Thematic Analysis Of Leadership And Complex Dynamics Education Essay

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The study of complex adaptive systems which explains the constant flux of living systems is arousing much interest as a paradigm and model for studying organisational behaviour and associated disciplines. A new order of reality emerges as a result of the constant interaction and coevolution of the elements of the system as well as their interaction with the system itself. The space of complexity is that state which the system occupies and which lies between order and chaos. One major impact on organisations in applying the concepts of complexity theory is the way in which leadership is seen and the need for change.


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Organizing in the mist: a case study in leadership and complexity

Type: Case study

Author(s): Peter Simpson

Source: Leadership & Organization Development Journal Volume: 28 Issue: 5 2007

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Purpose - This paper aims to help develop an understanding of how complexity theory may be applied to an understanding of leadership and organizational dynamics and contributes to the growing body of literature in the same subject.

Design/methodology/approach - Stacey's theory of complex responsive processes is used to analyse leadership and organizational dynamics in an unusual example of an organizational simulation exercise on an MBA programme.

Practical implications - This article shows how the theory of complex responsive processes may offer the potential to understand episodes of emergent, and potentially creative, forms of organization and leadership. It demonstrates how to recognise and work with the qualities of participation, conversational life, anxiety, diversity, and with unpredictability and paradox.

Originality/value - This paper complements previous articles in LODJ that seek to use complexity theories in the analysis of leadership and organizational dynamics. It demonstrates how an analysis from the perspective of complex responsive processes differs from that of complexity theories that focus on systemic rather than process thinking and that do not incorporate insights from psychology and social theory.


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The future of leadership: the art of leading people in a "post-managerial" environment

Type: Conceptual paper

Author(s): Tom Karp, Thomas Helgø

Source: foresight Volume: 10 Issue: 2 2008

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Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the future concept of leadership. The paper argues a view of leadership in organisations as a shared social influence process of relating, thus challenging mainstream approaches to leadership and the emphasis on leadership as a specialized role.

Design/methodology/approach - Conceptual discussion

Findings - It is suggested herein that the central acts of leadership in the future will be to focus on the emergence of identity and relationships. It is contended that current paradigms of leadership are limited as they assert leadership as a role with fundamental influence over command and control enabling the design of appropriate interventions for future organisational success. This is not consistent with reality in most organisations today, and will be even less consistent in a near future with added complexity. Therefore a future view of leadership is proposed by paying attention to how leadership may be better understood as an emergent phenomenon when people interact.

Research limitations/implications - The research is conceptual in its nature, and not grounded in empirical evidence. Further research work is needed in order to formalize a full leadership theory.

Practical implications - Leaders must then take better account of how identity and relations emerges to understand what constitute leadership - by viewing leadership as a shared social influence process of relating. For a leader this necessitates acknowledging feelings of not being in control as crucial to the leadership process; enables followers to experience their ability and find their way to act in the moment.

Originality/value - The article challenges the current mainstream paradigm of leadership and its powerbase. Its primary value lies in how one thinks of leadership - as position or as something being emergent/dynamic/not in control.


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Leadership in a network of communities: a phenomenographic study

Type: Research paper

Author(s): Alice MacGillivray

Source: Learning Organization, The Volume: 17 Issue: 1 2010

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Purpose - Canada's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI) uses an operating model that is unusual in government. It is created to enable cross-boundary capability and capacity building and learning. Some consider it a model for other federal science initiatives. The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of leadership - and its relationship to perceived effectiveness - in this complex network of counter-terrorism communities, where parts of the network are functioning better than others. At a more academic level, it explores whether complexity theory can inform leadership theory.

Design/methodology/approach - This qualitative, empirical study uses phenomenography and elements of ethnography as methodologies. Data are gathered through interviews and observation.

Findings - CRTI personnel refer to their initiative as a counter-terrorism network of communities. The leader of each community works - without positional authority - with participants from many organizations and locations. The paper reveals qualitatively different ways of understanding leadership. Even though CRTI groups have much in common, participants' ways of understanding that work vary greatly. Some understand their work environments as complex systems rather than as traditional government structures; this way of understanding is associated with perceptions of effectiveness. This finding can change the ways in which science and technology professionals make sense of their work in complex, trans-disciplinary fields such as counter-terrorism and global warming.

Originality/value - This qualitative, empirical research complements and supports some of the conceptual work about leadership and learning in complex environments.


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School Leadership and Complexity Theory

Type: Non-article

Author(s): Simon Clarke

Source: Journal of Educational Administration Volume: 41 Issue: 4 2003



Set the scene for the reader

What's this going to be about and why?

