Introduction This Special Issue is special for several reasons. The first concerns its content, the application of complexity sciences to the study of leadership. Although ideas and methods from the sciences of complex systems are increasingly being applied to organizational dynamics including leadership, nowhere until now has there been a forum completely dedicated to a […]
Traditional, hierarchical views of leadership are less and less useful given the complexities of our modern world. Leadership theory must transition to new perspectives that account for the complex adaptive needs of organizations. In this paper, we propose that leadership (as opposed to leaders) can be seen as a complex dynamic process that emerges in the interactive “spaces between” people and ideas. That is, leadership is a dynamic that transcends the capabilities of individuals alone; it is the product of interaction, tension, and exchange rules governing changes in perceptions and understanding. We label this a dynamic of adaptive leadership, and we show how this dynamic provides important insights about the nature of leadership and its outcomes in organizational fields. We define a leadership event as a perceived segment of action whose meaning is created by the interactions of actors involved in producing it, and we present a set of innovative methods for capturing and analyzing these contextually driven processes. We provide theoretical and practical implications of these ideas for organizational behavior and organization and management theory.
This paper contributes a theoretical framework for generative leadership, a form of leadership that creates a context to stimulate innovation in complex systems. Our framework links theories of leadership with perspectives on innovation and complex systems to suggest that generative leadership involves balancing connectivity and interaction among individuals and groups in complex systems by managing complexity and institutionalizing innovation. By focusing on how generative leaders create conditions that nurture innovation rather than individual traits or creativity, our framework provides new directions for leadership research and policy implications for managers.
Peer pressure can induce sudden, unexpected changes in the behavior of a group. With agent-based simulations, we study the impact of one individual on the behavior of a social network of people. We find that an individual with the largest benefit dominates the group behavior. If that individual happens to have a leadership role, the impact is particularly strong. The model suggests that even if the average benefit for the group changes slowly, the average participation changes suddenly but with a delay. The delay is shorter if the network is subject to large, unpredictable outside influences. Further, we find that incentives that target leaders are more effective than unspecific incentives. We discuss applications of the model to the dynamics of membership in an agricultural youth organization.
In recent times, the study of complex systems and complex-systems thinking has influenced research and approaches to research in business. While business has benefited from this influence, this paper suggests that ideas from the study of management can, and should, be applied to the study of complex systems. In particular, much of the complex-system literature is oriented around self-organization, in which individual agents in a system organize themselves, with no external influence, in such a way as to produce interesting and useful emergent system behaviors. In most business organizations, however, central organization plays a significant role in the organization’s performance. It is suggested here through numerous examples and a naïve mathematical model that the study of complex systems could benefit from examining the role and impact of central organization, and leadership in particular.
The postmodern organization has a design paradox in which leaders are concerned with efficiency and control as well as complex functioning. Traditional leadership theory has limited applicability to postmodern organizations as it is mainly focused on efficiency and control. As a result, a new theory of leadership that recognizes the design paradox has been proposed: complexity leadership theory. This theory conceptualizes the integration of formal leadership roles with complex functioning. Our particular focus is on leadership style and its effect as an enabler of complex functioning. We introduce dynamic network analysis, a new methodology for modeling and analyzing organizations as complex adaptive networks. Dynamic network analysis is a methodology that quantifies complexity leadership theory. Data was collected from a real-world network organization and dynamic network analysis used to explore the effects of leadership style as an enabler of complex functioning. Results and implications are discussed in relation to leadership theory and practice.
Leadership can be understood as the promise of simplification in response to complexity, with simplicity and complexity expressing the bounds of an inescapable tension. As subjective complexity increases, human systems experience pressure to simplify. Five strategies for simplification can be delineated, namely leadership as focal point, as reversion to compactness, as transformation to a new order, as disintegration of the system, and as pragmatic adaptation. Leaders would be advised to use some combination of each strategy to help systems cope with their strains.
Introduction It is something of a marvel to recognize just how much of what is only now coming forth concerning leadership by means of complex systems research was already anticipated in the carefully considered insights published by Chester Bernard as far back as 1938. In his book, The Functions of the Executive, Barnard described an […]
The last few decades have witnessed the development of a host of ideas aimed at understanding and predicting nature’s ever present complexity . It is shown that such a work provides, through its detailed study of order and disorder, a suitable framework for visualizing the dynamics and consequences of mankind’s ever present divisive traits. Specifically, this work explains how recent universal results pertaining to power-laws, self-organized criticality, and space-filling transformations provide additional and pertinent reminders that point us to unity as an essential element for us to achieve peace.
Introduction The author has his disciplinary roots in planning. Through his experiences as both a planning practitioner and teaching Professor he has come to question the adequacy of traditional planning tools and techniques, based on Scientific Enquiry to provide a viable decision support system for those grappling with complex situations. The author’s questioning and his […]
Introduction In 2001, when I was working on a research project on organizational sub-cultures, financed by ISCE research, the CEO at one of the hospitals where I was interviewing told me that he didn’t believe that it was valuable to think in terms of organizational cultures, much less sub-cultures, or as nested systems. I was […]
Introduction The book is a collection of six essays dealing with the complexities of organizational change in large organizations and most of the contributions are written by consultants or managers close to the education and research programs of Professor Ralph Stacey from the Business School of the University of Hertfordshire who appears as contributor and […]