Leadership identity categories

There’s something going on this fortnight  Personally it’s been huge (we bought a house) and usually this would be a one way ticket to PhD avoidance, but for some strange reason I have also been super productive in this space too. While going to yoga, work, dance class AND submitting my first tender for long term facilitation contracts. It’s been nuts.

After yoga yesterday I rushed home to write yesterday’s post so as not to lose the thoughts.  After finally having a shower and breakfast I sat down with Riessman’s Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences and spent the afternoon reading.  This book helped more than any other with my thoughts on methodology.  And I knew then I had to revisit what I’d written last week and look at the broader narratives in my primary interviews from a thematic narrative analysis perspective.

Today I sat down and reread all nine primary interviews and constructed their narratives around leadership, bigger than just the answer to the question “Do you consider yourself a leader?”  I found patterns, categories which I am now shaping for my reluctant leadership chapter. I also fleshed out my case study introductions, adding more than just demographic information. In the end my Chapter 5, which I am supposed to have 5,500 words by now, I cut to 2,900 but I have added to two other chapters.  Win some, lose some.

What I’m left with are five archetypes in terms of my participants relationship to leadership.  They are:

  • The collectors: the collectors are about building a career through targeting experiences, companies or brands they want to work with. Each new item added to their career portfolio is checked off a list.  Public recognition of their work, through awards, job offers, promotion or salary increases are representative of their leadership status.  But they are unwilling to recognise themselves as leaders, regardless of job title or position, as they  are always comparing themselves to the ‘next thing’ (the exemplar). They never see themselves as a leader for what they are doing now. There is always something lacking.
  • The learners: these individuals see learning as crucial to leadership, participating in leadership courses is the way they seek external validation for being a leader.  “I’m in this room therefore I deserve to be here. ”  For some they learn enough to then embrace leadership identity, particularly when their definition of what constitutes leadership is expanded from the more narrow media constructions they had before , for others there is always something more to learn before they can ‘live’ leadership.
  • The community builders: These participants are the ones that surround themselves with a community of practice, unconsciously or consciously, who focus on collaborative practice and achieving goals with others. They can be multi-disciplinary or focussed on a single creative practice, but the learning and psychosocial support they receive from a close network means they are the most likely to embrace leadership identity, particularly relational or distributed leadership.
  • The outsiders: the individuals who see themselves are as working outside the traditional arts/creative paradigm. Whether it be because of gender/class/race/education they do not fear disenfranchisement for from the establishment for being loud, outspoken or opinionated because they are already outside looking in.  The see others are being afraid to speak out and step up and be leaders (unlike themselves.)
  • The Aussies: (I don’t like this term but I’m struggling to find one that fits.) Those who can see their influence and inspirational potential to others, but work alone, are self motivated and are terrified of being seen as egomaniacal or ‘up themselves.’

Clearly these are a work in progress, but I can see where it’s heading.

One thing I have been worried about is the way I was going to link my primary participant interviews (on reluctant leadership) to my secondary case studies.  But I think I am starting to see a path: we start with the narrow focus on reluctant leadership, comparing across cases to explore the how/what/why.  The second chapter positions the emerging leader (primary participant) back within their case to examine how situated learning and communities of practice influence the formation of leadership identity and reluctance, with the third data chapter drawing recommendations and implications from this.

After 36 hours of intense reading/writing (I’ve written more in 24 hours than I had all last week) I am about to crash and go make white chocolate cookies.  I know I need a day away from the PhD – I haven’t had a day off this past fortnight, but I’m a little scared I’ll lose momentum.

 

Advertisements

Storytelling

I’ve spent a week writing the beginnings of my first data chapter. While the theme of it, reluctant leadership, is clear in my mind, the process for explaining it and really analysing it is not.  This has been one of my main challenges in the whole research process.  I don’t feel I have a grasp on the process of documenting my research, my methodology.  Data collection, no worry, lots of fun, loved it and I think I have some really great material.  Crafting that into a thesis….not so much.