Give the rationale

For example - Modern management, and more specifically leadership, is not a set of tools and techniques, it is a paradigm. This leadership paradigm entails a view that that the essential function of leaders is to direct and control. This control is exercised by eliminating uncertainty and by dealing with negative deviances from the grand plan. Leaders then need to understand the whole system, see its connections, foresee the responses of people and, from this, design and execute appropriate interventions.

What is leadership? Like all terms in social science, the concept of leadership is obviously arbitrary and subjective. An observation by Bennis (1959, p. 259) is as true today as it was many years ago:

… the concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity. So, we have invented an endless proliferation of terms to deal with it… and still the concept is not sufficiently defined.

Academics like Drucker (2004) focus leadership on opportunity, performing actions, and taking responsibility as the way to effective leadership. Others, like Mintzberg (2003), point to the different mind-sets a leader requires to lead successfully. Yet others argue the need for attributes like vision, discipline, and passion (Covey, 2004), the need to master capabilities such as sense making, relating, visioning, and inventing (Ancona et al., 2007), or the need to mix personal humility with professional will (Collins, 2001).

Most of these influential thoughts on leadership have their roots in the current management paradigm.

This thematic review seeks to explore the concept of leadership into the future. In doing so, we will challenge the dominating paradigm of leadership through an exploration of key themes form an analysis of 3-5 guest lecturers with developing commentary given through theoretical dialogue. The writer will argue that while the mainstream methods and tools of modern leadership and management were invented to solve the problems of control and efficiency, we will envision leadership in the future as serving the objective of human accomplishment - in a world with growing uncertainty, increasing pace of change, and increasing complexity. Hamel (Hamel and Breen, 2007) states that we are on the verge of a "post-managerial" society, perhaps even a "post-organisational" society. If this is the case, what is then the future concept of leadership?

Discussion Point - A "post-managerial" society with increasing complexity

Draw the reader into a discussion here.

Place you argument or point of discussion

For example - The current paradigms of leadership predominately reflect the assumption that it involves a process whereby intentional influence is exerted by an appointed person over other people to facilitate activities in a group of people or in an organisation. A large body of academic literature conceptualizes the above by identifying what leadership is and what makes successful leaders. Much of this work prescribes the characteristics of leaders and the styles to be applied in different situations (e.g. Yukl, 2006). This literature suggests that the leader can sit outside the organisation as an objective individual, design and apply deliberate interventions to move the organisation or group of people forward. We will argue that it is today, and even more so in the future, not possible to identify the preferred leadership attributes of the "ideal leader" and then conclude that a person with the requisite attributes will perform effectively as a leader because how the leader performs will depend just as much on the kind of recognition and the kinds of responses of others as it does on personal attributes.

Whether leadership should be viewed as a specialized role or as a shared social influence process is controversial in leadership theory. In this paper we will argue the latter. Regardless of their school of leadership theory, most academics and practitioners agree that the objective of leadership thinking and practice is to construct a way of making sense and direction of organisational life. In leadership we are concerned with the control and manipulation of social systems. During the last two decades, physicists, meteorologists, chemists, biologists, economists, psychologists and computer scientists have worked across their disciplines to develop alternative theories of systems. This work presents a glimpse of the future of leadership. Their work goes under such titles as chaos theory, dissipative structures, complex adaptive systems, and nonlinear dynamics, disciplines commonly referred to as complexity sciences. Independently of this work in the natural sciences, similar ideas related to social systems have been appearing in sociology and psychology. These sciences may give us new knowledge of leadership and human interaction in organisations into the future.

The social sciences do not have anything comparable to the physical elements of the natural sciences. The whole structure that makes up the foundation of human interaction is a construct of the human mind (North, 2005). If complexity theory is applied to leadership, then organisations should be regarded as responsive processes of relating and communicating between people; a psychology based on relationships between people (Stacey, 2003). Complexity thinking related to social sciences therefore focuses attention not on some abstract macro-system but on what people are doing in their relationships with each other on a micro-level (Shaw, 2002). We will argue that the trends are clear. A "post-managerial" or "post-organisational" society will operate on increased complexity levels, meaning some of the following:

Thematic Points Lecture 1, 3, 4, 5

Organisations - private or public - operate today and even more in the future, in complex external and internal environments; vital assumptions continuously change due to dynamic developments and events (in the marketplace, in the industry, in the organisation, and so forth).

