Organizations as complex adaptive systems: Implications of Complexity Theory for leadership research

Marguerite Schneider, Mark Somers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

363 Scopus citations


This article contrasts the assumptions of General Systems Theory, the framework for much prior leadership research, with those of Complexity Theory, to further develop the latter's implications for the definition of leadership and the leadership process. We propose that leadership in a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) may affect the organization indirectly, through the mediating variables of organizational identity and social movements. A rudimentary model of leadership in a CAS is presented. We then outline two non-linear methodologies, dynamic systems simulation and artificial neural networks, as appropriate to enable development and testing of a model leadership under the assumptions of Complexity Theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-365
Number of pages15
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


  • Artificial neural networks
  • Complexity Theory
  • Dynamic systems simulation models
  • Organizational identity
  • Organizational leadership


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