Leadership Institute


Date of this Version



Published in The Leadership Quarterly 18:4 (August 2007), pp. 298-318; Special Issue on Leadership and Complexity; doi 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.002 Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/10489843


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 article 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).