Developing Scientists Into Leaders: The Role of Shared Leadership Development and Engagement in an R&D Organization Undergoing Change
Organizations may face a number of challenges in the current economy. In particular, the environment is rapidly changing and knowledge intensive firms must motivate autonomous professional workers toward organizational goals. This thesis therefore investigates the role of shared leadership as a means to address some of these challenges. However, shifting to a shared model of leadership fundamentally requires the development of knowledge, skills and abilities to effectively share influence. Thus, this study sought to investigate whether a shared Leadership Development Program (LDP) impacts on employee engagement, and whether this affects organizational change efforts. It probed these relationships through the single case of a Research and Development (R&D) organization forced to undergo a change in response to changes in the external environment and an internal organizational crisis. Results showed that in conjunction with conditions for shared leadership, developing a multi-level leader identity was an effective means to develop shared leadership skills that were tied to the organizations goals. However, shared leadership conflicted with existing organization structures and was limited by an effective group size. Nonetheless, the LDP provided antecedents to engagement by; increasing personal resources, establishing meaningful identities, providing valuable job characteristics and was symbolic of organizational support. Job crafting and social exchange theory offered an explanation of how these antecedents contributed to greater levels of work and organizational engagement. Interestingly, engagement appeared to be a process of inter-relating components, with the final state of engagement fluctuating over time and in some cases increasing relative to a baseline level. Once engaged, these individuals went on to spread their engagement to colleagues, encouraging them to support the new direction. Furthermore, the future leaders initiated projects that generated additional revenue and new customer bases, which suggests that the LDP played a role in the organizations financial turnaround – although this was not conclusively proven. This study therefore provides evidence that organizational transformations may be more effective if shared leadership is developed. This can lift engagement in a core group of staff, who can garner the support of their colleagues, and increase overall engagement with the organization. Further research is required to generalize these findings beyond a single case and more accurately quantify the relationship between shared leadership development, engagement and organizational transformation.