The role of leadership in complex strategic networks: enabling effect versus emergence

Picone, Pm

Risultato della ricerca: Paperpeer review


In today's knowledge-based economy, the sources of competitive advantages lie more and more in webs of interactions among a variety of actors, such as firms, universities, research organizations, government institutions and so on. Over time, these interactions originate the emergence of strategic networks, that is to say tangled and complex webs of linkages spanning and interconnecting an array of firms and other organizations within and across industries. Each networked actor is endowed with idiosyncratic and specialized sets of resources, knowledge and capabilities. Strategic networks serve as conduits through which information, knowledge, ideas and other resources owned and controlled by networked actors flow and reputations are signaled (Poldony, 2001; Owen-Smith and Powell, 2004). As a result, networked actors that are able to exploit the opportunities connected with the circulation of information, knowledge and other resources throughout the strategic network may achieve above the average rents. As network interactions and the ensuing processes of knowledge/resources transfer and circulation are the basis of network-based sources of competitive advantages, this paper aims to shed light on the determinants of these interactions. More in detail, viewing strategic networks as complex adaptive systems (Stacey, 1995; McKelvey, 1997; Anderson, 1999), we underscore the emergent nature of network interactions. The evolutionary dynamics of network interactions stems from the self-organizing behaviors that spontaneously arise inside the strategic network. In addition, complexity (Marion and Uhl-Bien, 2001; Lichtenstein et. al., 2006; Hazy, 2006; Uhl-Bien; Marion and McKelvey, 2007) and new-genre (Burns, 1978; Bass, 1985; Conger and Kanugo, 1998; Bryman, 1992) leadership theories allow us to unveil the leadership role played by network central poles. These poles exert an enabling leadership that fosters and speeds the surfacing of conditions that facilitate and enhance the emergence of fruitful network interactions. Leadership action of network central poles grafts onto the evolutionary dynamic of actors interactions that spontaneously emerge in the complex strategic network. As a result, leadership action expands network interaction potential and permits to reach high levels of network performance, that might not have been accomplished otherwise. The paper is organized as follows. After a short introduction, the second section depicts the streams of literature we use in order to sketch the analytical framework, as well as the reasons and logical and theoretical bases on which their integration rests on. In the third section, we leverage the contributions of complexity theory in order to explain the nature of network interactions determinants and the role of enabling leadership in affecting network dynamics. In the fourth and closing section, we discuss some significant network-related leadership upshots that stem from the conceptual underpinnings that we have laid down in the previous parts and point out the limitations of the study.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2013


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