Organisations are and will become rich in people diversity, structure, activities, processes and culture, and it is not possible for a management team or a single leader to understand cause-effect loops, as well as systemic connections.

Organisations behave like ongoing reality construction entities - there is often no one reality leaders can decide on.

People together construct a future that is a function of their history, their identity, and their own agenda, but which is always open to further shaping as people continue to communicate and interact.

People construct their future not as a single "vision", "values" or "strategy", but in terms of what actions become possible and sensible for them, given their circumstances.

People in the organisations influence and affect each other, through loops of interaction that create individual and collective motivation, behaviour and identity. These influences arise in dynamic relationships between people - and in specific and changing contexts.

People are constantly shaping and shifting the width and depth of their relationships, depending on the context, and individuals and groups form and are formed by each other simultaneously.

People in organisations are not the rational actors leaders wish them to be; they behave and react in a number of unpredictable ways.

The above claims are supported by a body of literature and research; of particular interest are the works by Shaw (2002), Stacey (2003), North (2005) and Beinhocker (2006). Today and even more so in the future, leaders will not always have choices and will not have the control that the current leadership paradigm suggests. This will be further amplified in the years to come. In a world with growing complexity, the best a leader can do is to enter, with his or hers intentions, into interactions with others with their intentions, out of which something will be created under no one individual's control. This is because the future is under perpetual construction and the past is continually reconstructed in relation to the present moment, therefore we cannot fully determine what happens or choose it, regardless of any clever foresight methods or tools. This does not mean, however, that there is no personal choice or freedom; we can as leaders have intentions and be purposeful about our intentions in relation to others. There is still plenty of room for leadership, but this leadership will come in another wrapping

Thematic Analysis - how the themes emerge -

Thematic analysis is one of the most commonly used methods of qualitative analysis. However, as a method it has received little detailed attention and accounts of how to carry out a thematic analysis are scarce. Furthermore, many researchers gloss over what they actually did when carrying out a thematic analysis. This means that the method is not so easily accessed by novices as some other approaches.

Thematic analysis is not as dependent on specialised theory as some other qualitative techniques such as Discourse analysis (Chapter 22) or Conversation analysis (Chapter 23). As a consequence, thematic analysis is more accessible to novices unfamiliar with the relevant theory in-depth.

In thematic analysis the task of the researcher is to identify a limited number of themes which adequately reflect their textual data. This is not so easy to do well though the identification of a few superficial themes is generally quite easy but does not reflect the required level of analysis adequately.

As with all qualitative analysis, it is vitally important that the researcher is extremely familiar with their data if the analysis is to be expedited and insightful. Thus data familiarisation is a key to thematic analysis as it is for other qualitative methods. For this reason, it is generally recommended that researchers carry out their data collection themselves (for example, conduct their own in-depth interviews) and also transcribe the data themselves. Otherwise, the researcher is at quite a disadvantage.

Following data familiarisation, the researcher will normally code their data. That is, they apply brief verbal descriptions to small chunks of data. The detail of this process will vary according to circumstances including the researcher's expectations about the direction in which the analysis will proceed. Probably the analyst will be making codings every two or three lines of text but there are no rules about this and some analyses may be more densely coded than others.

At every stage of the analysis, the researcher will alter and modify the analysis in the light of experience and as ideas develop. Thus the researcher may adjust earlier codings in the light of the full picture of the data. The idea is really to get as close a fit of the codings to the data as possible without having a plethora of idiosyncratic codings.

On the basis of the codings, the researcher then tries to identify themes which integrate substantial sets of these codings. Again this is something of a trial-and-error process in which change and adjustment will be a regular feature. The researcher needs to be able to define each theme sufficiently so that it is clear to others exactly what the theme is.

The researcher needs to identify examples of each theme to illustrate what the analysis has achieved.

As in all report writing, the process of writing up the analysis and the results of the analysis is part of the analysis process and a good researcher may re-think and re-do parts of their analysis in the course of the write-up.

There is no reason why researchers cannot give numerical indications of the incidence and prevalence of each theme in their data. For example, what percentage of participants mention things which refer to a particular theme?

Paying attention to relationships & themes

For example - The future concept of leadership will emerge not only as a function of identity, but also as a result of relationships. This is the forming and being formed relationship between leaders and followers in a group. Recent developments in the field of neuroscience have showed that we live in constant relationship to other people and that these people play a part in regulating our social and emotional behaviour. According to the clinical psychologist Cozolino (2006), the human brain itself is a social organ, and brains themselves exist and develop in relationship to other brains.

