Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

How leaders engage in complexity leadership: Do action-logics make a difference?
by Presley, Stephen P., Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2014, 253; 3611483
Abstract (Summary)

Complexity leadership theory (CLT) (Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey , 2007; Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009) represents a 21st century transcend and include theory of leadership. This study examined how seven senior managers and leaders working in complex environments engaged in CLT at work, and whether action-logics (Torbert and Associates, 2004) made a difference in how they did so. Participants spanned three action-logics: expert, achiever, and individualist.

Data collection for this qualitative study was based on a moderately structured interview protocol developed around the seven primary theoretical components (called "CLT Areas") of the adaptive leadership function presented in Uhl-Bien and Marion, 2009. The interview protocol embodied a language translation from the more abstract academic language of CLT to the idiolect of participants. Individual interviews lasted about two hours. Each participant also completed an action-logic instrument (Leadership Development Profile).

The primary study finding is a novel methodology for determining the degree to which participants were engaging in CLT. Existing definitions of CLT Areas as shown in Uhl-Bien, Marion, and McKelvey (2007) and Uhl-Bien and Marion (2009) were expanded via the development of elements comprising each CLT Area. Further, metrics were developed for each element that generated numerical scoring from interview text, providing a means for quantitative analysis to compare differences among participants. Data for three of the seven CLT Areas were analyzed.

In addition to the primary methodology finding, data findings guided by the CLT Scoring Framework showed evidence that all participants were engaged in CLT, but in different ways. Moreover, patterns of scoring differences emerged across action-logics, suggesting that action-logics were impacting the way these leaders engaged in CLT.

This study represents an early step in the integration of two theories - complexity leadership and action-logic - both of which appear to be related to 21st century environments. The study concludes with a recommendation for how to further integrate these theories in a way that could lead to considerable expansions of both. Of particular interest is the potential to deepen understanding of the role systems thinking plays in regards to action-logics.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mink, Barbara P.
Commitee: Hauser, Laura, Steier, Frederick, Wallis, Nancy, Yorks, Lyle
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Human and Organization Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Organization Theory, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Action-logics, Adult development, Complexity, Law of requisite complexity, Leadership, Systems thinking
Publication Number: 3611483
ISBN: 978-1-303-72278-3
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