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Mapping the Leadership-as-Practice Terrain: Comparative elements
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Industrial Economics and Organisation. (IEO)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2294-7898
2016 (English)In: Leadership‐as‐Practice: Theory and Application / [ed] Raelin, Routledge, 2016Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Inspired by the practice turn in organization and social theory (Schatzki et al., 2001), there has been increasing recognition of the value of theorizing about and studying leadership from a practice perspective (Denis et al., 2005, 2010; Carroll et al., 2008; Crevani et al., 2010; Raelin, 2011; Endrissat & von Arx, 2013). The resulting notion of “leadership-as-practice” gives rise to high expectations but may also cause misunderstandings among leadership scholars and practitioners alike. To recognize its potential we believe it is important to bring to the fore some of its underlying assumptions and outline its similarities and differences to other relatively close concepts. Hence, this chapter provides an introduction to the leadership-as-practice perspective by means of two central comparisons. First, we probe into leadership studies and consider the similarities and differences of a leadership-as-practice perspective with related leadership approaches such as the leadership style approach (and the subsequent situational leadership and contingency models) and the relational leadership approach. We highlight the consequences of doing research from each one of these three perspectives, mainly with respect to the underlying understanding of reality (ontology) and, consequently, the “unit of analysis” (i.e. what is studied and focused on to produce knowledge about leadership). We include examples of typical research questions and exemplary studies in each of the three domains to support our reasoning. Of course, the comparison cannot be completed by considering just two other approaches. However, the two seem most relevant because they share several similarities with the leadership-as-practice approach that need closer examination to define the specific contribution of leadership-as-practice. The style (and the situational/contingency) approach is widely known, entitative in character, but with a similar focus on leadership actions to the practice approach. By making the differences between the two approaches explicit, we hope to inspire the broad range of scholars familiar with the style approach to consider the practice perspective as a potential alternative that allows them to enrich understanding of the accomplishments of leadership. The relational approach, on the other hand, is the closest to the practice approach, and this is sometimes even used synonymously. However, differences exist and we believe that it is important to make them explicit to better understand the critical contribution of leadership-as-practice.

In the second comparison we look outside leadership studies and focus instead on the “as-practice” approach, outlining the similarities and differences between leadership-as-practice and other practice approaches in organization studies, namely strategy-as-practice and coordination-as-practice. As we will show, although the underlying assumptions are the same, they differ with respect to the social accomplishment on which they focus, that is the consequences of organizing processes that they try to explain and understand. Because of space restrictions, we had to limit our comparison to those organizational phenomena that we consider most relevant for defining leadership-as-practice. Both coordination and strategy work share similarities with leadership that sometimes make it difficult to distinguish among them. We hope that the focus on ‘social accomplishment’ will help the reader to better understand what the unique contribution of each of these organizational constructs is.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2016.
Keyword [en]
leadership as practice, relational leadership, strategy as practice, practice studies
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-28963DOI: 10.4324/9781315684123Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84967387170ISBN: 978-1-13-892486-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-28963DiVA: diva2:855566
Available from: 2015-09-21 Created: 2015-09-21 Last updated: 2016-05-26Bibliographically approved

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Crevani, Lucia

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