Date of Conferral

2017

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Management

Advisor

Anthony Lolas

Abstract

The external competitive environments and internal group dynamics of organizations are increasing in complexity resulting in new challenges for organizational leaders to improve performance in underperforming teams. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to address what factors led to high-innovation outcomes in complex adaptive systems using a framework constructed from elements of complexity leadership theory and group dynamics research. An in-depth interviewing approach was used to collect data on the lived experience and meaning the participants attributed to their experiences regarding improved team performance. A total of 21 participants were selected from multiple business settings where their team experienced adaptive tension and improved group cohesion. Their stories were reduced into themes using an inductive process and later analyzed through the lens of complexity leadership theory. The factors that emerged in this study, leveraging tension in the group dynamics enabled through objectivity, roles, alignment, capability, execution, purpose, and work ethic that led to mutual respect, directness, and reliance, offer leaders an effective method for achieving sustained team performance. These factors can be used by organizational leaders to improve team performance and consistency in team outcomes over traditional command and control approaches with a work exchange that benefits individual team members. The findings from this study contribute to social change by improving not only team performance, but also member satisfaction. When leadership is viewed from the perspective of the whole system instead of from the perspective of the individual, the relationships between people emerge as the primary enabling factor for high-innovation outcomes.