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.
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.