The role of voluntarism in stimulating organization democracy
This thesis represents a body of work developed over 10 years in the areas of management learning, organizational politics, and change and organization democracy. It focuses on the role of hierarchy in balancing the need for strategic coherence with the ever burgeoning plurality of organizational life. In recent years, there has been a variety of academic discourses that have illuminated this debate. Often coming from different epistemological traditions, each makes a helpful contribution to the debate. However, I argue that none provides, nor in some cases is intended to provide, senior managers with robust and practical methods of re-conceptualising the role of hierarchy in organization. Based on this analysis, four key requirements for the development of theory in the area are suggested. Using these principles as a starting point, this thesis makes a contribution to knowledge in three interrelated areas. Firstly, by developing the concept of voluntarism, derived from the field of political philosophy, as an alternative organizational binding mechanism that alters the rationale for the role of hierarchy. Secondly, this concept is operationalised as a form of ‘representative’ leadership. Research data are provided which explore the behavioural dimensions and cognitive antecedents of this approach to leadership. The findings are suggestive of a democratic orientation toward leading and organizing, and on this basis, the third contribution focuses on how such leadership principles may be more widely adopted through the vehicle of management learning.