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Leadership for self-organisation: complexity theory and communicative action


  • Keith Morrison


Complexity theory suggests that leaders must create the conditions for self-organised emergence and emergent order, both of which value bottom-up development and move an organisation away from excessive or inhibiting bureaucracy and hierarchy. Communication, as a central feature of complexity theory, can facilitate the creation of the conditions for self organised emergence and order. Communication in complexity-theory-based leadership to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and hierarchy and to foster openness to unpredictable futures is argued to be illocutionary rather than perlocutionary. The nature of such communication is found in Habermas's 'ideal speech situation' and his theory of communicative action. Self-organisation, emergence and emergent order have to be considered in terms of desirability, morality and ethics. The illocutionary force of Habermas's 'ideal speech situation' addresses these in relation to communication, reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and hierarchy in an organisation. The paper argues that leaders can embrace the tenets of Habermas's ideal speech situation and theory of communicative action in order to create the conditions for desired, morally and ethically defensible emergent, self-organised, feedback-informed order.

Suggested Citation

  • Keith Morrison, 2011. "Leadership for self-organisation: complexity theory and communicative action," International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(2), pages 145-163.
  • Handle: RePEc:ids:ijclma:v:1:y:2011:i:2:p:145-163

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