Reflections from the Wednesday morning session “Complexity Leadership Theory, Panarchy & Resilience: an embodiment workshop”

Just when you thought you were catching up on the themes of Resilience 2017, Alan Bush (University of South Florida) slams Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) on the table at his Wednesday session.

Did you know there are numerous leadership theories floating out there? This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but it sure is interesting. Leadership theories range from: being a born leader (she will have the traits of a desired leader); emerges opportunistically; or out of necessity. The Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) borrows concepts from studies of complex systems (sometimes referred to as complexity science) and well-established leadership theories. CLT suggests that ideas, innovation, and learning, etc., emerge from the system as a result of the many interactions within the system. Typical leadership models have been those of top-down control.

The CLT framework, compared to some of the other leadership frameworks seems to have a greater capacity to generate/foster innovation (and probably a happier workplace!). Incorporating CLT into governmental leadership sounds like a pipe dream. However, there are components of the CLT framework in the natural resource sciences within some governmental agencies and in academia. Most academics (hopefully all) are not reliant on their leadership for inspiration and ideas, however, are sometimes reliant on logistics required to execute inspiration and ideas.

So, I think a successful organization under CLT will:
• Have an administration that is cognizant of the power they hold
• Will be adaptive
• Fosters cross-scale and within scale interactions (see below)

This seems to be a recipe for a generally successful implementation of CLT in an organization.

Some scholars of leadership theory suggest that we are living in an era of knowledge and information, yet are stuck in a leadership style suited for the industrial era. Where should CLT be introduced and incorporated? Academia? Prive sector? Public sector? Is it already incorporated in your workplace?

What are your thoughts?

Your Resilience2017 correspondent:

Jessica Burnett is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebrsaka-Lincoln in Nebraska, U.S. Her research explores the use of statistical and modelling techniques for identifying rapid changes in wildlife communities across space and time. She is also interested in using existing data to identify areas and systems vulnerable to the effects of climate change and globalisation.


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