opposed to fear-ridden and paralyzed.
  • The point is to thrive in Complexity, not to be beaten by it. Handled well, Complexity is potentially a competitive advantage for a CEO who has done the work to prepare themselves for living in a complex world.
Our next Masterclass: 16 & 18th July 2019

We are delighted to have Jon Duncan, who is the Head of Responsible Investment at Old Mutual, join our July Masterclass. Jon will provide guidance as to how you might think about the climate crisis in a proactive, sensible, positive way so that you can feel good about yourself, your business and your response to climate change.


Contact Simone Meyerowitz at  to register to attend the next CEO Masterclass.

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers

Rowan is the founder and CEO of Lockstep, a business leadership consultancy. Lockstep works with CEO’s, executive teams and future leaders globally, partnering with clients who seek customised leadership solutions. Rowan is a highly respected advisor to CEOs with over two decades’ experience in guiding businesses and their leaders towards reaching their fullest potential. Rowan leads The CEO Project, a Lockstep initiative.
Share this article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us

For CEOs who wish to develop their CEO craft.