Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Strategic Leadership Studies


Margaret F. Sloan

Karen A. Ford

Lisa McGuire


Networks of organizations frequently operate within complex adaptive systems in which leadership is practiced in uncertain and ambiguous conditions. Background in complexity theories is first provided, along with how they apply to organizations operating in complex adaptive systems. A theory—Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT)—has been derived to model leadership in complex adaptive systems; CLT has been tested very little in practice. Developmental Evaluation (DE) is a practice which helps organizations and their networks adapt within complex adaptive systems. Since both processes are based in complexity, leadership characteristics in each can be expected to be similar.

This exploratory mixed methods study incorporates a qualitative study of key informants to explore the leadership characteristics used in the implementation of DE and a quantitative study of participants of DE to support and verify the qualitative findings. A valuable instrument was developed to measure CLT leadership characteristics in DE, which can be used in subsequent research. Factor analyses found DE leadership characteristics were comparable to CLT leadership characteristics, providing an area of study that can improve the theory while making the theoretical approach more relevant to practitioners. Adding to the theory are emergent leadership characteristics which may contribute to the study of CLT. DE benefits from an improved understanding of leadership characteristics in complex adaptive initiatives.



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