Managing the Entanglement: Complexity Leadership in Public Sector Systems

Joanne Murphy, Mary Lee Rhodes, Jack Meek, David Denyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)
1509 Downloads (Pure)


Complexity and environmental uncertainty in public sector systems requires leaders to balance the administrative practices necessary to be aligned and efficient in the management of routine challenges, and the adaptive practices required to respond to complex and dynamic circumstances. Conventional notions of leadership in the field of public administration do not fully explain the role of leadership in enabling and balancing the entanglement of formal, top-down, administrative functions and informal, emergent, adaptive functions within public sector settings with different levels of complexity. Drawing on and extending existing complexity leadership constructs, this paper explores how change was enabled over the duration of three urban regeneration projects, each representing high, medium and low levels of project complexity. The data reveals six distinct yet interconnected functions of enabling leadership that were identified within the three urban regeneration projects. The paper contributes to our understanding of how leadership is enacted and poses questions for those engaged in leading in complex public sector settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number5
Early online date26 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2017


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