Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Complexity Leadership: Construct Validation of an Instrument to Assess Generative and Administrative Leadership Modes

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Complexity Leadership: Construct Validation of an Instrument to Assess Generative and Administrative Leadership Modes

Article excerpt

Complexity science as applied to leadership research suggests that when organizations are considered as complex adaptive systems, "leadership" should be conceptualized as changes to the sets of rules that are being enacted locally to guide group interaction behaviors (Marion and Uhl-Bien, 2001; Uhl-Bien et al., 2007; Hazy and Uhl-Bien, 2014). In this complexity framing, "leadership interactions" are local individual behaviors that enact, reinforce, or dampen these rules. As such, "local rules" reside and occur in groups and when taken together, interact to form an organized system (Hazy, 2008). Thus, complexity theory implies that leadership is a measureable property of the collective rather than being solely observable in the behaviors exhibited by a single person designated as the "leader." Accordingly, collective leadership activities are posited to be distinct from the interpersonal relationships between the "leader" and followers, and at least to a degree are independent of who enacts the behavior.

From a research perspective, complexity theory suggests that making a person the focus of leadership research, whether by examining personality traits or sets of behavior or his/her relationships within dyads (cf., Bass, 1990) is not enough. Rather, behaviors that express "leadership" can be studied as distributed throughout an organization. These leadership activities would, of course, include the behaviors of designated leaders or managers, but collective leadership is not limited to them. Individuals, even powerful ones, do not dominate or determine "leadership." Instead, "leadership" is embedded in changes to distinct sets of local rules that guide behaviors and interactions among individuals as they perform their work in business units, departments, and across the organization. Although complexity leadership has been described in the literature since 2001, a review of the literature by Hazy and Uhl-Bien (2014) could not find an instrument that could be used by researchers to empirically test aspects of this theory.

To address this gap, this study introduces and validates a ten-item measurement instrument of Complexity Leadership Interaction Modes (CLIM). It also introduces two statistically distinct five-item subscales each of which is posited to drive distinct types of value creating potential in support of organizational outcomes like, for example, organizational climate or culture (cf., Schneider et al., 2013). The first subscale, Generative Leadership Mode (GLM), is posited to engender aspects of climate and culture that address risk and uncertainty (variance) in the ecosystem. These leadership interactions are posited to identify alternative courses of action for the organization by biasing choice and action in ways that create diversity of perspectives and build dynamic capabilities (Helfat et al., 2006). This type of leadership activity promotes internal optionality (option value) that allows the organization to be flexible when responding to surprise events. The second subscale, Administrative Leadership Mode (ALM), is posited to engender aspects of climate that bias choice and action in ways that maximize return (expected value) from existing opportunities and capabilities (Helfat et al., 2006). This mode promotes activities that focus on priorities and maintain efficiency. Each of these two modes is posited to be effective in specific situations. Likewise, each would be expected to further different and often complementary objectives along the spectrum of adaptability (GLM) and performance (ALM). In this study, all of these CLIM scales are shown to have content, construct, and discriminant validity, and each exhibits stable psychometric characteristics that allow them to be used in future research.

After a review of the gap in the literature, the Complexity Leadership Interaction Mode (CLIM) construct is described in more detail. This is followed by a description of the validation method, the analysis performed, and a discussion of results. …

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