Leadership X.0
20 March 2021

In complex and uncertain contexts, effective leadership is only possible by promoting inclusive freedom.

“Stop talking and you are out. Silence equals exclusion” 
” You have to dance unencumbered. There’s no other way to move. 
The idea of dance is freedom. 
It is not exclusiveness, it’s inclusiveness.” 

In complex and uncertain contexts, like the current ones (known to many with the acronym VUCA, which stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), effective leadership is possible only provided that those living in these contexts adopt a infinite game perspective, where by infinite game we mean the creation of a subjective narrative scenario without a temporal term, in which the individual interacts with other individuals, some of whom are competing while others complementing, according to methods and rules that change over time based on how events develop and how individuals interact. The richer the universe of possibilities from which each individual can choose from, the higher the potential of an infinite game. Therefore, a key element to thrive in an infinite game is to enrich the universe of possibilities. However, this is possible only if individuals are free. By freedom, we mean the minimal social and economic conditions which individuals must be able to access in order to have the opportunity to use their qualities for expressing themselves, undertaking, choosing and acting. “Inclusive freedom” is the key notion of freedom, i.e., the freedom arising when obstacles to individuals’ participation and expression are removed or overcome. Inclusive freedom requires an inclusive society.

The Infinite Game Perspective is Key to Effective Leadership

In our previous articles we highlighted how, in today’s increasingly complex and uncertain contexts, individuals are supposed to play infinite games as opposed to finite games. Infinite games do not have a time limit at which the game ends. In an infinite game, the goal of the players is to preserve the game, not to prevail over others. To continue playing in an ever-changing environment, players will therefore have to compete on themselves. Furthermore, if the goal is to continue playing, each of the participants will interact with the other players with the goal of continuing to play. Each participant will therefore make choices that will also allow other participants to make choices. So, the fundamental prerequisite for making an infinite game possible is that each player contributes to expanding the universe of possibilities all players can choose from. The richness of this possibility universe is determined by two factors:

  • Number of participants in the infinite game
  • Degree of freedom of the participants in the infinite game

The number of possibilities created by the participants in the infinite game will be higher the more numerous these participants are and the more they will be able to freely contribute to this creation process, by expressing themselves in full, without constraints or limitations. 

The role of freedom in infinite games

The ability of a society to enable its members to create an infinite game, and to actively participate in it, depends on the extent to which the society allows its members to exert freedom. By freedom we do not mean everyone’s faculty to decide and do what he wants, but the existence of minimal requirements that society members can meet, i.e., socio-economic conditions all members satisfy, to participate in the society itself, by expressing themselves, undertaking, choosing and acting on the basis of their qualities. To this regard, the relevant notion of freedom is that of “inclusive freedom”, which is achievable only provided that the society itself is inclusive, that is, when the society guarantees to all its members minimal standards of living.

Politics and freedom 

An example will help to better understand the innovative scope of inclusive freedom. We all value freedom, as the faculty to decide and take full advantage of our ability to choose. Freedom is a fundamental value for everyone. However, freedom is guaranteed, a society can adopt different perspectives or visions when facing social problems. Two quite different perspectives can be found:

  • Those who adopt a notion of freedom whereby each individual, being free, is able to look after himself and, therefore, must not suffer interference from the state. Any intervention by the state is not necessary and, indeed, potentially harmful, as the state cannot replace the individual in deciding what is good for the individual himself;
  • There who, instead, adopt a notion of freedom whereby the society and the state should take charge, and, if necessary, intervene, when the members of the society find themselves in disadvantaged or difficult conditions, and provide them assistance. The intervention of the state, in this case, is necessary and beneficial. 

Neither of the above-mentioned perspectives promotes the development of a fully inclusive society. 

In the first case, once individual freedom is guaranteed, the state does not care for those individuals who, for various reasons, find themselves in conditions that prevent them to enjoy and exercise their freedom.

In the second case, the state, while helping and assisting individuals in difficult conditions, ends up “confining” them to the condition they are in, according to a “medicalization” process that treats them as people at the margins of society.

In both cases, part of the society doesn’t have access to freedom. Inclusive society, on the other hand, will be possible when policies promote access to freedom, so that individuals suffering impediments to exert their freedom, overcome such impediments to choose and act freely. A truly free society is one in which no one is relegated in conditions that prevent him to exert his freedom.

Inclusive freedom is possible only if society is inclusive

An inclusive society, which just because it is inclusive makes its members free, is compatible with the emergence of complex contexts and with the adoption of a mindset inspired by infinite games. In fact, an inclusive and free society is the only one capable of nourishing the universe of possibilities its members can create by increasing the number of free individuals and their ability to contribute to the expansion of the universe of possibilities. Only a universe of rich, multifaceted, variegated and regenerated by inclusive freedom will be able to offer the leader, or anyone called to choose the direction to follow, the possibility to rhizomatically combine possibilities and preserve the infinite game he is playing. Leadership in complex and uncertain contexts will not be effective in a society that is not inclusive.