Leadership in work environment complexity

Bezler, Teresa (2019) Leadership in work environment complexity. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This PhD thesis is devoted to studying the topic of Leadership in Work Environment Complexity (WEC). In recent years, organisations have been rapidly evolving into ever more complex workplaces that single actors are hardly able to oversee or control (Osborn & Hunt, 2007). This thesis therefore introduces and works with the construct of Work Environment Complexity (WEC), which outlines the (individually perceived) complexity within organisational work contexts. As WEC presents organisations and leaders with a new and often challenging quality of work, further research is needed to understand complexity as well as the consequences for working and leading in high-complexity work environments (e.g., Burnes, 2005; Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009).

Leaders are especially expected to successfully navigate this new kind of business environment, which is more and more unstable, fluid, and challenging (e.g., Hannah, Avolio, Luthans, & Harms, 2008; Intezari & Pauleen, 2014). In organisational psychology, Complexity Leadership has thus emerged as one of the top leadership theories of the modern age (e.g., Dinh et al., 2014). However, the characterisation of WEC and the approach to its measurement have remained contested areas. In particular, with many and competing views in complexity science, there has not yet been a common agreement about what characterises a “complex” work environment for an individual, and how these insights can be substantially and empirically related to research in leadership and organisational psychology (Black, 2000; Burnes, 2005; Schneider & Somers, 2006). Consequently, this thesis aimed to expand knowledge and research, both on the construct of WEC itself and on leadership within complex working environments.

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