Uncovering an integrated leadership theory

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University of New Brunswick


With over 58 different theories and approaches in the literature, leadership studies and research show an important gap by not having a well-defined integrative leadership theory. Through an in depth critical synthesis of seminal writings, an initial construct is developed in the form of a leadership process which operates within a leadership metamodel (i.e., a model of models). These preliminary findings constitute an initial grounded theory. The metamodel consist of: a person, in any context, delivering a leadership service, which draws upon a leadership process, to capture relevant leadership capabilities, which is manifested through a leadership archetype. The leadership process itself starts from a need, conditions (knowledge, decision and action) are then set to deliver a leadership role from which power (authority and influence) emerges, from which we learn (feedback) and, continue to do so, until that need is fulfilled (partially or completely). A core research experiment and two supplemental experiments further internally validate this construct through an iterative-hermeneutic content analysis of over 2300 years’ worth of enduring influential occidental leadership concepts. Using sentences as the main unit of analysis, the following research questions are answered: Do leadership theories share a common set of characteristics?; How could those characteristics be integrated? and; What data language would support the integration?. Perhaps the single most important contribution of all this work has been to build a solid foundation from which tools may be derived to aid current and future leaders in further developing critical skills such as: self-knowledge; ability to adapt behavior based on any context; selecting best approach when engaging with others in the complex leadership ecosystem. The leadership capability abstraction in this study provides a vocabulary, analytical discipline, and formal mapping structure that can be useful to address a wide variety of challenges that emerge on a regular basis for individuals involved in different leadership situations. Other contributions of this research include: articulating an integrated working theory; modelling the process of leadership focusing on the inputs and; developing a detailed data language and metamodel offering important potential for future education, serious gaming and new research opportunities.