The Whole is Other Than the Sum of the Parts

Recently, I researched the topic of alchemy. You might wonder what alchemy has to do with leadership and why this topic was worthy of research. Alchemy is the first topic we are covering in our Leadership Development in a Coffee Break series in the Extraordinary Leadership Network. From my perspectives, leadership must include alchemy as a key to successful leadership. Leadership does involve ‘turning lead into gold’.

However, the ‘lead into gold’ definition of alchemy is not the one I focused  on. The definition I focused on is one in which alchemy finds a way to form something out of various parts, it creates connections where others might not see how something could be connected. In the process of researching and writing, I was using a phrase that I also use in The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership. It is a phrase that guides me when I tap into collective wisdom, something I believe strongly in. And so I have taught ‘The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum of the Parts’. I still believe this to be true.

My research opened me to a more expanded perspective. I was reminded that the phrase from Gestalt Psychology is “The Whole Is Other Than The Sum of the Parts”. I had been oriented to this phrase in my University years, and since forgot it. Now that it has been brought to my awareness again, I reflect on how much more accurate it is when we get unexpected and wonderful results from our leadership. We could accept that this is ‘greater than’ and yet ‘other than’ provides a different picture.

If you are interested in more about topics like Alchemy for your leadership development, please do join us at You will find fantastic resources for developing your personal and professional leadership. Yes, developing your skillfulness with alchemy is important  in leadership. It is from my perspective.

Birgitt Williams
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Birgitt Williams is an international management and organizational solutions consultant, author, meeting facilitator, teacher, keynote speaker and executive coach. Her business focus is to create inspiring work environments that are highly effective in achieving their purpose and fulfilling their vision.