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Managerial Rein Control and the Rheo Task of Leadership

Publication Type:

Journal article


Emergence: Complexity & Organization 2013


ISCE Publishing




The goal of this paper is to describe a mind set for those in leadership roles that is needed to succeed in today’s increasingly complex and fast-changing business environments. Over the course of several action research projects in Sweden over the last few years, my colleagues and I have identified what we believe is a distinct mode of thinking, communicating and interacting with others. The Greek word for “flow” is rheo, so I call it: Rheo Leadership. The concept of Rheo Leadership aims to clarify for practitioners how to lead effectively in modern organizations. Successful managers understand and make use of two kinds of structures: those consciously formulated by managers and those that are tacit and emergent within the workgroup. Each of these influences the same three sub-categories of activities: acting, thinking and relating. Within the social context, leaders influence outcomes by thoughtfully and skillfully using two dualities that are inherent within human interaction dynamics: the convergent divergence of evolving patterns and integrated autonomy of individual actors. Effective use of the opposing poles of these dualities to efficaciously channel forward momentum is called “rein control”. The final section describes field experiences from research as well as successful interventions with first line managers in what I call the rheo task for leaders are described.


author = {Tomas Backstr{\"o}m},
title = {Managerial Rein Control and the Rheo Task of Leadership },
isbn = {15213250},
editor = { N.A.},
volume = {15},
number = {4},
pages = {76--90},
month = {December},
year = {2013},
journal = {Emergence: Complexity {\&} Organization 2013},
publisher = {ISCE Publishing},
url = {}