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An exploration of leadership and its development through the inner worlds of leaders using metaphor.

Cairns-Lee, Heather M. (2017) An exploration of leadership and its development through the inner worlds of leaders using metaphor. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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This research explores the naturally occurring metaphors of 30 business leaders from fifteen nationalities to discover what insight can be gained from a personalised approach to leader development. Building on the assertion that part of the complexity of leadership is its subjective and symbolic nature, this research explores the meaning that individuals make about their leadership and its development. This approach supports the development of authenticity in leaders, viewing authenticity as making one’s own meaning, relational and elusive. This longitudinal, phenomenological enquiry, situated in the social constructivist paradigm, seeks to explore how leaders construct and make sense of their world at an intra-personal level. It addresses the question; what can leaders learn about their leadership and development from an exploration of their inner worlds through metaphor? Using Clean Language, an innovative interview method to elicit naturally occurring metaphors, leaders were invited to surface and explore their metaphors of leadership verbally and in drawings. Results suggest leaders make meaning through surfacing and exploring their metaphors, gain clarity and confirmation about their leadership and view development as an on-going journey of becoming, rather than a fixed destination. Diverse conceptualisations of leadership are revealed in multiple and idiosyncratic metaphors, yet ten ‘key’ metaphors appear to underlie these diverse expressions. Moreover, the importance of relationship to provide subtle guidance and comfort during exploration of the inner world was revealed. In tandem with the purpose of this study, methodological advances are proposed for qualitative interviews that aim to surface individuals’ metaphors. This seeks to contribute to approaches for eliciting and analysing metaphors that can illuminate sensemaking within the management and organisational field.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Cairns-Lee, Heather M.
Date : 21 December 2017
Funders : Self
Contributors :
Uncontrolled Keywords : Leadership development, Self-awareness, Metaphor, clean language
Depositing User : Heather Cairns-Lee
Date Deposited : 08 Dec 2017 15:27
Last Modified : 09 Nov 2018 16:39

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