Transformational and shared leadership in self-organising teams: an action research study

Menzel, Mark
Transformational and shared leadership in self-organising teams: an action research study. Doctor of Business Administration thesis, University of Liverpool.

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In recent years, software development companies have begun to face the need for faster product release cycles due to market pressure. Accompanying the faster product release cycles is a paradigm shift in the process of software development: away from a command and control approach towards self-organising teams. These self-organising teams are not leaderless; instead, leadership is shared among the team members. Shared leadership, therefore, is a team-based approach, distinguished by leadership responsibility that is widely decentralized among team members. Effective shared leadership presupposes that the team members have the relevant competencies to assume shared leadership, and that their patterns of interactions truly reflect the ‘shared’ concept. Both aspects constitute a challenge for organisations and present a paradigm shift in terms of conventional notions of leadership. This quantitative action-oriented research study investigated shared leadership behaviour and shared leadership competencies in self-organising software development teams, examining the relationship among team members and their influence on one another. Some parts of this study were undertaken in a telecommunication company, where effective shared leadership is central to the company’s performance. Accordingly, issues related to the team members’ shared leadership competencies and the appropriate patterns of interactions among team members are areas of vital importance to the company. However, within the company, these aspects of shared leadership had never been examined; thus, a knowledge gap existed. This study sought to remedy this knowledge gap by addressing the following questions: What shared leadership competencies does a team member need to have in such a team? What is the individual perception of a member’s influence on the other team members as seen by a single team member? How is leadership distributed to facilitate shared leadership in self-organising teams? For the purpose of this study, a shared leadership instrument was developed and a social network analysis (SNA) was applied to study the team members’ shared leadership relations. First, an extensive literature review on shared leadership competencies and, subsequently, five interviews with experts were conducted. Both were synthesised to identify the key competencies of shared leadership in self-organising teams, resulting in five major shared leadership competencies that were grounded in transformational leadership: decision making, vision, communication, coordination, and teamwork. To assess these key competencies, a 9-item research instrument was developed and tested with respect to validity and reliability. The research instrument enabled a social network analysis of a self-organising team and was combined with Bass’ transformational and transactional leadership survey (TMLQ). A pilot study was undertaken on three self-organising teams in a university setting prior to applying the research instrument in an action research study with six action cycles on five self-organising teams in a telecommunication company. In this action-oriented research study, TMLQ results revealed high values for the attribute transactional management by exception (active) (MBEA) in all teams, indicating that team members were sensitive to the possibility of mistakes among their team peers with a view to taking corrective actions. Some teams indicated higher values for the transformational factors individualised consideration (IC) and inspirational motivation (INSP), which might be because of the self-organising approach of the teams. Overall, the teams did not show significantly higher values for transformational or transactional leadership behaviour compared to normative values. The evaluated teams showed low shared leadership for the decision making factor, indicating that decision making was not shared; rather, the decisions were made by some individuals in the team. One of the fundamental rules of a self-organising team is that decisions are made collaboratively. One interesting finding was that the surrounding organisational management team even exhibited shared leadership avoidance for the decision making factor. This study revealed that shared leadership decision making competence seems to be the most problematic aspect in self-organising teams. The SNA of the proposed 9-item shared leadership research instrument allows for a graphical representation of the five shared leadership dimensions (decision, vision, communication, coordination, teamwork) of a team. Together with the corresponding parameters network density (a measure of the total amount of shared leadership) and network centralisation (a measure to characterise the disparity with which team members participate in the leadership process), the SNA illuminates how team members perceive one another with regards to shared leadership. It allows the identification of not only key decision makers and members who share leadership but also isolates who do not contribute to the team’s self-organising approach. The study and the subsequent critical discussion showed that the proposed 9-item shared leadership research instrument seems to be a suitable tool for capturing the shared leadership competencies of a self-organising team. The shared leadership instrument developed in this research constitutes a potentially useful tool to assess a team and to take corrective actions immediately, since it involves a combination of a team-level view and an individual-level perspective of shared leadership strengths

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Business Administration)
Additional Information: Date: 2015-07 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Leadership, Shared Leadership, Social Network, Transformational Leadership, Transactional Leadership, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Software Development, Action Research, Teamwork, Teams.
Subjects: ?? HD28 ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2015 14:27
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:43
DOI: 10.17638/02023679