A Prescriptive Hybrid Model of Leadership -- Complexity Leadership Theory and Authentic Leadership Theory

The Prescriptive Hybrid Model of Leadership depicts the process of leadership with the enabling leadership function as the gateway between administrative and adaptive leadership.
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  A Prescriptive Hybrid Model of Leadership: Complexity Leadership Theory and Authentic Leadership Theory David Livingston and Jenna Lusin The George Washington University, USA Abstract: Recent events have increased public scrutiny about the way organizations are managed and led due to a perceived loss of managerial integrity and a sense of betrayal caused by amoral organizational leaders (Aschkenasy, 2009). The high level of public scrutiny and cynicism associated with a lack of faith in leadership, coupled with the increasing complexity of the workplace, has created the need for alternative leadership paradigms (Sinclair, 2007). These prescriptive paradigms must be more moral, ethical, credible, and people-focused while incorporating a systems level perspective that acknowledges the complexity of the contemporary situation. Complexity Leadership Theory (Uhl-Bien, Marion, and McKelvey, 2007) has made significant strides toward the understanding of leadership as a complex process, but it has failed to adequately incorporate the impact of actors’ characteristics and behaviors on the leadership phenomena. This paper is an attempt to take the first steps toward an integration of trait and behavior based theories with complexity theories. First, this paper will examine Complexity Leadership Theory in light of its three separate but intertwined leadership functions: administrative, adaptive, and enabling (Uhl-Bien, Marion, McKelvey, 2007). Second, the role of authentic leadership, founded on honesty and trust (Luthans and Avolio, 2003), will be discussed, including its three main components: self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-development, in conjunction with a complexity theory perspective. Third, a prescriptive hybrid model derived from an integration of Schreiber & Carley’s (2008) Complexity Leadership Theory model and Avolio, Gardner, Walumbwa, Luthans, & May’s (2004) definition of authentic leadership will be presented. The Prescriptive Hybrid Model of Leadership depicts the process of leadership with the enabling leadership function as the gateway between administrative and adaptive leadership. Finally, the implications of the prescriptive hybrid model for organizations existing in the contemporary global economy will be explored.  Keywords:  Complexity   Leadership, authentic leadership, Hybrid Model 1. Introduction Recent events have increased concern about the way organizations are managed and led. Increase in public scrutiny is substantially due to the loss of integrity by amoral organizational leaders (Aschkenasy, 2009). There is a deep-seated public perception that leadership is disingenuous, focusing on company profits and efficiency over employee welfare (Sinclair, 2007). Organizational members have demonstrated a desire for leadership authenticity as a result of such scandals as the  AIG leadership bonus pay-outs ( Leaders: Easy does it; AIG and the president  , 2009) and the collapse of Enron (Hannah & Zatzick, 2008). The theoretical relationship between authenticity and the complex process of leadership is necessary to formulate alternative leadership paradigms that will sufficiently address the high level of public scrutiny and cynicism associated with a lack of faith in leadership (Sinclair, 2007). These prescriptive paradigms must be more moral, ethical, credible, and people-focused while incorporating a systems level perspective that acknowledges the complexity of the contemporary situation. Complexity Leadership Theory (Uhl-Bien, Marion, and McKelvey, 2007) has made significant strides towards the understanding of leadership as a complex process, but it has failed to adequately incorporate the impact of actors’ characteristics and behaviors on the leadership phenomena. This paper is an attempt to take the first steps toward an integration of trait and behavior based theories with complexity theories by (a) examining Complexity Leadership Theory, (b) discussing the role of authentic leadership in a complex environment, (c) presenting a prescriptive hybrid model incorporating Complexity Leadership Theory and Authentic Leadership Theory, and (d) exploring the implications of the hybrid model. For the sake of this paper, it is important to note “leaders” and “leadership” are distinctly different. Using Schreiber and Carley’s (2007: 231) definition, leaders constitute “collective change agents” that are the “competitive source of adaptive response and learning.” They are individuals or groups that influence the direction of a system or organization. In contrast, leadership “should be seen not only as position and authority but also as an emergent, interactive dynamic – a complex interplay from which a collective impetus for action and change emerges when heterogeneous agents interact in networks 102   David Livingston and Jenna Lusin  in ways that produce new patterns of behavior or new modes of operating” (Uhl-Bien, Marion & McKelvey, 2008: 187). It srcinates in the interactive space between agents and is, therefore, in a constant state of flux. “Patterns of communication, influence, and action among interacting individuals within the system produce leadership effects for the system that influence the information and resource flows throughout the system’s economic plumbing” (Hazy, 2008: 356). Leadership is fundamentally the process of influencing the creation, destruction, transformation, and distribution of information throughout the system, and enabling action in response to this information. It is a complex process existing in a complex environment. 