Department of Management


Date of this Version



Published online ahead of print in Leadership (2013); doi: 10.1177/1742715013511483


Copyright © 2013 James K. Hazy and Mary Uhl-Bien. Published by Sage Publications. Used by permission.


Over five years ago, The Leadership Quarterly published a special issue on complexity to advance a new way of thinking about leadership. In shifting attention away from the individual to the organizing process itself, complexity added an important focus on process and context to leadership and management research. Yet, the complexity approach creates challenges for researchers who must combine or replace individual level constructs—like those built through surveys or factor analysis—with richer theories that investigate networked meso dynamics, multilevel phenomena, emergent processes, and organizational outcomes. To address this challenge, the present analysis draws on theoretical and empirical work over the last several years to identify five specific areas where complexity inspired research has led to new insights about the mechanisms that enable the organization to perform and adapt. It suggests propositions that describe how leadership and management, defined holistically, might activate complexity mechanisms to perform five essential organizing functions.