How the Leaders Make Sense of the World

How the Leaders Make Sense of the World

How Leaders Make Sense of the World

Leaders of the world


Leadership in complex systems is thus a locus of power in processes of interaction among human agents. We claim that successful leaders, as agents with influence, lead following agents based on a strong context dependent sustainability that makes them attractive and legitimate.
Leading agent’s sustainability is constituted of a sense of autonomy, intrinsic motivation, a high conciseness of a diverse and resilient self. the ability to build trust and take actions that balance change of, and adaption to, different relations and different contexts.
To make sense of good leadership in a complex world, we have taken a closer look at the old philosophical distinctions ontology and epistemology.

Differentiate Between Ontology and Epistemology.


Domain ontology as distinct from formal ontology is related to focus of study. Where formal ontology inquiry is to say something general about reality, domain ontology says something specific about different areas of reality. “The world is complex”, is an ontological statement. “ Organizations are complex ” , is a domain ontological statement.


Applying Complex Systems Theory as an epistemology in this paper means that we try to make sense of the world, organizations and leadership through a complexity perspective. We apply this epistemology, because we presuppose that the world and everything in it is ontological getting more complex. We argue that traditional reductionist, positivistic and mechanistic approaches to organizations and leadership do not make sense of the world in a reliable and valid way anymore.
Complex Systems Theory is a cross scientific approach to explore and explain different physical, biological, ecological, digital and social systems, and possibly the relationship between them as well. Complex Systems Theory can be applied on different aggregation levels, depending of what we define as the system we are studying.

Describe several ways to recognize Complex System.

  • Hierarchy of parts in wholes that are parts of greater wholes.
  • High degree of various links between the parts.
  • High degree of interdependence between the parts.
  • Constant change and emergence over time, also called evolution.
  • The parts always change or adapt to surroundings.
  • The parts have limited input from the whole of the surrounding system.


Globalization represents increased communication and dynamics of closer and closer connected countries, markets and societies. Organizations adapt to contexts of constant change, and at the same time these organizations are, by intention or not, the causes of that same change. In sum the organizations of the world get and give input and output to their local and/or global markets and environments creating dynamics that influence the whole globe. In these organizations individuals with different educational, cultural and social backgrounds increase their interaction and mobility adding even more complexity to the world. Some of these interactions can be regarded as acts of leadership.

Describe the concept of the Leadership and Agents.


Leadership is a topic for a variety of issues that has received attention in empirical studies, theoretical work, and books offering more or less well-grounded recipes for effective leadership. Most scholars seem to have little doubt that leadership is a phenomenon that creates effects in organizations. Leadership can be regarded as a highly shaky construction. The numerous definitions of leadership appear to have little in common apart from involving an influence process towards objectives. Given the numerous definitions of leadership, any instance of acting in organisations can be seen as leadership, as well as not leadership. This is because the term ‘leadership’ can be used to make sense of situations, relations, or people under certain preconditions.
One way to make leadership something distinct from other behaviours in organizations is to introduce the word “followship”. To lead as an activity assumes that someone is following. To follow presupposes someone leading. To be a leader presupposes that you lead. Some lead mainly on the basis of formal legitimacy, others lead mostly on the basis of informal legitimacy. To lead is to act. We shift between leading and following each other in organizations through e.g. choice of words, pace and focus of the subject matter.


Agents are in other words not instrumentally led; instead they are equipped with the capabilities necessary to operate on their own. The interest an agent represents can be its own and the organization(s) it belong(s)too. Agents carry different identities, values and capabilities. As agents they are exponents of intentional design and action, but they are also impacted by emergence as a product of other agents actions. This creates complexity regardless of the degree of formal regulation of the context and system where the interactions take place. Agents lead and follow each other both consciously and unconsciously, both in a formal and in an informal manner and both based on self-interest and common interest.

Describe the complexity of the leadership.

Complexity science becomes a way of thinking about life in organisations that focuses attention on how agents cope with the unknown as they perpetually create organisational futures together. This has come to be known as the complex adaptive systems approach to organisational and leadership studies, highlighting the importance and meaning of phenomena of complexity in organizations and their context.

Scholars within the complexity sciences have promoted ‘substitutes’ to leadership by minimising the traditional leadership role in order to make way for self-organising or enabling principles. To date, findings from complexity approaches have not been widely accepted in organisation and leadership studies. A chief difficulty with the complexity theory view involves the role of structure within the organisation. Mainstream leadership theorists will not accept the notion of influence or coordination
yielding nonlinear and essentially unpredictable future conditions. Essentially, a lot of them see leadership as a steering mechanism yielding predictable outcomes.

What are the principles of interacting agents?

  • Order is emergent as opposed to predetermined,
  • The system’s history is irreversible,
  • The system’s future is often unpredictable.

What are the characteristics of complex adaptive systems according to Plowman?

  • They are made up of many agents who act and interact with each other in unpredictable ways.
  • They are sensitive to changes in initial conditions.
  • They adjust their behaviour to their environment in unpredictable ways.
  • They oscillate between stability and instability.
  • They produce emergent actions when approaching disequilibrium.

What are the effects of the leadership?

The future is also present in the form of the agent’s expectations, ambitions, hope, dreams, and so on. It
too forms the basis of action in the present. The present, therefore, has a circular time structure that arises because agents have the capacity to know what they are doing. This epistemology is in contrast to classical organisational science where the future is separated and presented in the form of visions, goals, values, strategies, and plans, so distracting attention from the present and reducing the future to simple ‘bulletpoints’ that can be manipulated to determine the present.

Leadership is seen as a relationship that emerges in the interaction between agents. Such leadership may also not be allocated to a single agent, but be taken up by different agents in a group, initiated at their own discretion. Leadership occurs through interaction, and by enabling rather than controlling the future. Agents in organizations interact locally with each other on the basis of their identity. They do so without knowing in advance how the whole system is going to evolve, or even understanding its current situation as a whole.

Role of Leadership

Leadership influencing in such systems must therefore be directed towards micro-level interactions between agents, and not to macro-level interventions. Interactions are based on ongoing receptiveness rather than on predetermined perceptions about the future. Agents actively rely on each other to create conditions under which mutual influence is possible. The role of the leading agent emerges, and is continually iterated in processes of recognition. What emerges, and is continually iterated is diversity of identities; including that of leading agents. Hence, agent identity both shapes and is shaped by social exchanges with others because identity emerges in relationships. The role of the leading agent is co-created by all other agents in processes of social interaction. In such processes of interaction, agents interpret what it means to be a leader and a group.

What is Power?

Power is the capability of the individual ‘to make a difference’ to a pre-existing state of affairs. Although the conception of power as a capacity resting in a single individual is widely employed in political, sociological, organisational, and leadership studies, there are other views.

Power is not only as a capacity but also as a right to act; with both capacity and right being seen to rest on the consent of those over whom power is exercised.

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