An investigation to determine the extent to which the literature defines and endorses a proposed framework for a 'Practice of leadership'

Albertyn, De Wet (2012-07)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.


During the past two to three decades the concept of leadership has become the subject of great debate, research and writing. The explosion of literature and perspectives are both to be welcomed but can also be bewildering. To date the subject of leadership has not yet evolved into a more mature ‘practice’ which enables the development of more consistent ‘agendas of leadership development and focus’. A review of internationally respected business schools and MBA programmes would, for instance, provide a good degree of consistency with regard to what should be included in the ‘Practice of Management’. The same would be true for other professional practices such as medicine, architecture, accounting, and various engineering disciplines etcetera. The main objective of this study was to explore and determine the extent to which the literature defines and reinforces the development of an integrative ‘Practice of Leadership’. Based on internationally accepted best practices, the potential constituent elements of a ‘Practice of Leadership’ were divided into the four dimensions of Personal, Interpersonal, Organisational and Societal leadership. Twelve elements were identified that are addressed repeatedly in the literature and which may form a starting point to provide greater rigour in defining what the ‘agenda’ for a ‘Practice of Leadership’ may consist of. One hundred and sixty four sources of reference have been structured to explore the initial set of 12 elements to produce a framework relating to a ‘Practice of Leadership’. The method used in this study was an extensive exploration of existing literature with a focus from 2000 onwards. Some core leadership principles were still mentioned, but the main focus of this study was done from 2000 to date. Various online databases have been used (with the main focus on the USB’s online databases) for the data collection, using key words relating to the 12 elements of a Practice of Leadership. The result of this study indicates that a shift has happened during the past years where leadership is moving from a competency paradigm towards a shared understanding of what potentially could constitute a ‘Practice of Leadership’. The knowledge gained from the 166 sources of reference revealed that certain patterns emerged with relative frequency in the existing literature in order to produce an initial set of 12 elements to support a framework for a Practice of Leadership. One of the conclusions of this study was that no existing literature refers to a framework arguing for a ‘Practice of Leadership’, although singular papers were sourced where there was a call to explore and establish a more concrete framework for a ‘Practice of Leadership’. This study has taken the bold, yet humble, step to identify and introduce an initial set of 12 elements which might lead to a shared and integrative framework for a ‘Practice of Leadership’. The conclusion was made that other potential elements may also form part of this integrative framework, but that further research is needed to substantiate their inclusion. There is no doubt that the framework for the ‘Practice of Leadership’ contained in this research will be challenged. It is hoped that it may contribute to taking the debate from the highly conceptual to the more concrete, and that it may at worst provide a working template to test, endorse, refine or reject content going forward.

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