How and Why Effective Leaders Construct and Evolve Structural Attractors to Overcome Spatial, Temporal, and Social Complexity

  • James K. HazyEmail author


This chapter suggests an analytical framework that researchers can use to explore the dual relationship connecting intentional fine-grain interaction with course-gain structures and outcomes. On the one hand, it identifies a potential causal link between individual fine-grain action and resulting course-grain outcomes, and on the other hand, it clarifies the dual link that describes the influence of coarse-grain structure on fine-grain interactions. To do this, it introduces a putative force called structural attraction that influences behavior of individuals in consistent patterns within populations. The chapter posits that a mean-field model of structural attraction reflects a biasing force that influences the behavior of individuals as they use information that they decode from the ordered structure itself. It further describes three types of structural attractors, each exploiting a distinct conceptual symmetry that signals underlying simplicity in the environment. Physical structural attractors exploit translational symmetry to reduce spatial complexity. By doing so, these attractors make physical action more efficient and predictable. Dynamic structural attraction exploits periodic symmetries to reduce temporal complexity and make iterative dynamic processes more effective and adaptive. Finally, social structural attractors exploit symmetry within equivalence classes. This reduces social complexity by sorting people into formal categories as a means to make social interactions and task coordination within and among groups more understandable and predictable. Leaders can construct each of these attractor types from the fine-grain to the coarse-grain as a means to serve various individual and organizational purposes. The chapter closes with a discussion of the benefits and risks that arise from the construction and emergence of structural attractors and an exploration of the implications that scale-crossing properties of structural attractors imply for individuals and organizations.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robert B. Willumstad School of Business ManagementAdelphi UniversityGarden CityUSA

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