2. Complexity Leadership Theory “Complexity theory is the study of the dynamic behaviors of complexly interacting, interdependent, and adaptive agents under conditions of internal and external pressure” (Marion, 2008: 3). Complex systems exist in an unpredictable world where a multitude of interactions at the micro level between individual agents result in drastic implications at the macro level. Complexity theory acknowledges the importance of individual agents while taking into account the monumental importance of the interactions between those agents. It is an examination of systems at the collective level of analysis. In Complexity theory, leadership is explored through a novel paradigmatic focus on the dynamics of relationships. The theory posits that leadership is far too complex to be understood as traits and behaviors of one or more individuals, rather, it involves a mystifying interplay between multiple, interacting forces. Leadership theory in the realm of complexity thought embraces both order and chaos as it “focuses on identifying and exploring the strategies and behaviors that foster organizational and subunit creativity, learning, and adaptability when appropriate complex adaptive systems dynamics are enabled within contexts of hierarchical coordination” (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007: 299). One of the primary challenges faced by organizations existing in complex environments is the constant tension between top-down, centralized structures that enable exploitation and bottom-up, emergent, structures that provide adaptive exploration (Panzar, Hazy, McKelvey, & Schwandt, 2007). March (1991: 71) states, “Exploration includes…variation, risk taking, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, innovation. Exploitation includes such things as refinement, choice, productivity, efficiency, selection, implementation, execution.” There is an intrinsic tradeoff between the two processes due to the organization’s inability to allocate all of its resources to both endeavors. However, to remain fruitful in a competitive environment, organizations must learn to balance the refinement of existing systems, structures, or products with the invention of new ones (March, 1991). One hypothesis proposes the paradoxical, but necessary, existence of exploitation and exploration in an organization is only made possible through the micro-dynamic interactions of individual agents acting within the collective (Hazy, 2008). “Leadership is a process resulting from micro-dynamic interactions,” and it is leadership that guides the collective’s energy toward exploitation or exploration (Panzar et al., 2007). It is the specific micro-dynamic interaction of leadership that provides the necessary structure for efficient exploitation, the circumstances that promote innovative exploration, and the integrating bridge between these two extreme organizational functions needed for survival. Based on this premise, Complexity Leadership Theory contends that leadership consists of three separate, but intertwined leadership functions; administrative, adaptive, and enabling (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007).  Administrative Leadership . Administrative leadership includes official managerial functions such as organizational structuring, vision generation, organizational strategy development, and resource acquisition. It is “a top-down function based on authority and position” (Uhl-Bien et al., 2008: 200). The structured nature of administrative leadership establishes a conduit through which official decisions and strategies can flow and be implemented. It is focused on the establishment of control and the exploitation of responses, resulting in greater organizational efficiency (Schreiber & Carley, 2008).  Adaptive Leadership . Adaptive Leadership is the collective dynamic that fuels change in an organization. As agents interact competitively or cooperatively, distributed knowledge is created and stored (Gronn, 2002). Networks in which agents are perpetually interacting and adapting to environmental pressures are referred to as complex adaptive systems (CAS) (Hazy, 2008; McKelvey, 2008). CAS are fueled by the existence of differentials known as adaptive tension. A balance must be 103   David Livingston and Jenna Lusin  maintained such that an appropriate amount of tension exists to promote adaptive evolution while retaining order. The point of balance between the extremes of adaptive tension is referred to as the edge of chaos (Lewin, 1999). The emergent and adaptive outcomes produced by the complex web of social interactions, known as adaptive leadership, enables organizations to remain at this edge. For adaptive leadership to alter the social system, the information produced and transformed within its emergent processes while at the edge of chaos must be successfully transplanted into the structure of the organization. Osborn and Hunt agree with this sentiment, stating, “What is needed is bottom-up structuration combined with top-down hierarchy” (Lewin, 1999: 323). Enabling Leadership . Enabling leadership serves to create beneficial conditions that promote and stimulate emergent collective action, while simultaneously channeling productive responses srcinating in adaptive leadership dynamics back up through the hierarchical structure of administrative leadership for strategic planning and exploitation (Schreiber & Carley, 2008). Enabling leadership is composed of two primary roles. First, “it fosters conditions that enable the emergence of complexity dynamics, or adaptive leadership within an organization” (Marion & Uhl-Bien, 2007: 152). It can be viewed as a catalyst, bringing the necessary conditions of CAS into contact through the fostering of interaction and interdependency, while injecting adaptive tension that results in an interactive dynamic (Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). The second role of enabling leadership is that of a maestro, masterfully weaving the dissonance of administrative leadership and adaptive leadership into a harmonious melody. “Enabling leadership manages the entanglement between administrative and adaptive leadership; this includes (1) managing the organizational conditions in which adaptive leadership exists, and (2) helping disseminate innovative products of adaptive leadership upward and through the formal managerial system” (Uhl-Bien et al., 2008: 205-206). Enabling leadership is fundamentally responsible for managing the bidirectional interface between administrative and adaptive leadership. Limitations of Complexity Leadership Theory  . Complexity theory has made monumental strides in understanding the interdependent dynamic comprising leadership’s core, but the theory retains significant limitations. The first is a lack of consideration for the impact of behaviors and characteristics exhibited by actors within the leadership process. Uhl-Bien et al. (2007: 314) remark, “By focusing on emergent leadership dynamics, Complexity Leadership Theory implies that leadership only exists in, and is a function of interaction; despite this, there are roles for individual leaders in interacting… with this dynamic.” Unfortunately, the authors fail to describe how these roles, and the accompanying behavior and characteristics, impact the greater system. In particular, the complexity literature has little to say on how beneficial leadership characteristics increase the effectiveness of the leadership process as understood by Uhl-Bien et al. (2007). This lack of integration is a recurring, systemic problem in much of the complexity theory literature.  