So I’ve flailed around a little this week, which I am not really sorry about. I think there is a need for flailing in life (hey, I tap dance which for me is 90% flailing.)  Even though I haven’t written my 4,000 quota (I’m at 3270 ) I decided today to revisit my narrative methodology books to think more about actual process.  Because I keep waiting for a step by step guide that says how to do this.

One: I don’t think that is going to appear.

Two: I’m missing a big piece here.

Just now I went to yoga, I’m still averaging 3 times a week at yoga now, though I have really let up on myself about how ‘good’ I am at it or how far I progress week to week. (I could learn a few lessons from that right?)  I now just go to clear my head, break a sweat and move my body.*

Lying in savasanna my mind wandered back to my PhD, the fact I wasn’t writing today but reading, and the thematic issues I’m grappling with.

And then I thought: what is the story I am trying to tell?

Here I am trying to shoe horn myself into narrative methodologies without thinking about the narrative I want to tell my readers, my examiners.  What story is the data telling me.  Forget (for a minute) how I extract and report that story, but what is the story to begin with.

So I’ve just written four points on post it notes and stuck them on my wall.

  1. What is the story I am trying to tell?
  2. The reluctant creative leader
    • How can we see them?
    • Why do we see them?
  3. How do we remove reluctance?
    • Through social and situated learning in communities of practice
      • Facilitated how? (Through legitimate peripheral participation driven proactively, organisationally or educationally.)
    • Why is gender important? (Because it is – the three groups of non-reluctant leaders are all female driven.)
  4. What can we learn from this?
  5. How can we use it?
  6. Why is this important?
  7. What are the recommendations?

I’m still going to step back and thinking about narrative research for the rest of the day (while I’m slow cooking a lamb roast) but I’m not going to lose sight of the story I want to tell.

  • My supervisor once told me that ‘work’ within your PhD takes many forms, it is not just the time spent at your desk.  I find I get a lot of my big ideas on the yoga mat.

 

Research statement de ja vu

Another day, another post about shaping my research statement.

I’m technically editing my literature review today.  Paragraph by paragraph editing to send through a slightly shorter (now about 11,500 words) draft to my supervisor on Friday.  But it’s hard when your opening still doesn’t really reflect a research statement or question that I am 100% happy with. In particular with a questions that focusses on the mechanisms creative workers use to create leadership identity I am still discussing the how question.  While that is part of the thesis, the my first discussion chapter, that I alluded to yesterday, if actually about reluctant leadership.  Nothing to do with how, but more about what and why.

So I came across a book chapter shared on twitter that shows a slightly different structure, and I thought I’d give that a try.

My topic: The topic I am exploring is the development of leadership identity in the Australian creative industries.

My research problem:   As the creative industries has become a more visible contributor to the Australian economy there has been a renewed discussion about the importance of leadership within the sector.  While the question of what constitutes effective arts and creative leadership has been discussed both theoretically and in the media, there is little understanding about how creative leaders develop their leadership identity. This research aims to explore how emerging leaders shape their leadership identity and the relationship they have to the concept of leadership.

My purpose: The purpose of this research is to explore the formation of leadership identity in 9 sectors within the Australian creative industries to understand the influences that shape this development.

My research questions:

  • What mechanisms are used by creative workers in Australia to develop their leadership identity?
  • What role does context have in shaping leadership identity within the Australian creative industries?
  • What relationship do emerging leaders in the Australian creative industries have to the concept of leadership?

I actually prefer this to trying to write one singular research question, though I’m concerned the last question is too broad – what I’m really exploring is the reluctance to be seen as a leader. Maybe is should be something like: What factors influence a reluctance among emerging creative industries leaders to embrace the title of leader?

OK, back to editing.

 

The reluctant creative leader

This week I’m on editing duty.  I have a literature review that is over 13,500 words that really needs to be done under 11,000.  Kill your darlings time.

