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Illuminating the way: an emergent theory of place-based leadership development

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:21 authored by Robert J. P. Worrall
Purpose: Place-based leadership development involves cross sector groups of leaders sharing knowledge, developing relationships and building collective leadership capability across a local authority area. Within a more complex and uncertain world, these Collaboratives respond to the demand for improved local leadership to tackle intransigent social problems. Building theory from participants’ experience, this exploratory study aims to improve our understanding of the process by which collective leadership development evolves within this context. Research Design A social constructionist and interpretivist methodology was adopted for this study. Drawing on an extensive literature review, professional experience and initial scoping visits, a conceptual model mapped participants’ experiences as a number of interlinked stages. Drawing on the model, and using a qualitative structured-case approach, seventy five semi-structured interviews across three case studies were used to inductively build theory grounded in the experience of those involved. Research Findings: The research identified relational tensions within self, between self and others and between self and organization surrounding the wider purpose of the initiative. The paradoxical and paradigmatic nature of these tensions needs to be accepted as inherent within the collaborative process and negotiated as two sides of a continuum rather than polar opposites. This rite of passage leads to a differentiated interpretation of the Collaborative’s value to self, organization and the wider place. Contribution to knowledge Surfacing, exploring and adapting to tensions is an inherent part of place-based leadership development. The extent to which individuals and organisations adapt to these tensions, and even transcend seemingly opposing paradigms, has a considerable impact on perceptions of success from an individual, organizational and wider collective perspective. By advancing understanding of the theoretical and practical implications of the emergent tensions and paradoxes within place-based leadership development, this study provides an innovative and significant contribution to the field. Key Words: Place-based leadership development, Collaboratives, Exploratory, Interpretivist, Tensions, Theory building



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