#OSEditorPicks: Constructing Women’s Leadership Representation in the UK Press During a Time of Financial Crisis

[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]

Elliott, C. & Stead, V. (2018). Constructing Women’s Leadership Representation in the UK Press During a Time of Financial Crisis: Gender Capitals and Dialectic Tensions. Organization Studies, 39(1): 19-45.

In this timely article, Carole Elliott and Valerie Stead investigate how women’s leadership was represented in the printed media during the global financial crisis of 2008 – 2012. They show how textual and visual discourses combine to promote different conceptualizations of what it is to be a leader, and can make a difference in the advancement of women into leadership roles. I encourage you to read this article to learn more about the power of everyday discourse in promoting (or not) women into positions of leadership.

-Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief, Organization Studies

OSSA continuing challenge for organizations is the persistent underrepresentation of women in senior roles, which gained a particular prominence during the global financial crisis (GFC). The GFC has raised questions regarding the forms of leadership that allowed the crisis to happen and alternative proposals regarding how future crises might be avoided. Within this context women’s leadership has been positioned as an ethical alternative to styles of masculinist leadership that led to the crisis in the first place. Through a multimodal discursive analysis this article examines the socio-cultural assumptions sustaining the gendering of leadership in the popular press to critically analyse how women’s leadership is represented during the GFC of 2008–2012. Highlighting the media’s portrayal of women’s leadership as a gendered field of activity where different forms of gender capital come into play, we identify three sets of dialectics: women as leaders and women as feminine, women as credible leaders and women as lacking in credibility, and women as victims and women as their own worst enemies. Together, the dialectics work together to form a discursive pattern framed by a male leadership model that narrates the promise of women leaders, yet the disappointment that they are not men. Our study extends understandings regarding how female and feminine forms of gender capital operate dialectically, where the media employs feminine capital to promote women’s positioning as leaders yet also leverages female capital as a constraint. We propose that this understanding can be of value to organizations to understand the impact and influence of discourse on efforts to promote women into leadership roles.

 

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You can read Constructing Women’s Leadership Representation in the UK Press During a Time of Financial Crisis: Gender Capitals and Dialectic Tensions by Carole Elliott and Valerie Stead free for the next 30 days. 

 

High Quality Through Transformational Leadership

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Lotte Bøgh Andersen of Aarhus University, Bente Bjørnholt of VIVE–The Danish National Welfare Research and Analysis Center, Louise Ladegaard Bro of Aarhus University, and Christina Holm-Petersen of VIVE–The Danish National Welfare Research and Analysis Center. They recently published a paper in Public Personnel Management entitled, “Achieving High Quality Through Transformational Leadership: A Qualitative Multilevel Analysis of Transformational Leadership and Perceived Professional Quality,” which is free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Andersen reflects on the motivation for pursuing this research:]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

The purpose of many public organizations is to deliver services to citizens and users. As suppliers of (e.g.) daycare, education and elderly care, public organizations play an important role for the welfare and development of individual users – and for the society at large. It is therefore not unreasonable to request high-quality services, or to expect that “good leadership” matters in this regard. But what is professional quality? Does all professionals in an organization have to have the same understanding of “quality” in order for the quality-level to be high? And what can leaders actually do to increase a shared understanding – and high levels – of quality? These are some of the questions that we strive to answer in our research.

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

While the understanding and levels of professional quality were central to our paper, we were also interested in the number of employees which a given leader oversees (also known as span of control). This is because many (Danish) leaders in later years have experienced merges, resulting in fewer leaders and broader spans of control. The article thus contributes with knowledge about whether span of control is important for the effects of leadership.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

We wanted to understand the quality concept as seen by the leaders and employees; to explore the daily lives and interaction of leaders and employees; and to examine the potential importance of the number of employees per leader. We therefore decided to conduct interviews and observations in a number of public service institutions with varying sizes of spans of control. We find that shared understandings of quality matters for the levels of quality; but also that this understanding does not necessarily have to be in terms of specific output- or outcome measures. In most of the organizations with high levels of quality, there is a shared focus on the work-processes – such as reflected practice and professional discussions. Furthermore, we see a more shared understandings of professional quality and higher quality when leaders use transformational leadership. This type of leadership is, however, most prevalent in organizations with medium-sized spans of control.

