Leadership for Emergence: Exploring organisations through a living system lens
In this article, we outline a research project with adolescent-focused NGOs (non-government organisations) in Christchurch, New Zealand. This project involved 25 managers who used appreciative inquiry process methodology to explore their leadership practices, beliefs, and values. Throughout the article, we construct a conceptual leadership frame for fostering the emergence of adaptive, innovative and responsive organisational capacity that allows organisations to more readily adapt to the complex and changing conditions in which they operate. We describe this frame as a living system lens that is based on viewing organisations as complex adaptive systems of the kind readily found in the natural world. We go on to outline the leaders’ reflections as they drew strong connections between the dynamics found in complex adaptive systems and their own organisations. Proactive mentoring, fostering interaction and shared learning, strategies for distributing power and decentralising control, and exploration and articulation of deeply held values emerged as the key leadership enactments that these leaders implemented in their roles.