An examination of leadership development: a role based perspective

  • Anthony Geoffrey Sheard

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Little previous research has examined leadership from a role-based perspective. Those scholars who have studied the subject have focused on the emergence of high-status individuals within a group into complementary leadership roles, with other group members adopting follower roles. In contrast, the current inquiry examines the networked and distributed form of leadership. It is proposed that firstly, executives need to be prepared to adopt "leadership roles” complementary to those of other group members and secondly, that executives need to be prepared to switch leadership roles and membership of groups in order to fulfil their leadership responsibilities. The methodology adopted was qualitative, enabling data to be gathered on aspects of the social structures that executives formed within the formal, informal and temporary groups of which they were a part. The methodology provided insight into the leadership roles available to executives, and between which they switched, as leadership was shared between, and rotated amongst, group members. The inquiry was conducted in six separate, but linked, studies utilising a constructivist ontology and interpretivist epistemology. Characterisation of leadership in terms of role was found to facilitate improvement in the speed with which groups of executives formed around organisational problems, and gained productive contributions from their members. In so doing the inquiry assists executives within a senior management team to better adapt and coordinate their behaviour when mobilising organisational resources. The inquiry was conducted within six organisations, each of which is a multinational engineering company. The concepts advanced will require validating in other organisations of both similar and different demographic profiles. The concepts advanced provide an insight into the distributed form of leadership, and also the nature of leadership as a network of relationships. Leadership is characterised in terms of role, with each executive within a group adopting one of the available leadership roles. All group members contribute towards the tasks of leadership. None are characteristed as adopting purely follower roles.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorNada K Kakabadse (Supervisor)

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