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Identifying paradox: A grounded theory of leadership in overcoming resistance to change
The leadership quarterly (2004)
  • Melanie M Kan
  • Ken W Parry
The full grounded theory method was used in the present study to investigate nursing leadership in a New Zealand hospital setting. One finding that emerged clearly from the research was the important role played by organizational politics in both facilitating the process of leadership and in confounding it. Data were collected over a two-year period. The range of data sources included nonparticipant observation, informal/unstructured and formal/semistructured interviews, document analysis, and the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ). Data triangulation within the grounded theory method is a major contribution of this study. Nurse leaders displayed high levels of transformational leadership according to the questionnaire data. However, qualitative analysis of the data suggested that other factors were working to prevent nurse leaders from maximizing organizational change outcomes. Two near-core categories partially explained why transformational nurse leaders were not realizing their leadership potential. One near-core category was the process of repressing leadership, the other was multiple realities. The highest level of abstraction of the data led to the emergence of the substantive basic social process of identifying paradox. Identifying paradox was conceptually very close to the definition of politics in organizational leadership which is the “constructive management of shared meaning.” This core category explained the social process by which the staff either legitimize or reconcile paradoxical understandings created from the multiple realities of the three subcultures working in the hospital setting. If paradoxes are identified and reconciled, and multiple realities converge, organizational change efforts are more likely to be accepted by the staff because the change is in line with their reality. Conversely, if paradoxes are not identified and/or legitimized, multiple realities diverge and organizational change efforts are less likely to be accepted by the staff. Findings are interpreted from the political perspective. © Copyright Elsevier, Inc., 2004
  • grounded theory,
  • multiple realities,
  • identifying paradox,
  • near-core category,
  • repressing leadership
Publication Date
August 1, 2004
Citation Information
Melanie M Kan and Ken W Parry. "Identifying paradox: A grounded theory of leadership in overcoming resistance to change" The leadership quarterly Vol. 15 Iss. 4 (2004)
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