Is complexity leadership theory complex enough? A critical appraisal, some modifications and suggestions for further research

Tourish, Dennis (2019) Is complexity leadership theory complex enough? A critical appraisal, some modifications and suggestions for further research. Organization Studies, 40 (2). pp. 219-238. ISSN 0170-8406

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Abstract

Scholars are increasingly seeking to develop theories that explain the underlying processes whereby leadership is enacted. This shifts attention away from the actions of ‘heroic’ individuals and towards the social contexts in which people with greater or lesser power influence each other. A number of researchers have embraced complexity theory, with its emphasis on non-linearity and unpredictability. However, some complexity scholars still depict the theory and practice of leadership in relatively non-complex terms. They continue to assume that leaders can exercise rational, extensive and purposeful influence on other actors to a greater extent than is possible. In effect, they offer a theory of complex organizations led by non-complex leaders who establish themselves by relatively non-complex means. This testifies to the enduring power of ‘heroic’ images of leader agency. Without greater care, the terminology offered by complexity leadership theory could become little more than a new mask for old theories that legitimize imbalanced power relationships in the workplace. This paper explores how these problems are evident in complexity leadership theory, suggests that communication and process perspectives help to overcome them, and outlines an agenda for further research on these issues.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Business and Management
Depositing User: Joy Blake
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2018 13:07
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2019 15:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/76349

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