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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Coevolution of Distributed Leadership: An Examination of Social Structuring in a Team
by English, Heather Joanne, Ed.D., The George Washington University, 2014, 237; 3629608
Abstract (Summary)

Historically, leadership research has concentrated on the charismatic and sometimes mythical qualities of a single, heroic leader. In a knowledge-oriented economy, theories of individual leaders are incomplete because they fail to capture the social nature of complex organizations. A distributed perspective of leadership frames leadership in terms of dynamic patterns of social interaction between people and aspects of their situation and considers the context or structure as important as the human agency.

This qualitative single case study, which involved a self-managed team of professionals in a mid-sized global financial services company, explored leadership as a social process in response to goals of organizational effectiveness and corporate organizational change over time. Specifically, this study described how leadership actions were enacted within the context of emerging social structuring, which enhances the understanding of leadership theory and moves us closer to being able to practically utilize a distributed perspective of leadership. Data were collected through observations, interviews, and document review.

The findings of strategic alignment with organizational goals and the utilization of advanced technology emerged as external conditions for leadership practice. The nature of interactions within the team was influenced by a combination of five distinct but interdependent elements: shared interest, routines, participation norms, language, and authority structures. The study shows the fluid nature of distributed leadership and the reciprocal dynamics of interactions that coevolve and change over time to best fit with specific circumstances.

The findings support three conclusions: (1) the role of context as an essential aspect of leadership practice; (2) the relational dynamics of social structuring and the influence of three fundamental elements of social interaction—meaning, power, and norms—on leadership action; and (3) the strengthening and sustaining ability of the norm of reciprocity on the dynamic interaction among team members. This study is important because it will help organizations better understand, identify, and apply the principles of a distributed perspective of leadership to future situations and will increase the credibility and viability of collective leadership theories.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schwandt, David R.
Commitee: Burley, Diana L., Spillane, James P.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Human and Organizational Learning
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 75/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Organization Theory, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Distributed leadership, Leadership
Publication Number: 3629608
ISBN: 978-1-321-06794-1
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