Complexity scholars have identified two distinct catalysts of emergence: (1) Far-from-equilibrium dynamics that trigger order creation, and (2) adaptive tension (McKelvey, 2004) which can push a system toward instability, leading to the emergence of new order. Each of these provides a necessary but incomplete explanation of the catalyst for emergent order. In particular, the far-from-equilibrium framework, when taken to its logical ends, would conclude that most dynamic and fluid organizations are the ones farthest-from-thermodynamic equilibrium—like Exxon or GM, for example. Adaptive tension on the other hand identifies an exogenous force of market change, but doesn’t explain how emergence is actually triggered. As a solution I propose “Opportunity Tension,” which integrates the endogenous intention of an entrepreneur to create a new venture to the exogenous changes that open up an entrepreneurial opportunity—a market that will exchange money for the value being created. Opportunity tension occurs in “pulses,” each cycle leading to a new dynamic state of the system. This model, which is consonant with the notion of “dynamic creation” (Chiles et al., 2010), contributes to a complexity science that is moves us beyond a far-from-equilibrium framework.
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.