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Assessing Leader Development From a Historical Review of MBA Outcomes

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Angela M. Passarelli of the College of Charleston, Richard E. Boyatzis of Case Western Reserve University, and Hongguo Wei of the University of Central Oklahoma. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Assessing Leader Development: Lessons From a Historical Review of MBA Outcomes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Passarelli recounts the events that led to the research and the significance it has to the field:]

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

We began collecting outcome data 30 years ago on our MBA students. We were trying to determine what they were learning that was crucial to their success as managers and leaders – namely, the competencies from performance-validated studies. This particular project was born when we hit a major milestone in the ongoing assessment program – 25 years of data collection. The 25-year mark prompted us to reflect on how the data were being used. Each year we examined the data to determine how students in our full-time MBA program developed emotional and social competencies during the course of their 2-year program. This information provided a basis for modifications to the curriculum. For example, a downward trend in teamwork competency development prompted a pedagogical innovation in which project teams remained the same across multiple courses and were given coaching not just on performance outcomes, but also on how they functioned as a group. While these year-to-year adjustments were helpful, we came to the realization that we were missing potentially important trends that would not be evident by looking at just one or two cohorts at a time. This realization became the motivation for examining trends in competency development from a birds-eye view – across the entire 25-year assessment effort, rather than in small pockets at a time.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research

The most challenging aspect of conducting this research was contending with advances in instrumentation. We improve the tests psychometrically about every 7 years, which helps reliability, model fit and validity but creates comparability challenges in longitudinal research. Although these changes improved our confidence in inferences made on an annual basis, they impeded our ability to analyze the data set in its entirety. To deal with this, we chose to focus on a period of time in which the survey instruments were most similar and conducted graphical trend analysis. This allowed us to see trends over time, such as the saw tooth effect. It also helped us figure out what we should contemplate doing to minimize such threats to learning and positive impact.

Relatedly, collecting data of this nature and for this length of time is difficult. Our assessment program faced a variety of obstacles over its history. Personnel changes led to knowledge gaps whereby informed consent was not administered or data were not appropriately retained. Computer crashes resulted in data loss, and funding deficits threatened financial support for the effort. Having a faculty champion whose intellectual curiosity aligned with the assessment program was critical to overcoming these obstacles.

Were there any surprising findings?

The downturn in competency development during times of leadership upheaval was possibly the most striking trend we saw in the data. The idea that toxicity at the most senior levels of leadership was trickling down to the students had been proposed in earlier research. But this study offered confirmation by showing a rebound in competency development once leadership stability was restored. In the paper we postulate that students were affected by this leadership turbulence via declines in faculty climate and satisfaction. Research designed to directly test this interpretation is still needed. Without knowing the exact degree of negative effects, educators would be well advised to try to mitigate the deleterious effects of toxic leadership on student outcomes.


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The Fear Imagery in Collective Leadership

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Joseph A Raelin of Northeastern University. Dr. Raelin recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “What are you afraid of: Collective leadership and its learning implications,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Raelin reveals the inspiration for conducting this research :]

mlqb_48_3.coverWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

Why did I entitle my article: What Are You Afraid Of (in reference to the forthcoming article in Management Learning – now available online – called: “What Are You Afraid Of: Collective Leadership and its Learning Implications”)? I had a sense that the title would be controversial and baiting. The manifest reason to give is that the paper was written for the department of the journal called Provocations to Debate. But the substantive reason, which I would like to expound upon briefly in this blog, is that collective leadership, though a straightforward practice, simply has not found much traction in the annals of leadership, whether they be academic or professional.

On the academic front, although collective leadership may receive some lip service not only to itself but to its cousin perspectives, such as shared, distributed, leaderful, relational, as-practice, or plural forms, it finds few presenters or adherents in academic conferences, such as the Academy of Management or the International Leadership Association, or in the mainstream academic journals. One prospective and important ally, shared leadership, need not be collective since the leadership practice in question may be performed by individuals (such as non-managers) individually and sequentially rather than collectively.

A secondary reason for apprehension of collective leadership among academics might be the methodological burden of tracing the complex set of practices and “supplements” (e.g., interwoven discourses) to those practices that produce leadership. This kind of investigation would be sociological, whilst the easier path is to contend that leadership is psychological and can be measured using standard psychometrics.

When it comes to professional usage, the fear imagery among practitioners suggests that collective leadership is a remote, unstable, and inefficient practice that would leave institutions in chaos. More germane to the Management Learning journal, this form of leadership would expose leadership development practitioners to the unknown. Collective leadership finds a more compatible pedagogical home in collective learning, but the latter requires removing the learner from the classroom where it is thought that most learning occurs. Collective learning would occur far more frequently within the workplace itself as practitioners prospectively engage with one another on real problems, reflect together on their plans and improvisations, and reconstruct their practices according to their own interests. But this kind of learning can be messy and seemingly not as concentrated or efficient as conventional training. Indeed, it can be unpredictable requiring use of such collective activities as on-the-spot reframing, reevaluation of accepted practices, and spontaneous testing of available knowledge.

In a world seemingly obsessed with individual achievement and even bombast, cooler heads may one day prevail as we learn to welcome multiple and contradictory voices through critical dialogue, thus involving everyone in the leadership enterprise. We have little alternative.

