Seeking transparency whilst embracing ambiguity: skip level leadership dynamics during strategic change

Jaser, Zahira (2020) Seeking transparency whilst embracing ambiguity: skip level leadership dynamics during strategic change. Working Paper. Elsevier, SSRN.

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Extant, literature shows that it is important for leaders to create clarity and transparency to foster trust with their followers but also that it is important for leaders to construct slightly different meanings for each audience they face, to ensure buy-in for strategy implementation. This paper illuminates how these two contradictory dimensions of leadership coexist within a senior team in a financial institution, during the implementation of strategic change. A two years study of a multilevel team, formed by top, senior- and lower-level managers, uncovers the dynamics through which meanings are constructed through upward and downward sensemaking and sensegiving. Different leadership dynamics emerge, formal and skip level. Skip level leadership dynamics are characterized by junior managers and top manager enter in direct leadership relationships, bypassing the senior manager, in search for greater transparency. In doing so they disrupt the formal leadership relationship with the senior managers, affecting their leadership identity through sensebreaking. The temporality of this study allows to unveil that skip level leadership can be unsustainable, and tend to revert to formal leadership, favoring the existence of pragmatic ambiguity, where meaning construction is controlled by the senior managers mediation. Controlled attempts to create direct communication between top and junior managers are created, but only provide an illusion of transparency.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Keywords: leadership, followership, skip level leadership, sensemaking, sensebreaking, finance
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2021 09:43
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2021 10:18

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