Complexity Leadership

Book_JacketBy Mary Uhl-Bien
Russ Marion

This book introduces leadership and organizational scholars to the potential of complexity science for broadening leadership study beyond its traditional focus on leaders’ actions and influence, to a consideration of leadership as a broader, dynamically and interactive organizing process. The book offers a primer on complexity science and its applications to organization studies, and compares the logic of complexity science with those underlying traditional leadership approaches. It describes methodological approaches for studying leadership from a complexity perspective, and offers examples of applications of complexity science to leadership theory. Chapters are written by top scholars in complexity and leadership theory.

Series Introduction. Acknowledgments. Introduction: Complexity Leadership—A Framework for Leadership in the Twenty-First Century, Mary Uhl-Bien and Russ Marion. Complexity Theory for Organizations and Organizational Leadership, Russ Marion. Conceptual Foundations of Complexity Science: Development and Main Constructs, Jeffrey Goldstein. Dynamical Social Psychology: On Complexity and Coordination in Human Experience, Robin R. Vallacher and Andrzej Nowak. Pathways of Opportunity in Dynamic Organizational Networks, Martin Kilduff, Craig Crossland, and Wenpin Tsai. Individual and Collective Coevolution: Leadership as Emergent Social Structuring, David R. Schwandt. Dispelling the Myths About Leadership: From Cybernetics to Emergence, Donde Ashmos Plowman and Dennis Duchon. Beyond Transactional and Transformational Leadership: Can Leaders Still Lead When They Don’t Know What to Do? Robert G. Lord. Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting Leadership From the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Era, Mary Uhl-Bien, Russ Marion, and Bill McKelvey. Emergent Strategy Via Complexity Leadership: Using Complexity Science and Adaptive Tension to Build Distributed Intelligence, Bill McKelvey. Research Methods for Studying the Dynamics of Leadership, Kevin J. Dooley and Benyamin Lichtenstein. Dynamic Network Leadership: Leading for Learning and Adaptability, Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley. A Complexity Perspective on Leadership Development, Ellen Van Velsor. Leadership or Luck? The System Dynamics of Intel’s Shift to Microprocessors in the 1970s and 1980s, James K. Hazy. Patterns of Leadership: A Case Study of Influence Signaling in an Entrepreneurial Firm, James K. Hazy. About the Authors.

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COMPLEXITY LEADERSHIP THEORY: Shifting Leadership From the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Era

Leadership models of the last century have been products of top-down, bureaucratic paradigms. These models are eminently effective for an economy premised on physical production but are not well-suited for a more knowledge-oriented economy. Complexity science suggests a different paradigm for leadership—one that frames leadership as a complex interactive dynamic from which adaptive outcomes (e.g., learning, innovation, and adaptability) emerge. This chapter draws from complexity science to develop an overarching framework for the study of complexity leadership theory, a leadership paradigm that focuses on enabling the learning, creative, and adaptive capacity of complex adaptive systems (CAS) within a context of knowledge producing organizations. This conceptual framework includes three entangled leadership roles (i.e., adaptive leadership, administrative leadership, and enabling leadership) that reflect a dynamic relationship between the bureaucratic, administrative functions of the organization and the emergent, informal dynamics of complex adaptive systems (CAS).

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Author_PhotoMary Uhl-Bien is Professor of Management, University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She is also the Howard Hawks Chair in Business Ethics and Leadership and Associate Director of Global Leadership Institute. She is the Associate Editor of the Leadership Quarterly and is also one of the Editorial Board Members of the Academy of Management Journal. She received her Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of Nebraska. Her research interests include complexity leadership, followership, leading up, relational leadership, and ethics. Her teaching interests are organizational behavior, leadership, and ethics. She is currently working on the books Complexity Leadership, Part II: Methodological Issues and Empirical Approaches, and Handbook of Leadership.

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