Sharing Leadership in Top Teams: A Qualitative Case Study of One Governing Board in the Nonprofit Sector

Wilson-Jones, Lindsay (2017). Sharing Leadership in Top Teams: A Qualitative Case Study of One Governing Board in the Nonprofit Sector. MRes thesis The Open University.



Shared leadership is increasingly important in organisations today in order to meet the needs of changing environments, complex problems and to accommodate transparency and accountability. This is especially applicable to nonprofit organisations (NPOs) where good governance has been a concern for years not only because of underdeveloped theories of nonprofit governance (Cornforth, 2012) but also public pressure to demonstrate accountability, after reported cases of failed governance.

This research has a qualitative exploratory methodological design that interprets emerging data to develop and clarify concepts. The thesis adopts an ontological relativist position towards the epistemology of constructionism, and employs an intepretivist methodology to discuss findings and concepts.

The case study employs the concept of shared leadership, a mutual influence process in teams, (Pearce and Conger, 2003) and an ‘ethical form of board leadership’ for corporate boards following poor governance and various scandals (Vandewaerde et al, 2011, p.404) to explore sharing leadership and governance in one nonprofit board in practice. Three data collection techniques namely interviews, observation and document review have been carried out. Specifically, eight interviews, observation of one annual general meeting and one routine board meeting, and a review of 21 documents including seven board minutes and eight reports.

The participants richly described their experiences, having been identified using a Braun and Clarke (2006) interpretive process that examines the following themes; compliance; core purpose; expert knowledge and leadership. Findings inductively identified from the data suggest support for the concept of co-leadership between two individuals; for board governance moving towards a pluralist perspective in 2017; and changing context as the locus of leadership during 2014 – 2017.

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