The practical side of complexity : implications for leaders
Tobin, John Henry
The role of chief executive portrayed in the mainstream management literature. as visionary and inspirational leader, is one of power and prestige. The chief executive is cast as the corporate hero (or villain) who alone is responsible for the success or failure of his or her enterprise. This portfolio draws on Stacey's theory of complex processes of relating to present a different perspective. The chief executive is seen as a group participant where the executive role is one of intense engagement in the conversational processes of human social interaction in the living present. The executive observes and responds to unfolding patterns of power differences; detects and minimizes the impact of pernicious group processes, such as scapegoating; and, offers subtle interventions to help the group's members make sense of their situations. The division of labor is essential to sophisticated collaboration, and leading is a specialized role that emerges in shifting patterns of power and interdependence among task group members. The everyday life of a hospital chief executive is explored through in-depth study of relevant literature and the analysis of several narratives about organizational leaders in both ordinary and unusual circumstances. The narratives go ever more deeply into patterns of power differences as they are expressed in conversation, and explore the "messy" way in which decisions are made in real life organizations. In this thesis, I argue that emotions play a crucial role in human cognition and in the coordination of action necessary for sophisticated collaboration, and, as such, must be experienced and attended to as they arise spontaneously in social interaction. Engaging in group interaction as a participant rather than as an authority figure is difficult work. The executive's goal is to engage without becoming overwhelmed. For the practicing executive, I argue that emotionally and intellectually experiencing oneself as a member of a group in which the members are equals (that is, by getting away from one's own organization's power structure) may be a necessary first step in changing from an individual to a group perspective. I also argue that organizational effectiveness will be improved by increasing the opportunities for group interaction among leaders. I argue that "messy" interactions may be more effective than highly structured ones because they encourage the participants to remain actively engaged.