Leading in the cage

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Leading in the cage

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Titel: Leading in the cage
Managing the tension between reality and employee surveys
Forfatter: Larsson, Magnus
Resume: This paper aims at an exploration of leadership in the context of pervasive organizational control, in the form of standardized measurement systems. Measurement practices are proliferating in contemporary organizations, with ever more aspects of both organizational and private life being monitored and measured (Clegg & Courpasson, 2006). These systems are generally seen as an important part of organizational control regulating and shaping both actions of organizational members, and their own self-understanding or identity (Alvesson & Willmott, 2002). The image of the iron cage of bureaucracy, where action is tightly regulated, has in part been exchanged for the image of soft controls, regulating values and identities rather than behaviors and actions. Kärreman and Alvesson (2004), however, point out how these two types of control might work in tandem, constituting a strong regulating force. In contrast to this literature that emphasize the constraints on individual agency, the leadership literature emphasize the powers of leaders to influence and shape organizations and organizational processes (Yukl,2002). Leadership is commonly associated with driving and facilitating change and development. Theories of leadership emphasize (among other things) vision, personal engagement, interpersonal relationships, and ability to empower subordinates. How, then, can leaders exercise their agency and enable change when faced with systems generally seen as regulating rather than facilitating agency? It is this paradox that we wish to explore in this paper. We take the case of employee surveys, being a common practice in western organizations, that paradoxically constitute a standardized system aiming at change and development, and explore how these are experienced and managed by leaders in various organizations. We wish to analyze in terms of leadership how these standardized systems migh on the one hand constrain leadership action, and on the other hand be utilized in change related initiatives, thereby preserving leadership agency.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10398/8709
Dato: 2013-06-10

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