Leadership Lessons from the New Sciences

There are entrepreneurs within the technology community who proudly trumpet the chaos in the markets in which they operate and defiantly announce the demise of old models of leadership and management.  Their claims of change are reasonable; however, true to form, there may just be new theories to explain all of that. From a physics perspective, traditional organizational theories could reasonably be characterized as “Newtonian” as they were generally based on the assumption that all aspects of human life, including organizations, operated with mechanistic predictability.  However, if leaders adopted so-called “new sciences”, including quantum physics and chaos theory, as their metaphor for organizational life and the work of leadership, they could be expected to shift their styles to emphasize different leadership technologies.  For example, the new sciences’ view of organizations is an “open system” that can self-organize if the leader creates and supports the proper context through the free flow of information and feedback and maintenance of trusting relationships.  The lessons of chaos theory require acceptance of uncertainty and ambiguity as a part of organizational life, thus undercutting traditional leadership tools based on rigid formality and predictability.  Leaders can nonetheless overcome these challenges by “getting on the balcony” (i.e., removing themselves from day-to-day pressures in order to see the “big picture”), understanding the creative destruction cycle and, most importantly, proactively leading followers through the necessary transitions.  Finally, leaders attuned to the new sciences understand that organizations thrive from clearly defined values that can be translated into a compelling vision and that a short and simple statement reflecting these values and visions can and should replace standard operating procedures and manuals and provide guidelines for autonomous action, delegation of authority, and development of future leaders.

Learn more about emerging trends in leadership studies, including the influence of the new sciences, by downloading this excerpt from the Growth-Oriented Entrepreneur's Guide to Leadership.


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