Leading the matrix : a mixed methods case study into leadership behaviour during the transition to a matrix structure in the context of an international public sector organisation
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Matrix structures have become increasingly common in contemporary organisations. Evaluation of their deployment is however scarce. In parallel, the social and human dimensions of matrix structures are of increasing interest to scholars and practitioners and leadership behaviour emerges as possible facet to maximising the benefits, and minimising the downsides, of such structures. In the public sector restructuring has been a widely adopted reform mechanism to achieve the New Public Management (NPM) aims of making public sector organisations run more effectively. This study synthesis the literature in these the fields of matrix structures, leadership and NPM to explore the phenomenon of leadership behaviour during the transition to a matrix structure at the British Council (BC). The BC represents an interesting locale in which to investigate these concepts given organisational changes that have come about as a result of NPM reforms over the past ten years. Utilising a mixed methods case study approach and Yukl’s (2012) widely accepted taxonomy of leadership behaviour, the study identifies the component leadership behaviours demonstrated during the transition to a matrix structure at the BC. It also identifies the specific leadership behaviours demonstrated by those considered ‘good’ matrix leaders. The research finds that ‘good matrix leaders demonstrate similar patterns of behaviour irrespective of role type or geographical location. The study also highlights behaviour switching as an attribute of ‘good’ matrix leadership. Lastly, the research determines that whilst public sector organisations have the potential to realise the benefits of matrix structures, there is limited evidence to suggest they do so. Rather, public sector organisations face structural, systemic and cultural challenges in realising the benefits they set out to achieve by deploying matrix structures. The findings of the study are presented and discussed both in relation to the wider literature and academic debates and also in the narrower confines of the BC including the practical application of the findings for the organisation.