Research Insights & Papers
Background: Social Change Leadership in Action
Learning About Leaders and Their Work
Reports by Method
Leadership for a Changing World’s Research and Documentation core team – with LCW award recipients as co-researchers – engages in several research activities to document participants’ experiences and learn about social change leadership. As co-researchers, award recipients reflect on their successes and the leadership challenges they confront.
Leadership for a Changing World views leadership as a relational process that is social and collective in nature. It belongs not only to an individual but also to a community. People come together to pursue change. They develop a shared vision of how the world should look. They make sense of their experiences, make decisions and take action. Leadership happens when people construct meaning in action in the context of a group’s work to accomplish a common purpose. Review the implications of this view to study leadership.
Our core research team is based at NYU/Wagner. We invite each award recipient to participate in at least one of three forms of co-research: narrative inquiry, cooperative inquiry, and ethnography. Read an overview of the Research Design. The insights learned from co-research provide new understandings of how social change leadership emerges and what sustains it. Co-research activities ultimately result in the following research products associated with the work of award recipients: leadership stories, ethnographies, and reports of cooperative inquiry. These products are helping us construct a model of social change leadership in community organizations and provide insights and lessons about this type of leadership.
Implications for Research
Our approach to leadership research - A relational view of leadership (lens) has implications for how we choose to do research on leadership. It affects both the focus (what to study) and the stance (who defines what is important and does the research). In terms of focus, this lens makes us pay attention to the work that calls for leadership and to the context where leadership happens more than to the individual traits or behaviors of people called leaders. We learn about leadership by learning about the experience people have when they try to make sense of their work in the context of trying to make things happen. In terms of stance, the focus on work, not on the leader as an individual, compels us to invite the people engaged in the work to inquire with us about its meaning, viewing leadership from the inside out. This stance is one of co-inquiry, a participative approach where we as co-researchers conduct research with leaders on leadership. Methodological choices to do co-research follow naturally from these choices of lens, focus and stance. Research strategies must help uncover the relational, shared and meaning-making aspects of the work and their implications for leadership. Using multiple qualitative methods work best to do this.
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