But mentally I’m already moving forward onto my first data chapters.  I’m thinking out loud her on whether I take an issues based approach or a data analysis approach.  The latter is more a case of

  1. Presentation of data
  2. Compare and contrast case studies
  3. Discussion of results.

And while this feels well structured it also feels like a quantitative approach.

Given my research is about the social construction of leadership identity and how that is reflected in the narratives of my subjects it makes more sense to me to take an issues based approach, where I use my data to tell a story.

I’m planning on discussing with with my supervisor Friday and as of next Monday we start writing.  This is the big month.  Once I get this first data chapter locked down I feel that a) I’m be ready to present stage two and b) I’ll be really on my way toward the finish line.  Of course the fact I need three issues to discuss, not one, is weighing on me.  I don’t really feel as strongly about the other emerging themes as I do about the reluctant leader.

So what is the reluctant creative leader?

In this first issue chapter I want to explore the answers my 9 emerging leaders gave to the question “Are you a leader?”  Those who’ve read this blog for a while know that almost none of the nine answered the question straight out, only one said an unequivocal yes. The rest said versions of “yes, but…” or “not yet” or “no”.

My exploration of this issue then will relate these narratives back to four questions:

  1. How are they demonstrating reluctance?
  2. What leadership theories are they alluding to in their narratives? i.e. what does their answer tell me about what they think leadership is.
  3. How does their answer relate to development they’ve undertaken? Is there a relationship between participation in leadership development, either through interventions or communities of practice and a willingness to be seen as a leader?
  4. How do their answers relate to identity theories? Is this just a ‘stage’ they are going through in line with leader identity theory? Are they critically rejecting constructed notions of leadership? Is this a case of comparison to exemplars or others?

I think there’s enough in there to create a fairly weighty chapter.  What I think I need to be considering though are the claims and conclusions in line with Martin Hammersley’s framework discussed here.

Without giving the game away, and having not yet written anything, I’m thinking about the the reluctant creative leader is one that rejects the notion of leadership based on the socially constructed definition they see reflected in their organisational experience and media representations. But reluctance extends to only the wearing of the label, not the doing of leadership, and in doing so they are constructing their own versions of what a leader is.

I’m excited about this though, I’ve been building up the data chapters in my head as some sort of insurmountable task, the moment I really prove that I’m not up to this.  But by using a systematic approach I think I can argue something worthwhile.

Structuring my literature review

This morning, after a nice 10 day PhD break, starting my new job and a week in Bali, I sat down to map out the next 8 months of work.  That is one scary proposition.  As I’m now working two weekdays, I have set myself weekly and monthly goals which I think are achievable but leaves little room for stuff like reading new articles or networking with other researchers.

Even with the strict schedule I still can’t see myself finishing a draft until mid-October.  That seems dangerously late if I want to hand it in before year’s end.  Knowing I will need time for rewriting, formatting and external editing.  I’m hoping that all the writing I’ve already done (a draft methodology, a draft introduction to case studies, a start on my literature review) means I might actually be ahead of the schedule. Fingers crossed.

  My challenge in March is to pull together my literature review.  In someways I’ve been looking forward to this, as the big themes of my research (leadership, development and identity) have never wavered, so I have a pretty good understanding of at least two of those three. Identity needs to be worked on and expanded (not just in thesis world believe me) but I’m pretty comfortable.

One thing I hadn’t though much about was the structure.  The work I’d done in me Stage 1 was pretty linear – chronological discussion of leadership theory, for example.  But what I hadn’t really done was a) thought about how they all connect together, and b) relate them back to the research question in a systematic fashion (the fact I still don’t have a true research question is still out there too of course.)  I’m struggling to define a question that doesn’t use ‘how’ in it.  In a nutshell it’s a comparison of the development of leadership identity, understanding and capability in different sectors within the Australian creative industries.

That’s why I was happy to come across these series of posts that were shared by UTS’s Nick Hopwood.  Today i’ve spent some time playing with the process to explain why I’m writing on what I will. If I take the key words in my research proposition, if not a question, above, you get development, leadership, identity and sectors within the creative industries (context). I know I need to explain the idea of understanding, capability and identity too, but I am choosing to bundle understanding and capability into the development of leadership capacity.

