Title: The contribution of complexity theory to the study of departmental leadership in processes of organisational change in higher education

Authors: Fabio Bento

Addresses: Program of Teacher Education, Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway

Abstract: Although much has been written about changes in management in higher education institutions, little research has been conducted focusing on understanding leadership in academic departments. Furthermore, most of what has been produced about this topic has either as an implicit, or as an explicit motivation, to identify leadership styles or behaviours that can be associated with effectiveness and, therefore organisational success. The purpose of this article is to suggest a different perspective to the study of departmental leadership and transformative change in higher education institutions based on complexity theory. Seeing academic departments as complex adaptive systems involves shifting from focusing on individual leaders| behaviour, towards seeing leadership as a complex activity in which new patterns of behaviours emerge in non-linear and rather unpredictable ways. The main argument here is that complexity theory is a powerful conceptual approach assuming that new challenges put towards higher education institutions demand transformative change which involves a higher level of learning and, awareness of system sustainability. Leadership involves a different character if we move from raising questions focusing only on system efficiency or effectiveness upon a given paradigm, towards raising questions regarding leadership in process of transformative change.

Keywords: complexity theory; organisational learning; organisational transformation; higher education; departmental leadership; leadership styles; leadership behaviours; organisational change; change management.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCLM.2011.042549

International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, 2011 Vol.1 No.3, pp.275 - 288

Published online: 22 Oct 2014 *

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