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Complexity Theory and Leadership

See attached file.

Based on the webinar and article (provided in the attached file) covering complexity theory and leadership, answer the following questons.

1. From your perspective, what are 3 major components of Complexity Theory. Explain each.

2. Identfy 3 differences between a complexity perspective of leadership and traditional perspectives of leadership?

Use the following section headings: Major Components of Complexty Theory; Complexity Theory vs. Traditional Perspectives of Leadership


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The literature on Complexity Theory of leadership immediately made me think of a hard-hitting article I came across on the Bloomberg website <> about the "Red Queen Effect" (yes, that 'Red Queen' of Lewis Carroll fame) in business and the world in general. The 'Red Queen Effect' is simply the notion that we must all run increasingly faster simply to stay in one place. As the authors in this blog article put it, "Despite long-term increases in labor productivity, the average return on assets (ROA) of US companies has steadily fallen to almost one quarter of what it was in 1965. We're running faster, but still losing ground. There is no sign of this long-term erosion flattening out, much less turning around." I think that perhaps the notion of complex adaptive systems (CAS) as applied to notions of organizations and leadership derives or has been spurred by the so called "Red Queen Effect", recognizing that we cannot continue to utilize the same behaviors and expect different results. Complexity theory is systems theory applied to people and organizations; complexity leadership theory is the notion that leadership rests not 'in' an individual and is not 'done' by an individual to groups of other individuals (hierarchy), but evolves and/or emerges as the aggregate product of a series of interactions and the resulting dynamics between agents; in short, leadership emerges from a series of interdependent actions of agents (people within an organization) as they combine or aggregate into a collective venture.


1. The Importance of Interactions

"Although the complexity leadership approach redirects emphasis away from the individual as leader, it does not in any way diminish the importance of leadership as an organizational phenomenon; rather, it recognizes that leadership transcends the individual by being fundamentally a system phenomenon (Marion and Uhl-Bien, 2001, 2003; Uhl-Bien et al., 2004; Hazy, 2006)."

"A complexity view suggests a form of "distributed" leadership (Brown and Gioia, 2002; Gronn, 2002) that does not lie in a person but rather in an interactive dynamic, within which any particular person will participate as leader or a follower at different times and for different purposes. It is not limited to a for- mal managerial role, but rather emerges in the systemic interactions between heterogeneous agents (Marion and Uhl-Bien, 2001, 2003)."

"A key contribution of a complexity leader- ship theory is that it provides an integrative theoretical framework for explaining interactive

"Dynamics that have been acknowledged by a variety of emerging leadership theories, e.g., shared leadership (Pearce and Conger, 2003), collective leadership (Weick and Roberts, 1993), distributed leadership (Gronn, 2002), relational leadership (Drath, 2001; ...

Solution Summary

This solution addresses the ideas of complexity theory as applied to leadership.