How can the role of leadership be best understood in organizational change

How can the role of leadership be best understood in organizational change

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The role of leadership can best be understood in organizational change as a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Depending on the conceptualisation of organizational change you adopt, the leader’s role could be perceived to be a variety of things, from that of an initiator/visionary, the influencer of culture, a trigger for follower organizational identification, someone who redefines resistance, or a sense maker who introduces new discourses. The most useful approach can be to consider an issue from a number of different theoretical points of view before determining the most effective intervention.
Leadership has been conceived of in a multitude of different ways varying from Great man theory (Borgatta, Bales and Couch, 1954; Cawthon, 1996), trait theories (), and style theories (). More recent conceptualisations of leadership include contingency theory (), and transformational leadership (). Each of these theoretical models has a contribution to make in forming a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between leadership and organizational change and we shall explore how adopting a definition for leadership or organizational change infers the role of the other.
However we define leadership, the concepts of organizational change and leadership can be argued to be inextricably linked. If a leader was not able to effect any change within an organization then it is hard to imagine a way in which such a leader could be effective in their role. Thus organizational change is at the very heart of a leader’s role.
This paper will argue that a pluralist approach to understanding leadership’s role in organizational change possesses the greatest utility in informing practice. In doing so, it will present a number of different concepts ...


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...ind of universal sense as in doing so, one ‘mistakes the map for the terrain’. The role of leadership in organizational change is a multi-dimensional phenomenon which, it has been argued in this paper, can be most usefully understood by employing a pluralist perspective. That is to say, ‘a pluralist approach of comparing multiple plausible models of reality is essential for developing objective scientific knowledge’ (Campbell, 1988: 389, in Van de Ven & Poole, 2005). While there are a plethora of lens through which to understand both leadership and change it is more useful to consider a range of perspectives and only then assess the utility of each perspective and it’s appropriateness for informing a real world intervention. In the words of Pettigrew (2001) “In the absence of unambiguous foundational truth … the only sensible way forward can be conscious pluralism."

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