Leadership as a system-wide construct: A narrative exploration of the collaborative process -- Guy Nasmyth
Guy is a self-employed consultant and trainer working in the area of leadership and organizational effectiveness. He works with public, private and not for profit organizations. He also teaches at Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria. His professional website is www.guynasmyth.com.
This research explored (a) the idea that leadership is a system-wide construct rather than a phenomenon that can be understood through a reductionist focus, and (b) the collaborative process experienced by members of groups and teams in which no individual played the role of leader. Employing a narrative approach, 13 individuals told their stories of collaborative experiences in different sociocultural contexts. The data were analyzed using both structural and thematic analyses following the directives of Catherine Kohler Riessman. A metastory is presented as a story of leadership as a system-wide construct. Themes from the data that were consistently reported as critical to the groups achieving success include (a) a belief in the importance of the mission, (b) putting relationships first, (c) adopting strengths-based practice, (d) demonstrating passion without ego, (e) accepting setbacks and moving on, (f) accepting an emergent process and an emergent outcome, (g) recognizing a collective identity, and (h) magic. Research insights surfacing from the thematic analysis are (a) the collaborative process is ubiquitous, (b) the collaborative process is emergent, (c) the duality of leader versus led is unnecessary and potentially limiting, and (d) balancing diversity and conformity is critical. A broader lesson is that the narrative process itself is energy giving and moves away from a limiting expert model, helping to focus on leadership as a complex process and not the role of one individual.