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Structured content analysis in leadership research: a new method for international contexts

C. Lakshman (Department of Management, BEM Management School, Talence, France)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 13 July 2012




The purpose of this paper is to evaluate structured content analysis (SCA) in leadership research by examining and contrasting it with traditional content analysis (TCA) and case survey methodology. SCA is presented as a variation of TCA, and is characterized as one that is more likely to be used by leadership researchers because of its more quantitative bent than TCA, but yet does not lose its capability to investigate inherently qualitative processes of leadership.


The paper systematically compares features of SCA as proposed by the seminal authors to the more sophisticated SCA proposed here. This is accomplished by clarifying and strengthening some of the inadequacies of SCA as initially conceptualized. The new SCA is first described in terms of its components and typical procedures. Using relevant leadership literature, the paper: clarifies the selection of data sources used in such analyses to enhance and verify source validity; identifies additional means to establish and verify reliability, in addition to that of inter‐coder (reproducibility) and stability (test‐retest) reliability; provides a systematic comparison of traditional TCA to the newer SCA; and illustrates the use of this method with a sample study.


While possessing all important advantages of traditional content analysis, this form of content analysis (new SCA) holds others, such as increased opportunity for estimating scale reliability and validity. Thus, the more quantitative nature of SCA is likely to be more suited to the higher standards for rigor of traditional leadership researchers using purely quantitative approaches.

Research limitations/implications

Text source selection may still suffer from human fallibilities and judgment errors. SCA may also be restricted to the study of leadership through leadership communication in speeches, debates, letters, etc. However, these may constitute a significant portion of what leaders do, especially those at the top of their organizations.


The paper enriches the original SCA and refocuses it for the specific purpose of leadership research. Specifically, it identifies seven ways in which the original conceptualization can be strengthened to make it more amenable for today's leadership researchers.



Lakshman, C. (2012), "Structured content analysis in leadership research: a new method for international contexts", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 477-493.



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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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