Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Clearing for Action: Leadership as a Relational Phenomenon
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Economics and Management (Div.) (closed (20130101). KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Gender, Organisation and Management (closed (20130101).
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Although leadership is deemed to matter, scholars seldom pay attention to the phenomenon itself, as it is happening. Hence definitions abound, but there is a lack of vocabulary for expressing what leadership is about without ending up talking of individual leaders and/or descriptions of abstract “goodness”. Such an idealised and individualistic construct of leadership has consequences, both in theory and practice, in terms of providing a reductionist account, segregating and putting people in hierarchies, reinforcing the dominance of masculinities, and constraining how leadership is to be performed. Therefore, in order to contribute to our still limited knowledge of leadership beyond ideals and individualised conceptions, the purpose of this thesis is to add to our understanding of leadership as a social phenomenon going on at work and to contribute to developing a vocabulary for it.

Reading the empirical material more and more closely, produced through an ethnography-inspired approach at two Swedish organisations and consisting of transcripts of interactions and interviews, the initial research question, “how is leadership shared in practice?” is subsequently modified and different strands of theories are applied: shared leadership, postheroic leadership and a radical processual view of leadership. In this way, different understandings of leadership are analysed. As a result, the theoretical concepts of organisational becoming, relational leadership and work practices are combined in an alternative approach. Two leadership practices are thus identified: constructing positions and positioning, and constructing issues. Such an analysis also leads to an alternative way of understanding leadership: leadership as clearing for action. Clearing is both a space, a bounded space, and an action. Therefore it expresses a relational perspective in which there are no stable entities, by suggesting a more dynamic view, at the same time as it also conveys the idea that we are talking about a constrained space.

I thus define clearing for action as an emergent bounded aggregate of actions and talks that become possible, making others impossible or less probable. Actors and their worlds are constructed in certain ways that expand or contract the space of possible action. The result is a specific reading of leadership to add to the field of leadership studies. In this reading, leadership is an ordinary, repeated, social achievement at work in which possibilities for action and talk are constructed in constrained terms.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2011. , 360 p.
TRITA-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; R 2011:02
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-33319ISBN: 978-91-7415-906-6 (print)OAI: diva2:414603
Public defence
2011-06-01, Sal F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

QC 20110510

Available from: 2011-05-10 Created: 2011-05-03 Last updated: 2017-01-19Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

fulltext(12069 kB)1282 downloads
File information
File name FULLTEXT01.pdfFile size 12069 kBChecksum SHA-512
Type fulltextMimetype application/pdf

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Crevani, Lucia
By organisation
Industrial Economics and Management (Div.) (closed (20130101)Gender, Organisation and Management (closed (20130101)
Business Administration

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
Total: 1282 downloads
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Total: 1318 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link