Patti Blackstaffe Introduces Systematic Thinking to Digital Leadership

Kimberly Yánez June 1, 2023
- 8 min read

Digital leaders should have a holistic understanding of their organization and its interconnected parts. It involves recognizing the impact of digital transformation on various aspects, such as culture, processes, and customer experience. You could call this the systematic nature of organizations.

For that reason, on the 54th Episode of Ticket Volume, our IT podcast, Patti Blackstaffe highlighted the significance of understanding the systemic nature of organizations, building relationships, and empowering team members through power, autonomy, and effective communication.

Patti Blackstaffe is a visionary CEO and Transformational Specialist at Global Sway, as well as a distinguished fellow at the Institute of Digital Transformation. With a remarkable career spanning two decades, Blackstaffe has been at the forefront of leading digital transformations, driving organizational change, and implementing governance strategies in the tech industry. Along her journey, she has also co-founded three successful companies, demonstrating her entrepreneurial spirit and expertise.

Make sure to tune in to the entire episode featuring Blacstaffe. You’ll learn how to embrace the necessary cognitive shift to thrive in this dynamic environment, foster collective cohesion within your organization, and build strong relationships both internally and externally. 

And, don’t forget you can sign up for our monthly live recordings and directly ask any questions during the session.



The missteps in digital leadership

Blackstaffe emphasized the need for leaders to understand the shifting landscape, embrace autonomy and collective cohesion, and build global affinity to create a successful organizational transformation.

The problem is that we don’t seem to be there yet. She believes that there are several missteps in digital leadership. Here are a few key missteps that she highlighted:

  1. Failure to understand the shifting landscape: Leaders who do not stay updated and fail to understand the changing landscape of technology and work will struggle to adapt and make informed decisions.

  2. Resistance to change: Leaders who are resistant to change and unwilling to make a cognitive shift in their mindset and approach will struggle to effectively lead specialized teams in the digital age.

  3. Lack of training and support: Organizations that do not provide adequate training and support to leaders in navigating the challenges of a distributed environment may find it difficult to create collective cohesion and maintain productivity.

  4. Ineffective communication and engagement: Leaders who do not prioritize effective communication and fail to engage with employees may face challenges in understanding their concerns and needs, leading to a lack of trust and collaboration.

  5. Micromanagement and lack of autonomy: Leaders who do not provide autonomy and flexibility to employees may hinder their ability to take ownership and make decisions, limiting innovation and growth.

  6. Lack of trust: Leaders who do not trust their employees' knowledge and expertise may create a negative work environment and hinder collaboration and creativity.

Solutions for proactive leaders

Unapologetically, our guest pointed out that systemic thinking and a holistic approach to digital leadership are necessary to navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of Service Management. Yet, along the way she and her team have encountered digital leadership missteps that the industry doesn’t know how to shift from. 

Overall, Blackstaffe's message is that digital leadership requires a holistic approach that values four principles:

  1. Systemic thinking
  2. Autonomy
  3. Communication
  4. Trust

She urged leaders to adapt and evolve in response to the changing landscape of technology and work. Leaders can overcome the challenges of a distributed environment and succeed in the digital age by embracing a more collaborative and flexible approach to leadership and providing training and support to build collective cohesion within their organizations.



"A good portion of what we're doing is in the cloud, and the people we're leading now are technically savvy. We're failing them with the internal software we're using. It's like the Amazon effect or the consumer effect. People are used to slick, easy-to-use user experiences on their mobile phones, and they're walking into organizations with clunky, legacy systems that are delaying their work."

Patti Blackstaffe
CEO and Transformational Specialist at Global Sway
Episode 54 of Ticket Volume


Autonomy and flexibility are crucial for employees to take ownership and trust in their work. Blackstaffe suggests that leaders should empower Service Management practitioners and provide them with the necessary support and resources to improve interdepartmental connections and enhance their own job satisfaction.

She reiterated leaders need to trust their employees' knowledge and expertise and give them the space to innovate and take risks. This also requires leaders to be open-minded and willing to learn from their employees. Hence, in general, her advice is to be proactive in their communication and to use technology to facilitate collaboration and engagement.



"We have so many leaders who can't figure out how to create collective cohesion within a distributed environment because they've never done it before. As an organization, we're failing those leaders by not giving them training and coaching and helping them understand the tools they have can do that. (...) We can do this. There is the ability to do this cohesion in a team, but there are some foundational pieces that we're missing, and we're not using the organization systemically."

Patti Blackstaffe
CEO and Transformational Specialist at Global Sway
Episode 54 of Ticket Volume


Communication and engagement play a vital role in successful organizational transformation. Blackstaffe points out that it is crucial to engage with employees, listen to their feedback, and be transparent about expectations and decision-making processes. Trusting the knowledge and expertise of the people doing the work is vital for smooth and successful transformations.



"The message I want to give to all of those folks (IT leaders) is that they have more power than they think. So collectively, understanding the interdepartmental connections around you, like getting outside of your department and figuring out what you can do with HR, not how HR frustrates you on onboarding. Let's ask those questions. That's at the very basic. Let's start looking at the connections we have across the organization and asking, 'How can I make it better for us?'."

Patti Blackstaffe
CEO and Transformational Specialist at Global Sway
Episode 54 of Ticket Volume


Coming to an end, and if you are still hungry for more on leadership insights in the IT industry, we've got more on the menu. Last April, for instance, Tony North came onto Ticket Volume Live to talk about Help Desk Leadership in 2023. And, on Episode 54, Daniel Breston shared how Value Stream Mapping can serve as a powerful leadership tool.

Bottom line

This is just a summary of Ticket Volume's episode featuring Patti Blackstaffe. This one promises to be a transformative experience for digital leaders seeking to excel in the digital age. So, be sure to listen to the full discussion with Matt Beran to learn more about digital leadership.

You can find the full episode on popular platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or any other podcast platform you prefer. Remember to subscribe if you're interested in joining the monthly live recordings!

Read other articles like this : Ticket Volume podcast

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