Slide1

By starting with my themes I realised that something was missing – context.  Context is an incredibly important part of what I am examining.  In undertaking a comparison of the development of leadership identity, understanding and capability I am setting my study not only in the creative industries but within each examined sector. Does this mean that my writing on the creative industries needs to go in to the literature review? Not sure on that yet, but it is important.

Instead of writing on these four things, there need to be a relationship to between them and back to the research question. Wentzel describes this as identifying the assumptions.  My assumptions are:

  1. Leadership is important or valuable.
  2. There is no one right definition of leadership.
  3. Leaders can be developed.
  4. The what is leadership and the development process differs depending on context.
  5. Part of becoming a leader is embracing leadership identity.

What writing this down does is removes me from my half baked findings and take a step back.  My first (two, three) iterations of these were bogged down in the idea of the creative industries (not context) and I was trying to outline my argument, not what I needed to theorise.

The next step is to bring these all together into a flowing (maybe not) paragraph.

As leadership contributes to both organisational and individual success (1) so the development of leaders is seen to be of economic and societal value (3).   Part of the leadership development process  in creating successful future leaders is the construction of leadership identity (5), yet given the lack of a singular leadership definition of leadership (2) or a defined process in which it can be developed development actions vary contextually (4).

I’m not overly happy with that…..

But…to keep going, from here there is a grouping of assumptions:

  • The concept of leadership and why it is important within the (creative industries) context
  • How leadership development occurs with particular focus on social and contextual aspects
  • How is identity impacted by leadership/leadership development, especially if development is contextualised. Would different environments means different development which creates different types of leaders?

Which in someways brings be back to the three themes  – leadership, identity and development, but it highlights the importance of context at all levels.

Finally these is reduced to a ‘talk show script’ which highlights the need to investigate why each of these assumptions exist and their counterclaims as the literature review unfolds.

Claim Response (trigger question)
As leadership contributes to both organisational and individual success

 

How does it do that? Is it proven?
the development of leaders is seen to be of economic and societal value 

 

Is it? How is that demonstrated? And how are they developed?
Part of the leadership development process in creating successful future leaders is the construction of leadership identity

 

What constitutes a successful leader?

Why is leadership identity important? What happens if leadership identity isn’t embraced?

given the socially constructed nature of  leadership there is no singular definition of what leadership is

 

What are the definitions of leadership? How is leadership socially constructed?
defined process in which it can be developed development actions vary contextually.

 

How might environment or context change development? Is it a matter of resources? Is development a collective or singular activity? Is there no ‘right way’ to develop leaders? Is that even possible given there’s no definition?

Next week it’s on to the writing.

I love it when a plan comes together

PhotoIt says something about my mind when I use a quote from “The A Team” as a headline.

Note: the uptake of readers of this blog has been surprising.  I’m not really doing this as a form of communication with other people and did contemplate making it private.  But the number of followers has surprised me in the first week, we aren’t talking huge, but I can’t really think why anyone would want to read this.  It will really annoy me if I end up with more readers or followers here than on my other blog. Just saying.

This morning I sat down with my sharpies and butcher’s paper (I was too exhausted last night after writing) and mapped out my ideas for part one of my literature review.  As I mentioned in this earlier post on leadership, and reiterated yesterday on process, I have come full circle in my structural thinking.  When I put everything on paper, aligning the questions I had been thinking about with the proposed structure of the section, it came together nicely. There may have been a little happy dance.

Yesterday I also completed my 2,000 words on critical leadership and sent them off to S1 and S2.  I am not sure if either will actually read them. But that’s not the point.  The discipline to actually write them was something I needed.  And they will help form part of the about critical section in my lit review.  It was a step that had been missing in my self-defined process last year that I think helps clarify my ideas and (hopefully) makes me a better writer.

