Publication date (electronic): 30 September 2015
Real leaders embracing the paradigm of complexity
Harri Raisio, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Social and Health Management at the University of Vaasa and Adjunct Professor (Docent) at the University of Eastern Finland. His research has focused on the topics of wicked problems, complexity sciences, and public deliberation. He has been published in journals such as Administration & Society, Journal of Health Organization and Management, International Review of Social Research, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration and Journal of Public Deliberation. The book Leader at the Edge of Chaos (published in Finnish) that he co-authored was a finalist in the literature award of the Finnish Association of Business School Graduates and was voted as the best contribution by the public.
Niklas Lundström, LicSc, is a University Teacher in regional studies at the University of Vaasa. In his PhD thesis (June 2015), he examines regional planning in the context of complexity sciences, particularly through wicked problems. He has published several articles in Finnish language journals and edited books. He co-authored an article with Raisio titled Managing Chaos in Administration & Society.
We live in a world increasingly characterized as full of wicked problems, which are highly complex, ambiguous, and divergent problems that can never be completely solved. Moreover, the paradigm of complexity has begun to challenge the enduring mechanistic worldview. While there seems to be a sort of general agreement that such a paradigm shift is both important and well-founded, this article cautions against its premature wide-scale application in leadership education. Instead of a purely theoretical approach, we give a voice to three leaders who our earlier research led us to categorize as Chaos Pilots. They all share three characteristics. Each holds a senior leadership position. Each has a deep understanding of chaos theory, complexity thinking, or the concept of wicked problems and, most importantly, each has used that understanding to develop their leadership style. Our aim is not to offer any definitive lists of bullet points for resolution, but to draw from the experiences of these real leaders. We are especially interested in how such leaders who share a worldview of complexity sciences and have a highly attuned understanding of the nature of wicked problems actually go about transforming their leadership style.
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