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Leading organizational improvisiation: an exploration of the influence of leadership style on organizational improvisation

Bilsen, Gijs van (2010) Leading organizational improvisiation: an exploration of the influence of leadership style on organizational improvisation.

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Abstract:USING THEATRICAL IMPROVISATION TO RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONAL IMPROVISATION Organizational improvisation is defined as ‘conception as planning unfolds’, meaning that thinking and doing happen simultaneously. Improvisation happens under conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity and time pressure. We will place our research in a context of new product development (innovation), because the conditions occur often in this context. Our focus is on the role of the leader in an improvisational process. To research this we have chosen two leadership styles that should be beneficial to improvisation; servant leadership and rotating leadership. To get a clear view of the effects of these leadership styles, we have contrasted them with directive leadership. Servant leaders lead from a low status rather than a high status. They lead by doing menial tasks and asking questions. Servant leaders are focused on getting the best out of their followers, instead of focusing on the results. Rotating leadership is team leadership. In rotating leadership the team member with the most capabilities to handle a certain situation will become the leader. When a new situation arises, another team member can take over the leadership role. A directive leaders takes all decisions himself and directs his followers to perform specific tasks. To lead organizational improvisation, a leader has to make a synthesis between freedom and control. The team members need freedom to be able to have their input in the process, but the process needs to be controlled so that the improvisation does not get out of hand and the outcome is beneficial for the organization. Freedom and conflict with each other, but are both necessary for improvisation. We want to know if and how the leadership styles solve this paradox. Besides this we want to know if the leadership style positively affect the quality of the process and the product of improvisation. To research the effect of these leadership styles, we use a method called theatrical simulation in the hyper reality. The method has its roots in philosophy and this is the first time it is used outside of philosophy. Theatrical simulation means we simulate reality with performers. The advantage of using performers is that it is possible to regulate personality and behavior within the simulation. Hyper reality means that the simulation takes place in an abstract, artificial reality that enlarges visible effects and shows the process in 15 minutes rather than hours of even days. We have transformed all factors influencing organizational improvisation into an environment, relations and rules. The environment is medieval Europe, where guild masters make innovative products for their empress. The different relations symbolize the leadership styles. Directive leadership is portrayed by one guild master and three apprentices, servant leadership is translated as one abbot and three guild masters. Rotating leadership consists of four guild masters that all have the same status. The performers were given additional rules to accurately portray the leadership styles. Our results indicate clearly that both servant and rotating leadership can handle the paradox between freedom and control. Servant leadership employs indirect control, which is not felt as control by the team members, so they still have their freedom. Rotating leadership gave all team members the possibility to control the process, but to take the freedom to experiment as well. Rotating leadership had the best scores on the quality of improvisation. The scores of servant leadership were also positive. Directive leadership could not, as we expected, deal with the paradox and had a negative effect on the quality of improvisation. We discovered that attitude had a large effect on improvisation. Directive leadership leads to a natural negative attitude and servant leadership naturally lead to a positive attitude. A positive attitude is important for improvisation, as it determines how team members react to the uncertainty that is part of improvisation. A positive attitude makes team members regard uncertainty as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
TSM Business School
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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