S1 and I talked this morning about the role she can play and the relationship with S2, and she admitted she did skim my writing and gave some good feedback. To be honest I expected that if it was read it would have been ripped to pieces (as a learning experience) so this was a nice surprise.

We’ve also mapped out a timeframe for the next few months:

  • April: I continue to work of the “what is leadership?” theme and try to pull everything together in 10,000 or so words.  While this sounds like a lot you can see from the above map that there is a huge amount of terrain to cover.
  • May to mid-June: I do the same for leadership development.  This is ambitious in some respect as I’ll have worked on the leadership side for three months.  I hope that I’ve become a bit more efficient in my reading and can be more judicious with my time.
  • Mid-June  – August: Methodology and ethics.  How am I going to conduct my primary research, with whom, how do I find and contact them, what do I ask them.  What methods will I use to analyse the data collected.

The aim is to do Stage 1 assessment September/October and ethics clearance just before or just after.  Setting me up for primary data collection in 2015.

After reading a couple of thesis I’m surprised at the scope of data collection, as in it is not as broad as I expected.  Thirty interviews may be all that’s needed.  Doesn’t sound too hard does it? (But I am prepared to be surprised.)

This week has been a very good week academically. I received a positive email from a student saying she enjoyed my classes, I have written A LOT and I have a plan for moving forward.

This blog has helped, undoubtedly.  It has removed a mental barrier I had with regard to writing.  Next, as in tomorrow, I start looking at feminist analysis of leadership.  Wont that be fun?

A bit about process

I’ve had a way of undertaking literature research for a number of years.  It’s probably not a very good one, but it has worked for me in the past. (Noted that everything I’ve done in the past has been a complete cakewalk compared to this.)

I undertake three steps when looking at a piece of writing. 1. I read it, while this sounds self-evident I do not necessarily read it in the way recommended in study courses.  I READ it, not skim it. Highlighting as I go.  It’s worth noting that I am paperless.  I have no printer and have not printed out any of my 300+ articles I have sourced this year.  I read on an iPad and highlight using Goodreader. My complex relationship with Endnote is fodder for another post.

2. I take notes from my highlights.  This is a combination of direct quotes and my surmising of the content. With page references and embedded endnote links.  This used to be in word, but is now in sections within Scrivener (which I love.)  I probably have 120 individual files so far.

3. I use these notes to draft my writing/content. Of which I have about 10,000 words from last year.

I know there are weaknesses here.  There is less analysis than there probably should be on paper, as the links are all in my head. And there is a lot of jumping around, cutting and pasting. And my 120 articles are not categories to the level of detail that’s needed.

When I started at UTS I went to a number (A LOT) of research courses.  These have laid out a whole range of techniques, from using Endnote to store all analysis, to mind maps.  Many of these techniques seemed great, game changing.

But ultimately they paralysed me.  For the first two months of this year I have not added to my ‘master’ document at all.  I’ve read a lot. I’ve dropped notes in Endnote, links in Evernote, a mind-map in Coggle.it and references everywhere. But I stopped moving forward.  I’ve realised now that all these techniques have actually proven to be a distraction, not a help.

In the past week I returned to my old method when reviewing the 5 articles on critical leadership theory.  And I feel I’ve made more progress that I have in the past 2 months.

So my lesson learned is to stick with what works for you. While Endnote is a great tool for saving references and pdf documents, it is not the place for me to store my ideas, quotes and concepts. It just doesn’t work (for me.)

Saying that, I am going to introduce one technique shared by Dr Terry Royce as I think it fills a gap I’m going to need as this monster gets bigger and more complex.  That is the idea of a conceptual map that shows authors  and articles aligned to topics. As shown in the example below: photoLater today, however, after I have finished off my 2,000 words on critical leadership theory, I plan to get down on the floor with butcher’s paper and sharpies, and draw the biggest structure possible, incorporating the concepts  discussed in this post.  Like my process, my structure is leaning back toward the one I started with because it is comfortable and makes sense to me.

My new rule: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.