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Collective Leadership Dynamics among Professional Peers : Co-constructing an unstable equilibrium

Empson, Laura LU and Alvehus, Johan LU (2019) In Organization Studies
Abstract

Professional service firms (PSFs) are characterized by contingent and contested power relations among an extended group of professional peers. Studies of such firms can therefore yield important insights for the literatures on collective leadership and leader–follower relations. Yet to date PSF scholars have neglected the topic of leadership, and leadership scholars have neglected the context of PSFs. Based on 102 interviews across the consulting, accounting and legal sectors, we identify three relational processes through which professional peers co-construct collective leadership: legitimizing, negotiating and manoeuvring. We demonstrate how the relational processes taken together constitute an unstable equilibrium, both in the moment... (More)

Professional service firms (PSFs) are characterized by contingent and contested power relations among an extended group of professional peers. Studies of such firms can therefore yield important insights for the literatures on collective leadership and leader–follower relations. Yet to date PSF scholars have neglected the topic of leadership, and leadership scholars have neglected the context of PSFs. Based on 102 interviews across the consulting, accounting and legal sectors, we identify three relational processes through which professional peers co-construct collective leadership: legitimizing, negotiating and manoeuvring. We demonstrate how the relational processes taken together constitute an unstable equilibrium, both in the moment and over time, emphasizing how leadership in PSFs is inherently contested and fragile. Our model contributes to theories of collective leadership and leader–follower relations by foregrounding the power and politics that underlie collective leadership. We highlight the significance of the individual leader within the collective. We challenge assumptions concerning the binary nature of leadership and followership, by showing how colleagues may grant leadership identities to their peers without necessarily granting them leadership authority, and without claiming follower identities for themselves.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
epub
subject
keywords
collective leadership, contingent authority, leadership dynamics, leader–follower relations, politics, professional service firms, unstable equilibrium
in
Organization Studies
publisher
SAGE Publications Inc.
external identifiers
  • scopus:85065636418
ISSN
0170-8406
DOI
10.1177/0170840619844291
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
a8bca94c-cf0f-469d-97f1-e65e30ef642e
date added to LUP
2019-06-17 12:13:32
date last changed
2019-06-19 04:16:41
@article{a8bca94c-cf0f-469d-97f1-e65e30ef642e,
  abstract     = {<p>Professional service firms (PSFs) are characterized by contingent and contested power relations among an extended group of professional peers. Studies of such firms can therefore yield important insights for the literatures on collective leadership and leader–follower relations. Yet to date PSF scholars have neglected the topic of leadership, and leadership scholars have neglected the context of PSFs. Based on 102 interviews across the consulting, accounting and legal sectors, we identify three relational processes through which professional peers co-construct collective leadership: legitimizing, negotiating and manoeuvring. We demonstrate how the relational processes taken together constitute an unstable equilibrium, both in the moment and over time, emphasizing how leadership in PSFs is inherently contested and fragile. Our model contributes to theories of collective leadership and leader–follower relations by foregrounding the power and politics that underlie collective leadership. We highlight the significance of the individual leader within the collective. We challenge assumptions concerning the binary nature of leadership and followership, by showing how colleagues may grant leadership identities to their peers without necessarily granting them leadership authority, and without claiming follower identities for themselves.</p>},
  author       = {Empson, Laura and Alvehus, Johan},
  issn         = {0170-8406},
  keyword      = {collective leadership,contingent authority,leadership dynamics,leader–follower relations,politics,professional service firms,unstable equilibrium},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications Inc.},
  series       = {Organization Studies},
  title        = {Collective Leadership Dynamics among Professional Peers : Co-constructing an unstable equilibrium},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0170840619844291},
  year         = {2019},
}