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Appreciating the Soul: Reflecting on Leadership

2017-10-19 10_30_31-1056492617710758.pngWe are pleased to feature authors Nancy J. Adler and Andre Delbecq and their innovative article on leadership. Recently Drs. Adler and Delbecq published an article titled “Twenty-First Century Leadership: A Return to Beauty” in the Journal of Management Inquiry. In their article, Adler and Delbecq take the unique approach of combining beautiful artwork with profound writing that invites readers to reflect on themselves and their aspirations for leadership. The article is free to read for a limited amount of time. Read the abstract below:

Adler portraitHighlighting Aristotle’s appreciation that “The soul . . . never thinks without a picture,” this article weaves together art and ideas into an aesthetic encounter with beauty, leadership, and our humanity. It invites reflection based on long-established wisdom traditions as well as drawing on insights from everyday sacred traditions. You are invited not only to engage in reading the words presented on each page but also to stop and to reflect on their meaning. You are offered the power of art to intensify your experience and understanding. The article invites you to enter into a contemplative silence designed to increase your appreciation of your own and others’ humanity while deepening the beauty of your own leadership. Such encounters with art and deep reflection have the power to guide us in rediscovering and creating beauty in our fractured world. Encountering art and wisdom through a deeply reflective process does not dismiss science but, rather, partners with all ways of knowing to go beyond what any one approach can produce on its own. Thus, the overall invitation of the article is to heighten your understanding of yourself, your role, and your aspirations as a 21st-century leader.

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Leadership and Employee Work Passion: Propositions for Future Empirical Investigations

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Richard Egan of the University of Canberra, Mark Turner and Deborah Blackman of the University of New South Wales. They recently published an article in the Human Resource Development Review, entitled “Leadership and Employee Work Passion: Propositions for Future Empirical Investigations,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Egan reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

HRDR_72ppiRGB_powerpointIn what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

By measuring employee perceptions of their interpersonal experience with organizational leaders as well as employee affect and levels of intent, this study contributes to bridging the gap between the long-standing research base relating to organizational leadership and the emergent theory of employee work passion. Indeed, scholars such as Albrecht (2010) and Meyer, Gagné, and Parfyonova (2010) have called for research to integrate theories and evidence from adjacent fields. Such integration will allow Human Resource Development scholars and organizational practitioners to develop a deeper understanding of related psychological constructs that contribute to the development of work passion.

In terms of practical implications, by exploring theoretical links between leadership behavior, employee affect and work intentions, we develop and provide a relevant theoretical framework for future discussion, analysis and refinement. With a clearer understanding of how leadership impacts on employee affect and employee work intentions, HRD practitioners can measure the antecedents to and consequences of work passion accurately. Subsequently, appropriate behavioral interventions, such as training and coaching programs that aim to increase leader awareness and skills needed to build workplace environments where employees can choose to be passionate about their work, can be developed.

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An Educator’s Perspective on Reflexive Pedagogy: Identity Undoing and Issues of Power

[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Marian Iszatt-White of the Lancaster University Management School. Dr. Iszatt-White recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “An educator’s perspective on reflexive pedagogy: identity undoing and issues of power,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Iszatt-White reveals the inspiration for conducting this research and the impact it has on the field:]

mlqb_48_3.coverWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

All the authors of this paper are teachers as well as researchers, and spend much of our time working with ‘gnarly’ middle managers on executive education programmes and Executive MBAs. It was piloting an innovative leadership learning intervention (co-constructed coaching – the subject of an earlier paper in Management Learning by Steve and myself) with this latter population that triggered the insights underpinning this paper. Specifically, we realised that adopting a reflexive pedagogy had implications for us as ‘teachers’ as well as for our students. This was not the direction we intended the paper to go, but it really hit us as something important and not well understood in the literature. The idea of ‘identity undoing’, which Brigid had already developed, seemed key to our own experiences and offered a valuable framework for processing and theorizing them.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

A significant challenge in conducting this research was the autoethnographic element – which was not part of the original design but still needed to be methodologically robust. Our original intention had been to validate the idea of co-constructed coaching as a leadership learning intervention, which we had previously proposed. An early draft of the paper, pursuing this intent, happened to mention our own experience of implementing this intervention and our reviewers picked up on this as being interesting. This led Steve and I to home in on this previously marginal aspect of the project and to bring Brigid in as an ‘independent witness’ to our reflections on what it felt like to adopt a reflexive pedagogy. Brigid did a great job of ‘interrogating’ and then narrating key elements of this experience, which we were then able to theorize in relation to identity undoing and issues of power.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

In undertaking this analysis, we problematize the pursuit of a reflexive pedagogical practice within executive and postgraduate education and offer a paradox: the desire to engage students in reflexive learning interventions – and in particular to disrupt the power asymmetries and hierarchical dependencies of more traditional educator-student relationships – can in practice have the effect of highlighting those very asymmetries and dependencies. Successful resolution of such a paradox becomes dependent on the capacity of educators to undo their own reliance on and even desire for authority underpinned by a sense of theory-based expertise. We belief this insight – as well as the innovative use of autoethnographic methods to turn a critically reflexive lens upon academic teaching – will provide food for thought (and for further research) across a wide range of academic disciplines. With the introduction in the UK of the Teaching Excellence Framework, now seems to be a fitting time to review what it means to be an ‘expert’ teacher.

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