Leadership context: the importance of departments
Jepson, D. (2009) Leadership context: the importance of departments. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 30 (1). pp. 36-52. ISSN 0143-7739
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/01437730910927098
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore empirically the importance of context on participants’ understanding of leadership behaviour in 12 companies in the German and UK chemical industries. In doing so, it also seeks to review existing literature on contextual influences on leadership and to look more closely at the possible conceptualisation of such contexts. Design/methodology/approach – Findings are drawn from a wider study of 105 qualitative interviews conducted in the German and UK chemical industries in 2004/2005. Textual analyses of these research data have focused on the importance and nature of different contexts, such as the immediate social, cultural, institutional and historical. Findings – The findings indicate that it is the immediate social context in the form of organisational departments that seems to influence leadership behaviour most. The influence of this context on leadership is further shaped by other contexts such as the education of employees, present occupations and national origin. Research limitations/implications – The findings support the usefulness of the conceptual framework introduced here and especially the assumption that different types and levels of context interact to shape the specific and continuously changing context in which individuals understand and enact leadership. Although clearly confined to the limits of the data set, the finding has potentially significant implications for the focus of leadership development for managers. Originality/value – The paper responds to Berry and Cartwright’s call for a wider contextualisation of leadership, which has so far remained unanswered in LODJ.