Leadership in a networked world

MacNamara, Delia Pembrey

Leadership; Innovation; Collective intelligence; Social media; Critical systems thinking; Boundary critique; Ontology; Systemic leadership; Boundary triage

Generic content

©2014 University of Hull

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to provide an update on my continuing research into ‘Systemic Leadership in a Networked World’. I originally proposed to investigate how to maximize social media for open innovation and collective intelligence for organizational competitiveness, and this paper details findings resulting from research conducted to date; refinements to the original research question, with a specific focus on ‘Boundary’; and the proposed methodology for Phase 2 of the research.

Aim: The aim of the research is to investigate the concept of systemic leadership and to develop an easily accessible and deployable transdisciplinary tool to develop critical systemic leadership thinking skills at all levels.
Design/methodology/approach This paper builds on findings from my MBA Dissertation (MacNamara, 2011b) into the barriers to implementing social media in organizations. Using Midgley’s (1992) Boundary Critique, a key finding from this research was that an organization’s leaders’ perception of social media and their personal boundary judgments as to the application and usefulness in the workplace influenced the adoption and implementation process systemically. The design of this doctoral research initially took a generic systems approach to identify key areas of overlap, interrelationships and interdependencies within the broad themes of innovation, leadership and systems thinking, related to the technologically networked world. The proposed research design for the fieldwork and analysis uses a Critical Systems Thinking methodology.

Initial Findings: Organizations (collectives) and individuals are operating in a digitally connected world filled with multiple paradigms, philosophies and weltanshuung. Whilst the concept of Boundary is a key concept in systems thinking and theory, Boundary (and its synonyms) are also prevalent throughout the literatures on leadership, innovation and networks – from the concept of “boundaryless organizations” (Ashkenas, et al., 2008) to the need for “boundary spanning leadership” (MacGillivray, 2009; Yip, et al., 2011) to innovation being found at “the edge” (Stefik, 2000; Leadbeater & Wong, 2010). But where is ‘the edge’ in a network? Where is the ‘Boundary’? The questions became, “What is (the being of) a Boundary? What is the nature of Boundary? What is it made up of? How does it work?” A critical systems thinking methodology was used to enable a multiparadigmatic, multi-philosophical approach to the literature review which, in turn, led to the development of a partial ontology and methodology of Boundary, the ‘Boundary Triage’. I introduce the Boundary Triage as a potential systemic leadership tool to navigate critical moments (or “messy” and “wicked” situations) using informal empirical examples to date.

Originality/value: This research develops a partial ontology and methodology of boundary resulting in the Boundary Triage – a practical leadership development tool grounded in theory with potential to enable boundary critique and action for personal transformation, improved communication and relations, and developing the concept of systemic leadership through understanding the Boundary concept.

Centre for Systems Studies, the University of Hull
Peer reviewed
Additional notes
A formal assessment document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Philosphy (Doctor of Philosophy) 14th July 2014.
1 MB


QR Code