Grounded theory and leadership research: A critical realist perspective

Kempster, Stephen and Parry, Ken (2011) Grounded theory and leadership research: A critical realist perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 22 (1). pp. 106-120. ISSN 1048-9843

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The methodology of grounded theory has great potential to contribute to our understanding of leadership within particular substantive contexts. However, our notions of good science might constrain these contributions. We argue that for grounded theorists a tension might exist between a desire to create a contextualised theory of leadership and a desire for scientifically justified issues of validity and generalizable theory. We also explore how the outcome of grounded theory research can create a dissonance between theories that resonate with the reality they are designed to explore, and the theories that resonate with a particular yet dominant ‘scientific’ approach in the field of leadership studies – the philosophy of science commonly known as positivism. We examine the opportunities provided by an alternative philosophy of science, that of critical realism. We explore how conducting grounded theory research informed by critical realism might strengthen researchers’ confidence to place emphasis on an understanding and explanation of contextualised leadership as a scientific goal, rather than the scientific goal of generalization through empirical replication. Two published accounts of grounded theory are critiqued candidly to help emphasise our arguments. We conclude by suggesting how critical realism can help shape and enhance grounded theory research into the phenomenon of leadership

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
The Leadership Quarterly
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? leadership grounded theorycritical realismmanagement developmentorganizational behavior and human resource managementbusiness and international managementapplied psychologysociology and political sciencehb economic theorycontributions to practice ??
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Deposited On:
08 Oct 2012 15:59
Last Modified:
17 Feb 2024 00:42