Exploring leadership in low-authority environments
Jack, Gordon R. A.
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This thesis contributes to the literature on distributed leadership by exploring leadership experiences in low-authority environments such as those found in professional organizations, where high levels of individual autonomy are combined with a highly educated workforce. A subjective ontology and interpretivist epistemology underpin empirical research consisting of 86 interviews with senior academics (28), senior clinicians (35) and politicians (23). By examining the assumptions of distributed leadership, alongside the attitudes and perceptions of leadership within low-authority environments, this thesis argues that it is problematic to take a singular, typically heroic view of leadership and distribute it such that co-leadership occurs. Findings suggest that there are often multiple, overlapping and potentially conflicting organizational memberships and allegiances which subsist within the whole, and that a lack of reciprocity leads to significant issues when attempting to distribute leadership within low authority settings. The thesis therefore makes a theoretical contribution to distributed leadership whereby it extends current thinking by suggesting that, in low-authority environments, there are often multiple organizational memberships at play which compete for the attention of the professional.