Department of Management


Date of this Version



Published in The Leadership Quarterly 20:4 (August 2009), pp. 617–630; doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.04.006 Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


Complexity science reframes leadership by focusing on the dynamic interactions between all individuals, explaining how those interactions can, under certain conditions, produce emergent outcomes. We develop a Leadership of Emergence using this approach, through an analysis of three empirical studies which document emergence in distinct contexts. Each of these studies identifies the same four “conditions” for emergence: the presence of a Dis-equilibrium state, Amplifying actions, Recombination/“Self-organization”, and Stabilizing feedback. From these studies we also show how these conditions can be generated through nine specific behaviors which leaders can enact, including: Disrupt existing patterns through embracing uncertainty and creating controversy, Encourage novelty by allowing experiments and supporting collective action, Provide sensemaking and sensegiving through the artful use of language and symbols, and Stabilize the system by Integrating local constraints. Finally, we suggest ways for advancing a meso