An investigation into the worldview of a selected group of Norwegian Army Cadets from a complexity and leadership perspective

Ronn, Harald (2009-12)

Thesis (MPA (School of Public Management and Planning))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines the Norwegian Army Cadets‟ worldview in light of Complexity Theory and the implications of this theory for leadership. The investigation uses two contradicting theories as a point of departure, Complexity Theory and Newtonian Theory. Complexity Theory is a Social Science-theory that originates from the Natural Science-theory of Quantum Physics where aspect such as non-linearity, chaos and self-organization are highlighted. Furthermore, holistic thinking and bottom-up processes are emphasized. Newtonian Theory is on the other hand based on a mechanistic and reductionist worldview where a constant strife to achieve balance and control through deterministic- and rational mechanisms are highlighted. A Newtonian system thus operates in a causal- and relatively closed environment where change is incremental and top-down driven. Using Complexity Theory as a theoretical starting point speaks for a shift in the way we look at leadership. Traditional leadership theories are normally based on the assumptions of Newtonian thinking, i.e. objectivity, reductionism and determinism. A traditional leader is actively shaping the future through regulations that ultimately end in the obtainment of goals. In other words, the processes are characterized as rational, “hard” and incremental. A Complexity Approach, on the other hand, supports Complexity Theory Principles such as self-organizational processes and chaos. Hence, leaders in complex systems should function as enablers of bottom-up processes and embrace chaos and uncertainty as something positive and nourishing. Furthermore, leaders in complex systems use vision and values as guiding principles and focus on micro-level interactions as opposed to a rule-bound and technical approach. The results from the empirical survey reveal that the Norwegian Army Cadets have a relatively balanced worldview towards Complexity Theory- and Newtonian Principles. On the one hand, a number of strong Newtonian trends such as the perception of conflict, chaos and change as something negative and the embracement of a direct and “hard” leadership style are evident. On the other hand, the Cadets express an adherence towards typical Complexity Theory Principles such as relationship orientation and informal leadership. Hence, it can be argued that the Cadets‟ worldview have elements of both Newtonian Theory and Complexity Theory. This study can be used to evaluate the effect of the current educational paradigm in the Norwegian Army and simultaneously contribute to further insight and discussion around the field of leadership.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie verhandeling ondersoek die wêreldbeskouing van Norweegse Leër-kadette in die lig van die Kompleksiteitsteorie, en die implikasies van dié teorie vir leierskap. Twee teenstrydige teorieë word as vertrekpunt in die ondersoek gebruik, naamlik. Kompleksiteitsteorie en Newtoniaanse Teorie. Kompleksiteitsteorie is „n Sosiale Wetenskapsteorie wat uit die Natuurwetenskaplike teorie van Kwantum-Fisika ontstaan het, met klem op aspekte soos nie-lineariteit, chaos en self-organisasie. Verder word holisitiese denke en prosesse wat van onder na bo werk, beklemtoon. Newtoniaanse Teorie, aan die ander kant, is gebaseer op „n meganistiese en reduksionistiese wêreldbeeld, met klem op „n konstante strewe na balans en kontrole deur deterministiese en rasionele meganismes. ‟n Newtonianse sisteem opereer dus binne ‟n kousale en relatief geslote omgewing, waar verandering inkrementeel is en van bo na onder gedryf word. Die gebruik van Kompleksiteitsteorie as ‟n teoretiese vertrekpunt dui op ‟n verandering in die manier waarop ons leierskap benader. Tradisionele leierskap-teorieë is normaalweg gebaseer op Newtoniaanse denke, d.w.s. objektiwiteit, reduksionisme en determinisme. ‟n Tradisionele leier vorm die toekoms aktief deur regulasies wat uitloop op die bereiking van doelstellings. Met ander woorde, die prosesse word gekarakteriseer as rasioneel, ”hard” en inkrementeel. „n Kompleksiteitsteorie-benadering aan die ander kant, ondersteun beginsels van Kompleksiteitsteorie soos self-organiserende prosesse en chaos. Leiers in komplekse sisteme moet dus funksioneer deur prosesse wat van onder na bo werk moontlik te maak, en deur chaos en onsekerheid as iets positief en voedend te beskou. Verder gebruik leiers in komplekse sisteme visie en waardes as riglyne, en fokus op mikro-vlak interaksies in teenstelling met ‟n reël gebonde en tegniese benadering. Die resultate van die empiriese studie toon aan dat Noorweegse Leër-kadette „n relatief gebalanseerde wêreldbeskouing het t.o.v Kompleksiteitsteorie- en Newtoniaanse beginsels. Aan die een kant, is daar duidelik ‟n aantal sterk Newtoniaanse tendense teenwoordig, soos die persepsie van konflik, chaos en verandering as iets negatiefs, en die aanhang van ‟n direkte en ”harde” leierskapstyl. Aan die ander kant, is daar ‟n neiging tot tipiese beginsels van Kompleksiteitsteori soos verhoudingsoriëntering en informele leierskap. Dit kan dus aangevoer word dat die Kadette se wêreldbeskouing elemente van sowel Newtoniaanse Teorie as Kompleksitetsteorie bevat. Hierdie studie kan gebruik word om die effek van die huidige onderwysparadigma in die Noorweegse Leër te evalueer, en terselfdertyd ‟n bydrae lewer tot dieper insig in en besprekning van die terrein van leierskap.

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