A second limitation of Complexity Leadership Theory is that of applicability. It offers a “theoretical framework for approaching the study of leadership” (Uhl-Bien et al., 2008: 216), but does little to show how the framework may be applied to enhance the capabilities of leaders within organizational settings. “Beyond facilitating the fitness of lower-level units, complexity theory is, unfortunately, extremely vague about the types of demands and constraints placed on managerial leaders… there appears to be… little appreciation that organizations are hierarchies” (Osborn and Hunt, 2007: 332). Complexity theories must continue to pursue theoretical advances while providing valuable insights that enable organizational leadership to function more effectively. This paper proposes that the incorporation of authentic leadership theory may provide a supplemental framework that would reduce the aforementioned limitations found in Complexity Leadership Theory. First, it might offer greater insight into how beneficial characteristics of actors impact the complex leadership process. Second, it might provide practical applications that would allow leaders to engage in meaningful activities that could benefit the organization despite its inherent complexity. 3. Authentic Leadership Theory Leadership research in the area of authenticity has channeled positive psychology (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Sheldon and King, 2001) to focus on leaders’ strengths rather than weaknesses. Luthans (2002a, 2002b, 2003) has taken this positive approach and related it to the field of organizational studies. Avolio and colleagues (Avolio and Gardner, 2005; Avolio et al., 2004; Luthans and Avolio, 2003) have taken the concept a step further by applying positive psychology to 104   David Livingston and Jenna Lusin  leadership, which they term authentic leadership. The basis of Authentic Leadership Theory is best put by Shakespeare (1901), “to thine own self be true.” Luthans and Avolio (2003: 243) define authentic leadership as:  A process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated  positive behavior on the part of leaders and employees, fostering positive self-development. The authentic leaders are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, transparent, moral/ethical, future-oriented, and give priority to developing employees to be leaders. Embedded within the Luthans and Avolio (2003) definition are three main components of authentic leadership: self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-development. Authentic Leadership Theory describes effective leaders as being “deeply aware of how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others’ values/moral perspectives, knowledge, and strengths; aware of the context in which they operate” (Avolio, Luthans, & Walumbwa, 2004: 4, as cited in Avolio Gardner et al., 2004). Self-awareness . One gains self-awareness by testing personal beliefs and self-schema. Hannah (2005) defines self-awareness as an attention state where the individual directs his or her conscious attention to some aspect of self, thus becoming self-aware. George (2003: 11) describes authentic leadership as “being yourself” and suggests that to accomplish this feat, leaders must understand their passions and underlying motivations. In addition, Kouzes & Posner (2002) suggest that reaching an authentic state requires finding one’s voice by clarifying one’s own personal values. Through introspection, authentic leaders gain clarity in respect to their core values, identity, emotions, motives, and goals. Self-regulation . The second fundamental component of authentic leadership is self-regulation. Luthans and Avolio (2003) suggest individuals can only embrace their uniqueness and be true to self if self-awareness and self-regulation are attained. Self-awareness is linked to self-reflection, by introspection. The unbiased collection and interpretation of self-related information causes self-correction. This regulation is internally driven by the leader’s core self, not through external forces or expectations. The leader does not ignore or exaggerate self-evaluations or other related knowledge, thereby enhancing self-development (Luthans and Avolio, 2003). Self-development  . The third fundamental component of authentic leadership is self-development. As a derivation of self-awareness and self-regulation, self-development provides the leader with greater internal tools with which he or she might achieve greater organizational effectiveness. The positive effects of self-development move beyond the leader as the individual becomes an archetype for followers. The extension of beneficial outcomes through authentic leadership to followers has been conceptualized by Avolio and Luthans (2006; Luthans and Avolio, 2003) as the intersection of positive organizational behavior (Luthans, 2002a, 2002b, 2003), transformational leadership (Avolio, 1999, 2002) and ethical development (May et al., 2003), responding to today’s challenging and changing environment.  Avolio and Gardner (2005) specifically propose that authentic leadership can stand up to the unique challenges facing leaders today through the development component. Authentic leadership is presented as creating the conditions for higher trust, by helping organizational members to be more positive and to build on their strengths. This reduces stress levels in uncertain circumstances thus generating a more stable environment. An Authentic leader believes that every individual in the organization has something to contribute, and helps those individuals build and leverage those capabilities. Block (1993) suggests that authentic leadership is a balance between dominance and compliance. By leveraging their strengths, people can find meaning and a connection at work, as a result of the supportive work environment created by authentic leadership (Avolio and Gardner, 2005). This ultimately adds value by improving the overall performance of the organization over time. The trust and stability provided by Authentic Leadership is a necessary and vital component in the dynamic realm of leadership. Its incorporation into the systems level perspective of Complexity Leadership Theory holds great promise for contemporary leadership in the complex and ever-evolving organizational climate. 105

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