“Leadership for organizational adaptability: A theoretical synthesis and integrative framework“
One of the biggest challenges facing leaders today is the need to position and enable organizations and people for adaptability in the face of increasingly dynamic and demanding environments.
Leadership for organizational adaptability is different from traditional leadership or leading change. It involves enabling the adaptive process by creating space for ideas advanced by entrepreneurial leaders to engage in tension with the operational system and generate innovations that scale into the system to meet the adaptive needs of the organization and its environment. Leadership for organizational adaptability calls for scholars and practitioners to recognize organizational adaptability as an important organizational outcome, and enabling leadership (i.e., enabling the adaptive process through adaptive space) as a critical form of leadership for adaptive organizations.
“…there is a constant tendency in the forms that are increasing in number and diverging in character, to supplant and exterminate the less divergent”Darwin, The Origin of Species
“Embracing dynamic tensions: Peacekeeping as a balancing act of complexity” contributes to Complexity Leadership Theory by unpacking the complexity into dimensions, unpacking the actors into groups and communities with commitments, and addressing power relations and the dark side of their emergence
- Unpacking complexity into dimensions advances leaders’ understanding of their environment
and enables them to avoid taking simplistic actions to address complex issues.
- The dimensions of complexity and its inherent tensions and actions advance the development of leadership processes and practices.
- Leaders’ balancing actions are always enabled, restricted, and co-evolved
in political, historical, economic, and temporal contexts.
“Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound”Darwin, The Origin of Species
Employing complexity: complexification management for locked issues:
public management based on ‘ordering‘ societal issues to make them controllable and solvable (simplification) can be initially attractive, but in the long-term ineffective. An alternative management mode exist by increasing the complexity of both the problem and the approach to deal with the problem (complexification).
Simplification has a considerable risk of ineffective path-dependency in complex issues, while complexification has a strong potential for unlocking paths.
For public managers, this means that complexification can be applied as a management strategy in cases of deadlocked processes, in order to enlarge the chance for more promising results, for example, by bringing in variety in problems and solutions, broadening the (organizational and network) structures, and improvising in processes.
Perhaps the most daunting and intangible part is in the improvisation, namely how to be open for chance events to utilize, or to ‘anticipate on surprises’ and be ‘mindful of the unknown’.
A possible way to further develop the practicalities of complexification is to profit from insights from design thinking, which is presented as a practical, open search and creative process of matching problems and solutions in complex, wicked issues.
I would like to link this entry to the White queen , already mentioned in a previous post:
“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.White Queen in “Through the Looking-Glass” (1871)
We’ve got 21st century technology and speed colliding head-on with 20th and 19th century institutions, rules and cultures.Amory Lovins
Complexity in public sector systems requires leaders to balance the administrative practices necessary to be aligned and efficient in the management of routine challenges and the adaptive practices required to respond to dynamic circumstances.
Conventional notions of leadership in the field of public administration do not fully explain the role of leadership in balancing the entanglement of formal, top-down, administrative functions and informal, emergent, adaptive functions within public sector settings with different levels of complexity.
Extending existing complexity leadership constructs, leadership should pay greater attention to the tensions inherent in enabling leadership if actors are to cope with the complex, collaborative, cross-boundary, adaptive work in which they are increasingly engaged.
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