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Title: How professional service managers in higher education understand leadership
Author: Harper, Malcolm Roy
ISNI:       0000 0004 5919 3046
Awarding Body: Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2015
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Based on the idea of leadership as an intentional process of influence the research question for this study asks how do professional service managers in higher education understand leadership? This question is answered by investigating the understanding of leadership by twenty professional service managers operating in two research-intensive universities in the United Kingdom in 2012. The topic of leadership has been much researched and debated, however the leadership of professional service managers within the particular context and culture of higher education, where the primary focus is on academic activity and leadership, has been little considered. Therefore, given their supportive or even subordinate role, the way in which professional service managers believe they need to undertake the leadership of their own staff and influence academic and other colleagues within the organisation is important to providing a more comprehensive understanding of the processes of leadership within higher education. In recent decades, academic research on leadership has expanded beyond a focus on the traits and competencies of individual leaders to considering leadership as a social process encompassing ‘followers’ within an organisational context in which ‘leadership’ may be distributed or variously configured. My study retains a focus on the understandings of leadership by professional service managers who, as knowledgeable agents, undertake leadership as a process of intentional influence on the basis of how they perceive the ‘context’ in which they operate. My research question is, “how do professional service (administrative) managers in higher education (institutions) understand leadership?” To address this question data constructed from semi-structured interviews is analysed thematically and interpreted using elements of the ‘structuration theories’ of Giddens and Bourdieu which seek to bridge the apparent divide between agentive and structural social theories and align with process/practice notions of leadership. From Bourdieu I particularly draw upon the idea of leaders acquiring and using a range of capitals or sources of ‘power’ to energise their leadership action and from Giddens I utilise the idea of leaders as knowledgeable agents who can go beyond ‘practical consciousness’ to formulate and enact leadership intentions. My study reveals some of the dilemmas that professional service managers face and the intentional activities employed by them to achieve multi-directional influence amongst their direct reports/staff and other organisational members (own manager, academic colleagues, peers). The relevance of understanding the organizational context in research-intensive higher education institutions is highlighted together with the potential constraints of leadership effectiveness imposed by the perceived identity of professional service staff and some of the self-limiting beliefs and perceptions of the managers themselves. Drawing upon a wide-ranging literature review and the findings from the empirical study, I propose a holistic model of managerial leadership consonant with a conceptualisation of leadership as a process of intentional influence and delineate ways in which the managers develop and draw upon various capitals including upon positional power. Finally, I review some of the limitations of the study and propose a number of areas for future research which logically arise from the theoretical and empirical findings in this study; I also reflexively account for my potential influence and bias on the study as a whole and the challenges and personal learning and development that has arisen for me from its delivery.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available