Department of Management


Date of this Version



Published in The Leadership Quarterly 20:4 (August 2009), pp. 631–650; special issue on “Meso-Modeling of Leadership: Integrating Micro- and Macro-Perspectives of Leadership”; doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.04.007 Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


We consider Complexity Leadership Theory in contexts of bureaucratic forms of organizing to describe how adaptive dynamics can work in combination with administrative functions to generate emergence and change in organizations. Complexity leadership approaches are consistent with the central assertion of the meso argument that leadership is multi-level, processual, contextual, and interactive. In this paper we focus on the adaptive function, an interactive process between adaptive leadership (an agentic behavior) and complexity dynamics (non-agentic social dynamics) that generates emergent outcomes (e.g., innovation, learning, adaptability) for the firm. Propositions regarding the actions of complexity leadership in bureaucratic forms of organizing are offered.