Emergent Leadership from Below: The next frontier of decision making
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Last modified: October 23, 2007
One of the major achievements of complexity studies is the greater understanding of how global performance arises from interactions between individuals in a collective, from systems of social insects to internet consumer sites to financial markets. Also, the increased uses of information systems that enable asynchronous distributed interactions and retain diverse user activity have provided new opportunities for collective decision support and action. Taken together – greater understanding of collective performance and asynchronous, data-rich information systems, a new frontier of leadership based on collective, internet-enabled processes is developing: the emergent leadership from diverse collectives (ELDC). This work suggests a landscape (a categorization) to understand the societal and academic evolution that has lead to this new frontier. A review of the academic literature on leadership, which parallels the changing roles of leadership in society, illustrates how power-based models of individual leaders have evolved to include performance-based models of individuals and collectives. We propose that the appropriate description of the leadership landscape is two axes reflecting the degree of localization and the degree of emergence of leadership. An extrapolation of the history of leadership models and the localization-emergence landscape suggests that the next frontier will be ELDC, which may not even be embodied in the collective. This work thereby defines research opportunities to better understand these ELDC systems and to progress the development of resources that support ELDC processes. Fortuitously, the increased performance of ELDC systems is opportune for the increasing leadership challenges in a world of increased globalization, connectivity and complexity.
The following further describes landscape of our Leadership categorization. A figure of can be found at http://CollectiveScience.org. Classical models of leadership (power or performance based) are localized in individuals and show little emergence (their performance is predictable and established by the structure of the system). Leadership that is localized but emergent is where individual leaders arise minimal structure and less predictability, as in the emergence of a hero. Leadership that is distributed but not emergent is captured by the multitude of old and new collective decisions-support processes, for example: polling, democracies, internal prediction market (e.g., as used by Google and Hp), commodity or currency exchange markets, and document ranking systems (e.g., the product recommender system at Amazon).