An examined life: a tool for leading change.

DProf thesis

Simons, C. 2006. An examined life: a tool for leading change. DProf thesis Middlesex University Institute of Work Based Learning
TypeDProf thesis
TitleAn examined life: a tool for leading change.
AuthorsSimons, C.

As part of my work as a development consultant and therapist working with senior executives, the aim of this study is to ascertain whether the personal attitudes of senior executives who are successful at leading change impact on change within their organisations through their leadership style and behaviour. In addition, the project is to assess what are the personal qualities that contribute towards their own feelings of positivity towards change. I have sought to examine the personality profiles of 'successful' executives to look at attitude formation and development within their own psyche with regard to change through a qualitative in-depth case study approach. I worked with eleven successful senior leaders of change from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. One of the objectives of the project was to theorise whether
interventions may be made to assist senior people who are less successful at leading change to examine their own attitudes and self-concept in order to influence their resulting behaviour and hence improve their leadership performance.
Ethnographic and auto-ethnographic methodologies were used with reflexive and inductive ways of researching. I carried out approximately six to eight hours of semi-structured one-to-one interviews with each of my participants and the group met together on one occasion. To analyse the data, word tables were produced which correlated through cross-case synthesis.
The main correlation from the personality profiles showed that all the participants were very 'driven' in order to achieve excellence. Their motivators were mainly intrinsic and tended to derive from their backgrounds in childhood which were mostly either deprived of parental emotional affirmation, where in some way and at some point in participants' formative years, families were dysfunctional or striving to 'better themselves' from a practical perspective. Interesting aspects emerged relating to Attachment Theory, together with influences from participants' background class, education routes and role models.
The main conclusion to be drawn from the project, and agreed by participants, is that a high degree of self-knowledge is essential for successful leadership. Recommendation is made that senior executives who are not particularly self-aware may, if they were prepared to accept it, benefit from development in which they examine their self-concept in an attempt to understand how past experiences influence and impact on their present attitudes and behaviour. This could then present an opportunity for them to recognise where attitudes resulting from past experiences are still affecting their present lives and perhaps to bring such experiences to conscious thought in order to deal with them and move on. It is considered that this greater self-knowledge and perhaps greater self-acceptance would benefit them through the prevention of any of their own negative issues influencing their behaviour as leaders of change. One way of enabling such a development process may be through individual coaching where the coach has an understanding of how past experience impacts on present (and future) behaviour.
It has been recommended by my participants that I continue with this research post-doctorally and I am particularly keen to explore in more depth the relationship between Attachment Theory and successful leadership.

Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
Department nameInstitute of Work Based Learning
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print05 Jul 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Jul 2011
CompletedFeb 2006
Output statusPublished
Additional information

A project submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Professional Studies.

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