Robin A Hay email@example.com
Leading with limited knowledge: An application of the theory of complex responsive processes of relating to leadership practice
Hay, Robin A
Previously examining toxicity I’d concluded attempts to address it typically focus on behaviours, tackling symptoms, not the causes. Seeking causes I came across
Stacey’s (Stacey, R.D., 2007, Strategic management and organisational dynamics: the challenge of complexity to ways of thinking about organisations, 5th ed. Financial Times Prentice Hall, Harlow.) challenge to the dominant discourses in organisational studies with his theory of Complex Responsive Processes of Relating (CRPR). This engagement challenged my confidence in my own teaching and leadership practice. Consequently my literature review has (re)examined the traditional leadership theories as well as the emerging literature questioning the dominant discourses. Additionally identifying an appropriate methodology that was consistent and coherent with the theoretical framework required (re-)engagement with established theories of research.
My reflections on Stacey (Stacey & Griffin, 2005, A complexity perspective on researching organisations, Routledge, London.) led me to understand that an important aspect of the experience of leadership is the need to act without sufficient knowledge. The dominant discourses in leadership studies not only fail to provide an answer to this but frequently deny the leader the room to acknowledge it as worthy of attention. Additionally whilst CRPR called into question the theoretical basis on which key elements of my leadership practice was constructed, it gave little insight into how to effectively develop a leadership practice based on this alternative discourse. This made not only made it difficult for me to rethink my own leadership practice but also placed the insights of CRPR beyond the reach of most leaders. The key areas I have focused on in my own emerging practice of leadership are: what constitutes ‘good enough’, leading with tentative certainty, holding anxiety, sense- making as an act of leadership, planning differently, acknowledging the uncertainty of causality, acting in the grey, and creating space for mistakes.
Primary data collection
The primary approach adopted was autoethnography with secondary ethnographic elements. To ensure that my methodology and methods were consistent with the theoretical framework, an iterative process of conceptual development, theoretical challenge and practical testing was adopted. Several sets of empirical data were developed across three phases of research: the first phase exploring the nature of limited knowledge, the second the implications of the theory and the third exploring my emerging practice.
Novelty of the research
This research project has required me to develop an approach to researching leadership in a way that is consistent with CRPR. Important contributions to knowledge include the development of a theoretical framework that encourages leaders, and leadership scholars, to more explicitly acknowledge the significance of limited knowledge in leadership practice. This has required a reconceptualisation of some key aspects of leadership and point to the need for a wider consideration of key leadership assumptions.
Hay, R. A. Leading with limited knowledge: An application of the theory of complex responsive processes of relating to leadership practice. (Thesis). University of the West of England
|Keywords||leadership, limited knowledge, complexity, leadership practice, autoethnography|