City Leaders, Relationships and Urban Resilience. A Mixed Methods Exploratory Study of the City Leadership Network of Padua (Italy) and Peterborough (UK).

Pagani, Michela (2021). City Leaders, Relationships and Urban Resilience. A Mixed Methods Exploratory Study of the City Leadership Network of Padua (Italy) and Peterborough (UK). PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012837

Abstract

The key role of city leadership at both the local and global scale is undisputed. However, city leadership has yet to be fully understood, even though studies on it have bloomed in recent years. This thesis argues that the adoption of a place-based leadership approach and a focus on the networked nature of city leadership can advance our understanding of this topic and, particularly, of the elements and dynamics that may influence the effectiveness or failure of city leadership.

Starting from the idea that city leadership (from a place-based leadership approach) can be considered as a metaphorical and semi-conscious network, called the City Leadership Network (CLN), this thesis focuses on three elements: the city leaders (the actors of the CLN), the relationships among city leaders, and the perceived urban resilience (the potential outcome of the CLN). The main aim is to explore whether the first two elements might influence the third element.

An exploratory multi-site case study based on Mixed Methods was conducted. The CLN of two cities, one in Italy (Padua) and one in the UK (Peterborough) were explored through the eyes of 66 city leaders, 37 in Padua and 29 in Peterborough. Data were collected using different techniques (online desk research, online questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, focus groups), whereas the analysis was mainly based on a qualitative approach to Social Network Analysis (SNA).

Surprising and thought-provoking findings emerged from the research, even though its nature and limitations did not allow to provide generalisable or strongly significant results and called for future research. In particular, despite the recognised central role of political leaders, managerial leaders and business leaders emerged as the critical actors within the CLN, whose role and relationships with other city leaders can tip the balance in favour of a more or less effective CLN and resilient city.

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