The purpose of this paper is to consider the ways in which certain occupational, organizational and political positions become active sites of leadership construction. Taking as their example the introduction of the Modern Matron in the English National Health Service (NHS) this paper considers how new forms of gender transcending leadership are constituted relationally through a dynamic interplay of historical, nostalgic, social, political and organizational forces.
The research was conducted within an interpretive paradigm of social constructivism and draws on data from semi‐structured interviews with a purposive sample of 16 Modern Matrons working in a single English NHS Trust. In keeping with inductive, qualitative research practice, data has been analysed thematically and ordered using descriptive, hierarchical and relational coding.
Their contention is that the Modern Matron presents as a site for relational leadership in respect of both self and other. This paper argues that the construction of Modern Matron usefully points to the ways in which multiple discourses, practices and relations may be intertwined in defining what it is to lead in contemporary organizations. This paper highlights the extent to which leadership is an on‐going relational co‐construction based – in this instance – in the interplay of four factors: nostalgic authority, visibility, praxis and order negotiation. Together, these produce a mode of leading that is neither heroic nor popularist.
Further research might consider how competing temporal, political and organizational imperatives encourage the development of particular sites for leadership, and how such leadership is then re‐performed in practice, as well as the affects/effect on individual and organisational performance.
The data provides opportunity to consider the “lived experience” of leaders in sites that are traditionally gendered female in non‐standard/public sector settings. Moreover, this paper presents empirical evidence in support of leadership as socially constructed and relational, borne of tension between different temporal, spatial and experiential factors, the on‐going negotiation of which both utilises and transcends masculinized and feminized gender performances. The result is a form of “leading” which is often subtle, difficult to identify and self‐effacing.
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