Systems Leadership

Creating Positive Organisations - Second Edition

- Ian Macdonald, Catherine Burke, Karl Stewart

​The second edition of this influential and bestselling book is concerned with how people come together to achieve a productive purpose.

Survival and success in business and social terms have always depended upon our ability to form and sustain social organisations. People have a deep need to be creative and to belong.
By creating positive organisations, we can fulfil these needs and build a worthwhile society.

Creating Positive Organisations

The second edition of Systems Leadership: Creating Positive Organisations is now available to buy.

Whenever another edition to an existing text comes out, there is always the question of 'why?'

In this case it is over ten years since the first edition and in that time we have expanded the material, brought in new ideas and significantly refined and developed others.

In addition, other ideas have emerged in the field of Organisational Behaviour.

​This work has been applied in businesses, social service agencies, hospitals, city governments, national governments, armies, churches, public utilities, indigenous communities, schools and other unique organisations.

It is intended to help leaders more humane and productive organisations that can both meet their objectives and improve the human condition. It does so by presenting a coherent theory exemplified by numerous cases and practical experience. As more than one leader has commented, "this stuff actually works."


Preface and Acknowledgements

Part One: Systems Leadership: Why the Title? Introduction. What Use is Theory? What is Work? Social, Technical, Commercial: Domains of Work. Social Process and Authority, Types of Social Organisation.

Part Two: The Six Principles of Behaviour: Core Concepts of Systems Leadership

​Part Three: Understanding Organisations Introduction. Meritocracy. Human Capability. Levels of Work Complexity. Organisational Structure and Authorities. Associations, Boards and Employment Hierarchies.

​Part Four: The Work of Leadership Introduction. The Work of Leadership: Creating a Culture. Leadership, Policy and Systems. Task Formulation and Assignment. Teams and Teamwork.

Part Five: Making Change Happen Introduction. The Process of Successful Change. How to Design Systems. Systems and Symbols Audit. Creating High Performance Teams. So What? What Difference has this Made? Implementation: Discipline or Dogma. Who is There to Guard the Guards?
SLT and other Approaches.


​About the Authors

Dr Ian Macdonald is founder and director of Macdonald Associates, an international organisational consultancy. He is a director of BIOSS International Ltd. He is also an honorary fellow at Brunel University, teaches at Surrey University Business School and works with NHS Wales and Welsh government.

Dr Catherine Burke was Associate Professor of Public Administration, University of Southern California. Her research focuses on organisation and systems design, management theory and leadership. She has been a Consultant to Southern California Edison, the cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena, and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Her publications include Innovation and Public Policy, and articles in various academic journals. She was a Director at Commonwealth Aluminum.

​Karl Stewart is a mining engineer spending most of his working life in leadership positions. He spent four years as an internal managerial consultant developing a thorough understanding of the theory underpinning the leadership of people in organisations and the systems that facilitate that activity. He implemented these ideas as Managing Director of Comalco Smelting.

Additional Information

Paperback £29.99/ US$ 39.95

Hardback £110.00/ US$ 150.00

Paperback ISBN: 9781138036574

Hardback ISBN: 9781138036543

Published by Routledge 2018 (first edition by Gower 2006)

c. 348 pages


A welcome complement to the first edition., this book should be the top-drawer practical text for all leaders. It reinforces the case for primacy of human over technical systems, and the importance of trust among employees as the outcome of an effective culture.

David Murray

former Chief Executive Officer of Commonwealth Bank of Australia

This is a timely and important book that contributes significantly to our understanding and development of positive organisations. Built on rock-solid theoretical foundations, this book offers much to both academics and practitioners and provides a rigorous and coherent approach which will support all those interested in helping organisations and individuals fulfil their potential.

Professor Andy Adcroft

Deputy Dean, Surrey Business School

Leadership of complex organisations like the NHS needs to marry people and systems thinking, sound theory and learning through application. They are here in one excellent book.

Alan Willson

Associate Director, Aneurin Bevan Continuous Improvement, NHS Wales