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Generative Leadership and Emergence: Case Studies in Higher Education Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationGenerative Leadership and Emergence: Case Studies in Higher EducationIncreasing complexity and rapid change associated with globalization and the knowledge economy have diminished the relevance of traditional linear models of leadership. Researchers have begun to view leadership not in terms of individuals and hierarchal exchanges but as a collective influence process among members of a group to achieve shared objectives that focus on enabling learning and adaptation in organizations rather than predicting outcomes and controlling behaviors. Complexity theory and its central phenomenon, emergence, are particularly well-suited to study both new leadership approaches and how to manage social systems at a time when prediction and control are elusive. At the same time, institutions of higher education have come to play an increasingly important role in knowledge-based economies and as important actors in economic and human development. Leadership research and practice in higher education have not kept up with this trend, and require a new approach in order to meet the demands of a highly dynamic and disruptive environment. Generative leadership, which focuses on constructing the rules, conditions and constraints for interaction, collaboration and experimentation throughout organizations, fostering innovation and adaptation, and may be particularly well-suited for the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge in higher education. In this context, a qualitative, multiple case study design was used to explore how generative leadership might foster emergence in four initiatives designed to increase the ability to create, disseminate and apply knowledge in an institution of higher education. Two major findings resulted from this study. The first relates to the increased incorporation of generative leadership, emergence, and complexity theory into the existing research and practice on teams. The second major finding relates to the role that the study’s results, along with the notions of generative leadership and emergence, can inform higher education pedagogy for continued transition into the knowledge age and beyond. The researcher hopes that this study, its results and findings promote a continued shift towards complexity- and emergence-based thinking to solve some of our most pressing knowledge challenges as we continue to move through a time of change and disruption. Ultimately the results and findings of this study could promote additional research on generative leadership, emergence and knowledge capacity in higher education for the benefit of local, regional and global social and economic ecosystems.

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