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Exploring the adaptive function in complexity leadership theory: An examination of shared leadership and collective creativity in innovation networks

David Sweetman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Leadership, creativity, and innovation are becoming increasingly important to the sustainability of organizations. Facing ever more complex environments, traditional views embodied in the individual are being augmented by theorizing which views leadership and creativity as a property of the collective, enabling emergent “grassroots” processes. With theoretical grounding in complexity leadership theory, this dissertation leverages the emerging constructs of shared leadership and collective creativity from a network perspective to provide empirical understanding of the adaptive function of complexity leadership. Social network hypotheses were advanced positing that shared leadership and collective creativity comprise the adaptive function, and that the adaptive function is related to innovation. Results of research conducted in a small regional non-profit organization found collective creativity and shared leadership relate positively with innovation. Occurrence of the adaptive function was found to relate to 93.5% of all innovation in the organization. Further, in examining the components of collective creativity individually, while advice exchange occurred most frequently, reflective reframing was found to relate most directly to innovative outcomes. Reinforcing did not relate to innovation on its own, but appeared to act in combination with advice and reframing to predict innovation. In addition, heterogeneity between individual experiences and abilities moderated the relationship between the adaptive function and innovation, with more heterogeneity and the adaptive function positively associated with innovation. An unexpected finding was that homogeneity in educational experiences moderated the relationships of the adaptive function and innovation, with more homogeneity and the adaptive function positively associated with innovation. The moderating role of collective psychological capital was also explored, but no significant relationship was found. However, collective PsyCap was found to relate negatively to organizational tenure, suggested burnout among the longest-serving members of the organization. This study is one of the first empirical explorations of the adaptive function of complexity leadership and its relationship to innovation. Findings demonstrated the decentralized nature of creativity, leadership, and innovation within an organization’s social network. Innovative outcomes were more decentralized than either creativity or leadership. Further research is recommended to better understand this growing area of research.^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Management

Recommended Citation

Sweetman, David, "Exploring the adaptive function in complexity leadership theory: An examination of shared leadership and collective creativity in innovation networks" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3432186.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3432186

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