Strategy in the era of “swans”: the role of strategic leadership under uncertainty and unpredictability

Journal article


Henry Adobor, Darbi, W. and Obi Berko O. Damoah 2021. Strategy in the era of “swans”: the role of strategic leadership under uncertainty and unpredictability. Journal of Strategy and Management. pp. 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1108/jsma-09-2020-0242
AuthorsHenry Adobor, Darbi, W. and Obi Berko O. Damoah
Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this conceptual paper is to explore the role of strategic leadership under conditions of uncertainty and unpredictability. The authors argue that highly improbable, but high-impact events require the upper echelons of management, traditionally the custodians of strategy formulation to offer a new kind of strategic leadership focused on new mindsets, organizational capabilities, more in tune with high uncertainty and unpredictability.

Design/methodology/approach
Drawing on strategic leadership, and complexity leadership theory, the authors review the literature and present a conceptual framework for exploring the nature of strategic leadership under uncertainty. The authors conceptualize organizations as complex adaptive systems and discuss the imperatives for developing new mental models for emergent leadership.

Findings
Strategic leaders have a key role to play in preparing their organizations for episodic disruptions. These include developing their adaptive capabilities and building resilient organizations to ensure their organizations cannot only bounce back after a disruption but have the capacity for transformation to new fitness levels when necessary. Strategic leaders must engage with complexity leadership by seeing their organizations as complex adaptive systems, reconfigure their leadership approaches and organizations to build strategic adaptive capability.

Research limitations/implications
This is a conceptual paper and the authors cannot make any claims of causality.

Practical implications
Organizational leaders need to reconfigure their mental models and leadership approaches to reflect the new normal of uncertainty and unpredictability. Developing the strategic adaptive capability of organizations should prepare them for dealing with high impact events. To assure business continuity in the face of disruptions requires building flexible, adaptable business models.

Originality/value
The paper focuses on how managers can offer strategic leadership for a new normal that challenges some of our most cherished leadership and strategic management paradigms. The authors explore the new mental models and leadership models in an era of great uncertainty.

Keywordsstrategic leadership; adaptive capacity ; resilience
Year2021
JournalJournal of Strategy and Management
Journal citationpp. 1-21
PublisherEmerald
ISSN1755-425X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1108/jsma-09-2020-0242
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1108/JSMA-09-2020-0242
Output statusPublished
Publication dates28 Jul 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted10 Jul 2021
Deposited26 Oct 2023
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