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Title: An exploration of the nature and impact of co-active leadership : understanding co-active leadership
Author: Jeffs, S.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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Organisational systems are being viewed as fluid, non-linear and complex, characterised by organic, emergent and continuous change (i.e. Marshak & Grant, 2008). This is reflected in many research areas including, leadership theory, educational leadership, teaching and facilitation with a trend towards shared leadership. Yet as a discipline, leadership development has tended to limit itself to the development of leaders in ways that remain linear and hierarchical (Day, 2000; Fletcher & Käufer, 2003). This study shows how these fields integrate and explores a shared leadership approach to leadership development. As a practical example of leadership sharing within a developmental context, the Coaches Training Institute has utilised two facilitators to concurrently deliver all workshop-based training for over 25 years. Working as Faculty for CTI's Coach training program, this became the context of study where I sought to understand Co-Active Leadership as a positive model of leadership sharing. Whilst anecdotal and personal experience speaks to the power of this approach, this study sought to provide a deeper understanding to support greater leadership sharing in other environments. To understand how Co-Active Leadership created this success I employed a phenomenological approach to explore the lived experience of each group of people involved in the Coach Training Workshops. Specifically, 18 workshop participants, six assistants and four leaders were interviewed to provide a rich data set to explore: How Co Active Leadership was described? What impact it has? And, how can this form of leadership be developed? Each of these questions aligned with and provided a foundation for Insider Action Research which integrated and applied this learning to support organisational change and the application of Co-Active Leadership beyond CTI. Analysis of interview data contributed key insights to understand the impact of Co-Active Leadership when it was working, and when it was not. When it was working, both leaders brought authenticity and humility in their willingness to express concurrent and bidirectional leadership in a dynamic and co-creative manner. In doing so, participants saw them as merging into a single leadership entity which created an impact described as smooth and flowing. Multiple levels of analysis were identified as important in effective leadership sharing. When it was not working, the single leadership entity dissolved into two separate leaders. This increased the complexity of who to follow, resulting in a cognitively and emotionally exhausting experience. This contrast demonstrated the volatility of leadership sharing and identified three key triggers which inhibit its success. Action cycles began with unsuccessful attempts to enrol others to be more Co-Active in their leadership. These efforts reinforced the importance of being able to describe Co-Active leadership and its impact, while also providing a foundation of learning for later successes. Ultimately, a blended model of leadership sharing was successfully integrated into a new organisational context. This approach integrated both rotational and concurrent forms of leadership enactment to support the momentary expression of leadership, and the ongoing development of both leaders and leadership. Overall, this has resulted in the identification of both disciplinary and actionable knowledge regarding shared leadership.
Supervisor: Philpott, Elly Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.B.A.) Qualification Level: Doctoral