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Beyond Nelson: A Post-heroic Study of Leader-Follower Interaction in the Royal Navy

OFFORD, MATT (2016) Beyond Nelson: A Post-heroic Study of Leader-Follower Interaction in the Royal Navy. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis) - Accepted Version


Leadership studies have traditionally considered leader characteristics to account for leadership
outcomes such as leader emergence or team performance. This heroic narrative has always had its
opponents but recently a post-heroic approach is becoming more prominent. Post-heroic approaches
contest the assertion that leadership outcomes are mainly the product of leader traits. My research
begins with a particular leader trait, the ability to interact, and bridges the two approaches by
investigating the process from leader competence to leadership outcomes. The research uses a sequential
exploratory design incorporating mixed methods.
Three projects were conducted in Royal Navy (RN) warships. A qualitative project developed a
leader-follower interaction model. The model suggests that leadership is granted by followers after
a long-term series of mundane encounters. These encounters allow followers to build a group consensus
of leader prestige. Prestige inuences follower behaviour such as engagement, disengagement
and a covert form of resistance called levelling. A second project mapped the advice and participation
networks on RN vessels and determined the prestige of team and sub-team leaders. Regression
techniques allowed me to verify empirically the signicant relationship between prestige scores and
team performance for ships conducting Sea Training. A nal project conducted on a warship in
the South Atlantic verified a similar relationship between advice network prestige and intra-team
communication. Finally I used the findings of the two empirical projects, based on sub-team or
dyadic relationships, to model the effects of prestige at the group level, using computer simulation.
I discovered that prestige that is dispersed throughout a group generates more effective teams,
in terms of communication, than other conditions. This challenges the traditional top-down view
of leadership communication. The resulting leader-follower interaction model describes a series of
mundane and contested encounters through which prestige is given to dispersed leaders within a
group. The theoretical impact of my research is to develop trait-process approaches to leadership and
to describe leader-follower interaction as a post-heroic process. In doing so, I synthesise engagement
theory with antropological approaches, including resistance to leadership. Practically, my projects
validate the RN's compentency method of selecting leaders but points out that prestigious leaders
alone cannot maximise team performance.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Leadership, leadership processes, engagement, disengagement, resistance
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Economics, Finance and Business, School of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Oct 2016 09:25

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