Leading Voluntary Organisations: an investigation of patterns, narratives and the value of authenticity

Koronis, E. and Illes, K. 2017. Leading Voluntary Organisations: an investigation of patterns, narratives and the value of authenticity . Voluntary Sector Studies Network Conference - 
Leadership Stream
. The Open University, UK 23 - 23 Nov 2017

TitleLeading Voluntary Organisations: an investigation of patterns, narratives and the value of authenticity
AuthorsKoronis, E. and Illes, K.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

The voluntary sector and non-profit organisations has always been at a crossroad. Voluntary sector theories and practice may either choose to implement mainstream management theory into a different not for profit context (Agart, 2011; Beck et al., 2008); or they depend on a relatively small set of knowledge that embraces the particularities of the sector (for example Classens, 2015; Richards & Hall, 2016). Research on Leadership of voluntary organisations has been stratified into an exploration of leadership styles (Bang, 2011; Northouse, 2009) and the development of conceptual considerations based on the member-exchange theory. In our paper we reverse the order and argue that mainstream leadership theory would benefit from an investigation of leading processes and realities in non-profit organisations. Leaders in the voluntary sector have to operate in a volatile, resource-constrained context while engaging employees and donors around a specific cause. We draw on Bourdieu’s “Distinction” and the notion of Symbolic Capital to conceptualise leaders as symbolic capital mechanisms. An empirical investigation of the three largest NGOs in Greece reveals three key patterns of ‘successful’ non-profit leaders: the personalisation of the organisation, a strong influence of the mass media and the narrative rationalisation of internal challenges and resources scarcity. On a deeper level, interviews with members of the researched organisations reveal the role of perceived authenticity and ‘applied wisdom’ in constructing influence and stability within an otherwise volatile organisational setting. Although we are reluctant to specify methods of good leadership, we argue that there are findings and lessons that could inform leadership research which has been examining the concepts of wisdom (see Nonaka & Takeuchi, 2011).

Keywordsvoluntary sector
leadership
authenticity
Year2017
ConferenceVoluntary Sector Studies Network Conference - 
Leadership Stream


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