• Britta Lolk Vestergaard
4. term, Learning and Innovative Change, Master (Master Programme)
Keywords: Practice theory, leading practices, leadership changes

Leadership is often discussed based on the position of the leader's role, leadership styles, social intelligence etc. In that context, the leader as a person is made a decisive factor in regard to strengthening an organization's production and maintaining qualified labor, and this leads us to consider certified training of leaders as a special necessity. However, it is reasonable to doubt what leaders as individuals can change in an organization because of leadership training. Current studies show that an individualistic approach to leadership reduces the complexity which leading practices represents at work. However, we lack more concrete knowledge about what other conditions, besides the leader, which need to be addressed to make the desired leadership changes in organizations. Just as we lack knowledge about what leadership training actually contributes in regard to leading practices at work.

In order to draw attention to, and partly to cover, this knowledge-gap in leadership research, this thesis examines how leading practices unfolds in different situations at a workplace, and how leaders' experience from an external leadership training co-operate with leading practices at work. Thus, the thesis illustrates the underexposed, 'naturalized' phenomena which frame, construct and develop leading practices; and which can contribute to a relevant discussion about how we should relate to leadership and change, including leadership training. The focus of the thesis on leadership is therefore different from previous scientific studies of leadership which seek to clarify leaders' tasks, expectations of leaders and what characterizes good and efficient leadership.

Based on two leaders' activities in a treatment and finance business respectively, as well as tasks in the leadership training in which they have both participated, this thesis’ perspective of leadership is such as the practices which the leaders produce in their daily work and carry with them from the leadership training. This is in order to illustrate leading practices and activities and to explain what conditions these practices and activities.

To acquire knowledge about practices, I have used ethnographic methods as participant observation and interview as they provide an 'un-processed' knowledge of the importance of the context of peoples actions. Just as they also reveal significant activities of historical character and capture the current concerns which govern the behavior of leaders, which demonstrates the normative and moral dimension of practices. I use a practice theory perspective on leadership, inspired by philosopher Theodore Schatzki along with six Australian professors, including Stephen Kemmis, to illustrate the complex interaction between people, things, power relations, discourses, rules, material terms etc. that conditions leading practices.

In the study leading practices is displayed, such as daily operations and collaborations, strategies, performance appraisal interviews, touchpoints, and departmental meetings, and the leaders activities within these are initiated and are conditioned by various projects, dispositions, traditions, rules and material terms in the company. This will in many cases, either not give rise either to the inclusion of experience from a leadership training or the opportunity to utilize practices from the leadership training. Therefore, there is no basis to say that leadership training has equipped leaders with a particularly good way of handling leading practices or given them particularly advantageous tools for implementing changes. However, it has contributed that the leaders develop some characteristic projects as well as general and practical understandings, which periodically give rise to attempts to change traditions in the company through the practice of special methods and models. But only when the situation permits it.

Overall, the thesis focuses on raising awareness of several factors about leadership. First, an individualistic-oriented focus on leadership, including the use of the competence paradigm, reduces the complexity of understanding, which will lead to more sustainable changes in leading practices in an organization. Secondly, uncertainties and surprises are everyday terms for leadership. Therefore, a dimming the need for leadership training in favor of more acceptance of acting based on sensing, improvising and adapting as they go could promote organizational learning and progress. Thirdly, changes in leading practices might necessarily comprise an analysis of which practices leadership entails in that organization and that a change within one of these practices may also involve changes in other practices.
LanguageDanish
Publication date1 Aug 2017
Number of pages79
ID: 260996495