Such shifting relationships between people in a group are predominately governed by dynamic (emotions, trust, motivation, identity issues), social (group forming and norming), cognitive (perception, learning, knowledge gathering), and coordination/power related psychological processes. Current approaches to leadership theory have, in the past few years, given attention to the area of relationships. Models and theories have been produced to account for such thinking. Chief examples are the work by Peter Senge (1990). He talks about visions - visions as governing ideas of the organisation - as well as purpose and values, all together governing what people in organisations believe in. By this, Senge wants to stimulate emotional, motivational, identity, group norms, and cognitive issues. Another example is the research by Daniel Goleman et al. (2002). They prescribe that leaders should pay attention to emotional intelligence; how we handle ourselves and our relationships can be managed to determine success in business and personal life. On the cognitive side, the Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner (2004) has provided influential insights. He draws on cognitive research to provide frameworks that bring about significant changes in perspectives and behaviours. Other examples of the prescriptions on how to better manage relationships in organisations include work by Haslebo (2004), Gratton (2000), and several others, as well as the steady stream of new (and re-circulated) tools and methods such as storytelling, vision building, communication models, motivational concepts, team building, value development, and cultural discovery, just to mention a few of the concepts in widespread use in organisations today and even more so in the future.

In using such tools and methods, a leader should note that the psychological processes in question are not manageable, but emerge between people influenced by communication as a result of a complex mixture of motivation, trust, feelings, emotions, group norms, knowledge acquisition, learning, sense making, as well as hard and soft power play (Kaufmann and Kaufmann, 1996). If leadership influence is designed and planned for by the use of a certain method or tool, we argue that it is not possible to design people's response to these, and predict how people will react to planned initiatives, interventions, campaigns, and the like.

Following this, we contend that much of today's mainstream practice of leadership is dealing with organisational complexity by adding more complexity - by the use of more and more sophisticated management tools, concepts, and models. This is, in our view, a paradox because relational issues of leadership are created simultaneously between leaders and followers. Leadership is the process which occurs between people emerging from the ongoing interaction between leaders and followers in the present. Taking account of relationships in the act of leading is therefore better understood as leading by acting in the moment but at the same time paying attention to our experience. This will mean allowing for a thinking and feeling self in the presence of others through listening to one's own bodily physical, cognitive and emotional responses and taking account of these in the act of leadership. This is leading by being reflexive when in a leadership role and, by this, influencing the processes of ongoing interaction between people. Leading this way is certainly a risky process at an identity level where personal stakes may be high, hence we claim that leadership in the future is certainly not for everyone. Such argument is supported by the work of George et al. (2007). These researchers have found that successful leaders frame their life stories in ways that allow them to see themselves not as passive observers of their lives but as individuals who determinedly develop self-awareness from their experiences. Not everyone has the capacity to transform such experiences into something of value for their way of leading. Neither will everyone necessarily connect with a leader's way of framing his or her experiences into a personal take on what is important while leading.


Draw your points together.

Give an overall summative perspective

In this article we have explored the concept of leadership in the future. We have argued that the leadership is better viewed as a psychology based on relationships between people, by focusing attention not on some abstract macro-system but on what people are actually doing in their relationships with each other on a micro-level.

This has important implications for the future concept of leadership, meaning that leaders do not always have choices and are not in control, as the current management paradigm suggests. We therefore argue that leaders today, and even more in the future, will need to engage, with their intentions, in interactions with others who have their own intentions, out of which something is created that is under no one individual's control.

We conclude in this article that sustainable and forceful leadership will more and more come from sources of recognition, credibility, trust, and respect, all psychological processes that emerge from human interaction. The future concept of leadership is therefore best understood as the emergence of identity and relationships as central to the acts of leadership. Leadership is action and leading entails paying attention to one's own experience when interacting with others; how people relate to another. Hence, leading people in organisations is an emergent phenomenon when people interact. The leader is embodied in the individual but, more importantly, leadership is a social phenomenon loaded with symbolism and power relating that emerges through interaction between leaders and followers.

This interaction will be the essence of the future concept of leadership when leading people in organisations - a complex dynamic process of being and not being in control. The necessity for leaders to acknowledge feelings of not being in control is crucial to a leadership process that enables others to experience their ability to act in the moment.

Article citation: Tom Karp, Thomas Helgø, (2008) "The future of leadership: the art of leading people in a "post-managerial" environment", foresight, Vol. 10 Iss: 2, pp.30 - 37