Global Challenges, Governance, and Complexity
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Global Challenges, Governance, and Complexity

Applications and Frontiers

Edited by Victor Galaz

There is an increased interest in integrating insights from the complexity sciences to studies of governance and policy. While the issue has been debated, and the term of ‘complexity’ has multiple and sometimes contested interpretations, it is also clear the field has spurred a number of interesting theoretical and empirical efforts. The book includes key thinkers in the field, elaborates on different analytical approaches in studying governance, institutions and policy in the face of complexity, and showcases empirical applications and insights.
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Chapter 12: Leadership and complexity: can individuals make differences in complex systems?

Sibout Nooteboom and Geert Teisman


Societies are complex adaptive systems (SCAS), ‘ecosystems of complex interactions between groups of citizens-consumers-producers and their governance systems’. These systems emerge out of endless interactions and seem to have a will of their own. Complexity Leadership Theory identifies, next to classic administrative leadership, a new world of adaptive leadership, where new knowledge is generated in heterogeneous informal networks, separated from administrative power. Both sub-dynamics co-evolve separately, connected by boundary spanning enablers. Informal networks foster trust across social divides, synchronizing interventions in different subsystems. Trust emerges along with joint narratives for system adaptation, like socio-technical transitions. They try to widely resonate their narratives. Their next step depends on what resonates and can be fit in their narrative that co-evolves with the SCAS without affecting their deepest values. Complexity leadership behaviour itself can also spread through the system by means of stigmergy. It can be researched by sophisticated methods.

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