Systems theory is one of the most important concepts in organizational communication. Systems theory that is used in organizations was initially adopted from a biological perspective. Similar to a living being, an organization is composed of individual elements that have their own unique function. Each part needs to function independently to contribute to the the system function as a whole. This concept is known as interdependence. Each independent system relies upon the performance of the other systems in the network to contribute to the overall production.
An organizational system relies upon the performance of others to be able to function as a single unit. Leadership is an essential element in helping create an environment where all parts of a system have the ability to function at their optimum levels. Just think of the inspiring speech from renowned hockey coach Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle before his team played the USSR in the semifinal round in the 1980 Olympics. This speech inspired players to perform to the best of their ability, take agency for their actions, and work as a team. The coach set the stage for the members of his team and system to work together to achieve their dream. An inspiring leader can create that potential for members of their organization.
Leadership and other independent units in the system also have the potential of creating an environment that is negative and restricting. This ripple effect has the potential of disrupting the system, taking away from productivity and harming the company's culture. An example would be the banking crisis in 2008. Ethical violations of company leaders had a ripple effect throughout the US economy and global market. This crisis showed how the interconnectedness of our business practices and the global economy.
Interdependence is key for the functioning of an organization. When members of a group recognize that their performance has an impact on every other part of the organization a leader can enhance their organizational culture.
When I returned from my second year at the Women's Debate Institute in August 2017, I reflected upon the transformation that I witnessed with the student participants. Students have the opportunity to engage with qualified instructors and build their academic community while growing as an individual. The WDI is a tremendous academic and social benefit for students but it also provides a supportive cohort of women that really care about the success of their colleagues and the future of students.
Students at the WDI are recruited from high schools all over the US to attend a four day camp and training. Students stay in dorms, participate in many educational lectures, engage in team building exercises and have a chance to interact with other students and teachers. This intensive teacher-student interaction produces the highest quality education for a student interested in debate. Students are encouraged to become involved, ask questions and practice their craft.
The WDI staff and instructors are at various stages of their academic careers. The instructors and staff members range in their experience and activity to provide a comprehensive education for the students. The staff and instructors range from current collegiate debaters, former national debate champions, college professors, and debate coaches. The varied experience of the instructors is a tremendous resource for the high school student that attend the camp. There are workshops to help students access these resources as they get ready to transition from high school to college.
The WDI provides a space for students to grow as an academic, a debater, and as an individual. These students feel safe in this space and yearn to grow as a competitor and student. As a second year instructor at the Institute, I am honored to participate this transformation. Students become more confident and comfortable in the WDI community.
The Institute provides excellent instruction and resources for high school students. An equally strong component of the institute is the emphasis on community. Teamwork and group efforts are prevalent throughout the institute. Students are encouraged to make strong connections with other students and staff members. The competitiveness of debate is almost forgotten during the institute because students are there to learn and become better advocates. Students gain the skills and knowledge of debate, but also are rehearsing skills that will be essential for their future in college and the workforce. Students practice public speaking skills, engage in critical thinking, learn about persuasive strategies, and practice working on a team.
This institute helps students develop academic, social and career skills. Watching others gain confidence and become a unique personal advocate is the biggest reward of being a coach.