Complexity Leadership Theory and its application in higher education: using duoethnography to explore enabling leadership during a time of uncertainty

Marie Beresford-Dey (Lead / Corresponding author), Stella Howden, Linda Martindale

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Abstract

This study explores how Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) can advance the understanding of academic leadership in HE during a time of crisis and uncertainty. A qualitative methodology was applied to address the research question, ‘How do academic leaders in higher education understand leadership during a crisis?’ We used duoethnography to garner data through recorded conversations and other artifacts about our leadership experiences as associate deans for learning and teaching. Drawing from the three CLT leadership strands (operational, entrepreneurial, enabling) for analysis, we show enabling leadership as critical to doing operational and entrepreneurial leadership. Additionally, we demonstrate that enabling leadership, beyond its functional role, is suffused with emotion work and care. Uniquely, our findings suggest the need to extend CLT’s enabling leadership to integrate compassionate leadership for personal wellbeing and to support others during challenging times. Moreover, the study contributes to existing CLT knowledge by providing useful insights to extend the concept of enabling leadership by incorporating ways of thinking and approaching leadership practices relevant to the current higher education context.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Education
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2024

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