The effects of conflict in driving forward innovation in shared leadership management consultant teams

Penny, V. 2016. The effects of conflict in driving forward innovation in shared leadership management consultant teams. PhD thesis University of Westminster Westminster Business School

TitleThe effects of conflict in driving forward innovation in shared leadership management consultant teams
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsPenny, V.

It is argued in this study that current investigations of the role of conflict in shared leadership teams and, thus, teams in which all members have the opportunity to participate in its decision-making process are insufficient as they have focused on the downsides of these conflicts. This study demonstrates that task conflict is beneficial in that it can have positive effects on innovation in teams. It shows that particularly in shared leadership management consultant teams task conflict can stimulate innovation. Therefore, this research investigates the relationships among shared leadership, conflict and innovation.

The research develops and empirically tests a conceptual model which demonstrates the relationships between these concepts and for which the inclusion of multiple research methods was essential. The sequential explanatory approach included a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, the order of which can be adapted for other domains of application. The conceptual model was first tested with a sample of 329 management consultants. This was followed by 25, in-depth, face-to-face interviews conducted with individual survey respondents. In addition, weekly meetings of a management consultant team in action were video recorded over several months. This allowed for an in-depth explanation of the findings from the survey by providing an understanding of the underlying processes. The inclusion of observational methods provided a validating role and explained how and why conflicts contributed to the development of team innovation, through the analysis of subtleties and fleeting disagreements in a real-life management consultant team.

The results deliver an assessment of the theoretical model and demonstrate that task conflict can allow for additional innovation in management consultant teams operating under a shared leadership structure. A practical model and guidelines for management consultant teams wanting to enhance their innovatory capacities are provided. In addition, a novel-user methodology which includes video observations is developed, with recommendations and steps aiding researchers aiming to employ a similar combination of methods. An original contribution to knowledge is made regarding the positive effects that task conflict can have towards innovation in shared leadership teams. Collaboration and trust are identified as important mediators between shared leadership and task conflict and significant regarding the development of innovation. The effectiveness of shared leadership in reducing negative relationship conflict and the benefits of both shared leadership and task conflict in enhancing innovation are demonstrated.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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