This paper aims to explore how the characteristics of outstanding leaders promote dispersed leadership through the beliefs and experience of leaders in some of the UK's best known organizations.
Drawing on in‐depth qualitative interviews with 70+ leaders, interviews with direct reports and interviews with more senior leaders carried out between 2008 and 2010, the paper contrasts the approaches to leadership that distinguish high performing leaders from their peers and how these approaches create the climate for devolved leadership.
The paper highlights the key differences that distinguish outstanding leaders and explores how these differences create climates of empowerment that enable dispersed and devolved leadership to flourish. The paper argues that devolved leadership is not a haphazard process but involves leaders in deliberately creating the right conditions.
The paper presents the core characteristics of outstanding leaders and how they can not only produce better performing organizations, but also create more robust organizations with more capable, autonomous and innovative employees to help identify and develop leadership populations.
There is a clash between a focus on the leader and a concern for dispersed leadership in organizations. They seem to be opposing views of leadership – one focused on the individual, the other the collective. This paper assimilates these two perspectives and shows how a certain style of leader embeds leadership.
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