Dealing With Complexity—A Rough Guide to Leadership Models and Theories

Jul 10, 2021 2 min read
Dealing With Complexity—A Rough Guide to Leadership Models and Theories

When dealing with complexity, we find that our situation is uncertain and there is disagreement about what direction to take, what’s important, and the decisions we need to take.

In Transformational Leadership we learned that one characteristic of the transforming leader is dealing with complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.

So, let’s take a look at a leadership model based on the work of Ralph Stacey, the author of several books on leadership and organizational dynamics.

Far From Certainty

Uncertainty is a sign of humility, and humility is just the ability or the willingness to learn. – Charlie Sheen

We live in a world of turbulence, uncertainty, and ambiguity. The workplace is no longer a place of stability, and more often than not, disagreement and uncertainty are to be expected.

Yet, many leaders desire certainty and straightforward solutions for today’s business problems.

Why is this? Usually, business leaders have little difficulty articulating what needs to be done when resolving problems when there is certainty.

But in uncertain times, business problems are complex and often intractable. So, the leadership challenges are rather different, and demand different kinds of skills.

Agreement and Certainty Matrix

Ralph Stacey claims that stability and predictability are a common characteristic of many leadership models. Or, to put this another way, that rational decision-making is the norm.

Ambiguity is something that I really respond to. I like the complexity of it. – Robert Redford

In contrast, Stacey’s model—the Stacy complexity matrix—assumes that most modern businesses operate in a fast-paced world that needs a different set of skills and processes.

Ralph Stacey’s Complexity Matrix
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