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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience of leadership through difficult situations : what helps and hinders Patterson, Pamela Frances


This research examined leadership in difficult situations using phenomenological and critical incident analyses of 14 interviews with respected leaders. Leadership in difficult situations was examined as a personal experience consistent with the perspective of counselling psychology. The phenomenological analysis has produced four voices. The first voice captures the participants' description of leadership as a paradox of personal and situational dynamics. The second voice forms an uncommon elucidation of the lived experience of leadership in difficult situations. The participants are seen to be striving in a resilient manner characterized by a sense of acceptance and authenticity. The third and fourth voices describe the means by which the participants are effective in difficult situations. The third voice captures the intra-personal process of resonance, personal and social awareness, personal supports, mastery of the issues, and the capacity to generate remarkable outcomes. The fourth phenomenological voice captures the participant's active engagement in connecting with people, shaping the work context and leading collaboration to develop a successful process. Five categories have been produced by the Critical Incident Technique, which examined what helps and what hinders in the experience of leadership through difficult situations. The five categories are: being experienced, principled and self-aware; having personal supports and influences; being interested and skilled in connecting with people; being both energetic and able to withdraw appropriately; finally, actively cultivating their perspective or vision. These five categories indicate the capacity of the participants for diverse means of participation in difficult situations. Results are discussed in terms of implications for research and practice.

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