Relational leadership as meaningful co-action

Conway, Jacqueline Anne (2015) Relational leadership as meaningful co-action. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In the established field of leadership studies, Relational Leadership is a relatively new and under explored view of a familiar phenomenon. Scholars conceptualise Relational Leadership differently depending upon their philosophical position, in particular whether they privilege leaders’ traits and characteristics (known as an entity perspective) or foreground the relationships and interactions that enable leadership to be accomplished (a social constructionist relational perspective). To date there have been relatively few empirical studies that research Relational Leadership from a social constructionist perspective. This thesis adds to this underdeveloped body of empirical literature.

The study uses data from an in-depth ethnographic single case study comprising the executive team of a large and complex UK local authority. The study took place as members of the executive team grappled with previously unheard of economic and social challenges following the global financial crash of 2007/8. Data is drawn from participant observation of the executive team’s meetings over a one year period, a series of in-depth interviews with executive team members, and a contextual analysis incorporating a review of relevant press coverage during the time.
The study’s research question was: How is leadership relationally accomplished? The question was subsequently operationalised through the following additional three questions:
Q1: How are relational strategies adopted by the case study team?
Q2: How do these relational strategies support the accomplishment of the team’s strategic task?
Q3: What contextual factors impact and are impacted by the relational strategies that are commonly adopted within the team?
Adopting a Grounded Theory method, a theory of Relational Leadership as Meaningful Co-Action is developed. Meaningful Co-Action epitomises the ways in which the group went-on-together in socially and situationally developed ways through their moment-by-moment interactions. Social processes gave rise to individual process mediated through
contextual constraining and enabling forces. It was adherence to relational group norms that allowed the collective accomplishment of their leadership task.

The study makes empirical, methodological and practice contributions. These are:

Empirical Contribution
Building on what is a relatively small body of theory on Relational Leadership, for the first time in a UK local authority Executive Team. Developing a theory of Relational Leadership as Meaningful Co-Action as the way that leadership was accomplished in the case study organization.

Methodological Contribution
Makes a contribution to Grounded Theory by explicitly utilising reflexivity towards disconfirming data as a mechanism for establishing theoretical sensitivity.

Practice Contribution
The findings from this study may inform the practice of management, particularly organization consultants working with leaders and teams.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Relational leadership, meaningful co-action, social constructionism, relational constructionism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School
Supervisor's Name: Robert, Professor MacIntosh
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Dr Jacqueline Conway
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6777
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2015 12:02
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 09:46

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