UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A narrative perspective on relational leadership : dreaming the impossible Bonney, Christine Anne


Drawing on hermeneutic, phenomenological and postmodern theory, this inquiry was undertaken to explore the thinking, experience and significance of leading from a relational, socially-aware and dialogical perspective. Four women and three men participated in eight individual semi-structured interviews, three teleconferences and an electronic discussion group and journal, over a period of five months. The narrative approach supported a close reading of the participants' stories, which led to the identification of three primary storylines: Other, Otherness and Othering; Human’s Being; and Dreaming the Impossible. The first storyline encompassed the participants’ experiences with influential leaders and the practices they embodied. The participants described ways-of-being they identified with and emulated, to varying degrees, highlighting the way such exemplars had shaped their own practice. Various ways that the participants explored being rather than doing comprised the second storyline. Reflexivity (self and critical) heightened the participants’ receptiveness to the phenomenal world and deepened their appreciation for how we are always selves-in-relation-to-others. The notion of leadership as something aspirational rather than fully realizable emerged in the third storyline as participants grappled with their learning about leading and leader practice. Throughout the storylines, participants reflexively contemplated the practices that enabled them to maintain a socially-aware perspective. These practices encompassed such aspects as respecting, engaging and listening to others, seeking outcomes that reflect the priorities of others, holding the tension of “chaosmic” perspectives and deconstructing the master narratives about what it means to lead. The inquiry itself was a space for reframing our conceptions of social science with a focus on freedom, consciousness and responsibility for others. In terms of the significance of this inquiry, the study offers evidence of a growing shift from an objectivist and positivist framing of leading and leader practice, toward a view that is more generative, relational, open and human. Focusing on the reflexive development of leaderly capacity, the study fosters a deconstructive urge to open up texts, relationships and ideas to their verdant possibilities. This questioning and intersubjective stance enables the leader to fully participate in and co-construct a world held in common.

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