UK public sector leadership: exploring discursive frames through Q-method

A Q-method study of leadership discourses conducted with 44 MBA (public management) students at the University of Birmingham (UK).  This approach identifies Q-method as a way of deriving culturally available discourse, in which 'discourse' is taken to mean a way of seeing and talking about a particular topic.

Results detailed the multiple discursive frames associated with public-service leadership available to participants:  'ideational', 'ethical', 'political', 'relational', and 'transformational rationalism'.  While the focus on cultural change and service outcomes within 'transformational rationalism' closely relates to leadership as promoted by UK government agencies, alternative discursive frames variously stress the importance of personal integrity, leader / follower relationships and political savvy.  The existence of multiple frames lends empirical support to the importance of discursive assumptions in all judgements of leader behaviour.

Date: 2009
Researcher: Tim Freeman