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Organizational Design and Leadership Development: The Role of Increasing Complexity​

Time: Fri 2020-06-05 14.00

Location:, http://Vid fysisk närvaro eller Du som saknar dator/ datorvana kan kontakta (English), Stockholm (Swedish)

Subject area: Industrial Engineering and Management

Doctoral student: Oskar Törnblom , Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.)

Opponent: Fredberg Tobias, Chalmers University of Technology

Supervisor: Thomas Sandberg, Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.); Kristian Stålne, Malmö University

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Many organizations need to adapt to increasingly complex environments. New forms of organizational design and leadership are called for and, under some circumstances, more collective leadership practices are needed. Furthermore, values and beliefs in some societal contexts foster a general positive bias for collective leadership. Paradoxically, many investment decisions regarding leadership development activities do not pay off. At the same time, the research fields of collective leadership development and on-the-job leader development are underutilized. The research field of leadership is in need of consolidation and integration within and between research areas. There has been much less research done on collective leadership development compared with leader development, and research on leadership development has been focused more on individual and collective change rather than on contextual facilitating factors such as organizational design.

To address these theoretical and practical challenges, the aim of the thesis was to explore organizational design and leadership development in terms of increasing complexity in the empirical context of technology-, knowledge-, and project-intensive organizations. The research design was centered around two studies that were part of a larger interactive research project and two conceptual studies that jointly investigated (1) organizational design and increasing complexity, (2) leadership development and increasing complexity, (3) how increasingly complex organizational design can foster leadership development. The interactive research project had four goals in terms of creating common learning for the project partners involved, new academic knowledge, and organizational development not only for the participating organizations but also for organizations in general.

The thesis contributes to the research fields of organizational design and leadership development as well as their intersection. It adds to theory by providing a more fine-grained definition of ways of understanding leadership development according to increasing complexity. Furthermore, it adds to the understanding of how increasingly complex organizational design can foster leadership development, especially collective leadership, thus demonstrating empirical examples of leadership development without traditional leadership development investments.

The thesis proposes future research on emerging technology as an accelerator for leadership development and interactive research in partnership with organizations in order to further integrate the research fields of organizational design and leadership development. In terms of managerial contributions, a number of suggestions are offered to support better knowledge creation and decision-making regarding organizational design, on-the-job leader development, and especially collective leadership development. Furthermore, a shift from a psychology-centered leadership development approach toward more of a systemic and organizational design-centered leadership development approach that includes both individual and collective dimensions is called for. This shift will potentially change the leadership development industry, making many of the contemporary investments in leadership development obsolete.