Enabling educational innovation through complexity leadership? Perspectives from four Dutch universities

Martine Schophuizen*, Aodhán Kelly, Caitlin Utama, Marcus Specht, Marco Kalz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Leadership in higher can influence the structurally embedding of educational technologies in higher education institutions. However, HEIs are complex pluralistic organizational environments with loosely coupled systems, diffused power and goal ambiguity which makes governance of educational innovations a wicked problem in which they have to balance dynamic complex interactions while also setting out a clear vision and enacting this vision towards organizational goals. This paper analyses four qualitative case studies with a focus on the choices made by leaders in four Dutch universities that aim to contribute to organisational educational innovation. We investigated the data through the lens of complexity leadership theory in which three types of leadership play an important role: administrative leadership (i.e. top-down oriented), adaptive leadership (i.e. bottom-up oriented) and enabling leadership that emerges as a leadership type between administrative and adaptive leadership and contributes to governing innovation in complex environments. This study sheds light on how, in the case of HEIs as complex environments, leaders made strategic choices and followed up on them to enable the innovative potential of the organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-490
Number of pages20
JournalTertiary Education and Management
Issue number4
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Educational innovation
  • Higher education
  • Leadership
  • Strategy


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