The psychological and neurological bases of leader self-complexity and effects on adaptive decision-making

Sean T. Hannah, Pierre A. Balthazard, David Waldman, Peter L. Jennings, Robert W. Thatcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Complex contexts and environments require leaders to be highly adaptive and to adjust their behavioral responses to meet diverse role demands. Such adaptability may be contingent upon leaders having requisite complexity to facilitate effectiveness across a range of roles. However, there exists little empirical understanding of the etiology or basis of leader complexity. To this end, we conceptualized a model of leader self-complexity that is inclusive of both the mind (the complexity of leaders' selfconcepts) and the brain (the neuroscientific basis for complex leadership). We derived psychometric and neurologically based measures, the latter based on quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) profiles of leader self-complexity, and tested their separate effects on the adaptive decision-making of 103 military leaders. Results demonstrated that both measures accounted for unique variance in external ratings of adaptive decision-making. We discuss how these findings provide a deeper understanding of the latent and dynamic mechanisms that underpin leaders' self-complexity and their adaptability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-411
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Adaptability
  • Leader complexity
  • Neuroscience
  • Self-complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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