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Complexity, Leadership

Complexity Leadership

Complexity Leadership challenges you to look at leadership at an interpersonal level rather than a bureaucratic, controlling, top down level.

Leadership effectiveness cannot be built exclusively around controlling the future; rather it depends on being able to foster interactive conditions that enable a productive future. Nor is it limited to human relations concepts that focus on the leader and his/her ability to foster relations with followers. Complex leaders cultivate largely undirected interactions among individuals, ensembles, and sets of ensembles to create uncontrolled futures. They understand organizational behavior in terms of global interactions rather than focusing narrowly on controlling local events. Complex leaders understand that the best innovations, structures, and solutions to problems are not necessarily those that they, with their limited wisdom, ordain, but those that emerge when interacting aggregates work through issues. Part of the role of leaders may involve exerting interpersonal influence (e.g., relationship-oriented behavior), but part of it may not (hence, the broader definition of leadership).

McKelvey (in press) rejects traditional images of heroic, visionary leaders charging ahead of their workers to lead them to productive utopia. He and complexity theorists in general argue that the greatest creativity, productivity, and innovation comes out of people who are provided opportunities to innovate and network—the bottom-up principle.

Marion, R., & Uhl-Bien, M. (2001). Leadership in complex organizations. The Leadership Quarterly, 12(4), 389-418

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.

Lichtenstein, B. B., Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., Seers, A., Orton, J. D., & Schreiber, C. (2006). Complexity leadership theory: An interactive perspective on leading in complex adaptive systems.


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