Shared leadership: a place-based leadership analysis of voluntary organisations
Positivistic and neo-positivistic approaches to research have dominated the way leadership is studied. It has been argued that leadership is a relational concept (Vallance et al, 2019; Bouden and Liddle, 2018) and the traditional orthodox approaches to research may not capture the mundane activities and processes associated with leadership. This paper aims to explore shared leadership in voluntary organisations in the UK through the theoretical lens of place-based leadership. The research draws on a qualitative study conducted in the context of voluntary organisations. Data collection involved 30 semi-structured interviews with trustees, volunteers and employees. The main challenge faced by voluntary organisations is that although there is a clearly visible leadership presence, leadership is reserved for a few individuals (Buckingham et al, 2014). Leadership is a function of chief executives and those in formal positions (assigned leaders). The voices of the unexpected are absent due to the domination of heroic leadership in this framework. It is against this backdrop, that we seek to gain insight into leadership dynamics within the voluntary organisations by exploring diverse contributions of different actors to the leadership process drawing on the concept of shared leadership. Shared leadership arguably offers an avenue to transcend the traditional leadership – followership dichotomy (Pearce and Conger, 2003; Barnes, 2013; Pearce et al, 2013). However, there is lack of empirically grounded knowledge of understanding the complex processes of shared leadership. Nonetheless, the mode of collective leadership identified within shared leadership could be explained through the place-based leadership lens. As such, the objective of this paper is to investigate the involvement of actors (non-assigned leaders) other than recognised formal leaders in the process of leadership. Leadership could be viewed as a social process based on the interactions of different actors. Place-based leadership perspective could facilitate a deeper insight into shared leadership applied to voluntary organisations. Sotarauta (2016: 46) argues that ‘leadership is a hidden form of agency, shadowed by such visible forms of influences as structures and formal institutions’. Whereas, place-based leadership is achieved through conjoint rather than individual agency (Vallance et al, 2019; Hambleton, 2019). This paper argues that place-based leadership encompasses informal influence that can be important in achieving the intended outcomes of voluntary organisations. Moreover, Collinge and Gibrey (2010: 386) have highlighted the importance of place-based leadership as a conduit for ‘facilitating interdisciplinary working across institutional boundaries and ensuring the comprehensive engagement of local communities’. Traditional leadership paradigms regard leadership as attributed to formal authority and institutional power. However, place-based leadership is reliant on the mobilisation of multiple stakeholders (Vallance et al 2019) and Sotarauta (2016) argues that it is possible for ‘non-assigned leaders’ to exercise influence despite the lack of institutional position. Shared leadership bridges the gap between ‘assigned leaders’ and ‘non assigned’ leaders and this research found that ‘non-assigned’ leaders are willing and able to take leadership positions in wider networks of influence. Therefore, shared leadership and place-based leadership literature provide conceptual and analytical leverage in understanding the complexity of leadership within voluntary organisations.
Citation : Mumbi, H. (2019) Shared leadership: a place-based leadership analysis of voluntary organisations. 18th International Studying Leadership Conference (ISLC), UWE , Bristol, 16 December 2019.
Research Institute : People, Organisations and Work Institute (POWI)