Love leadership: an exploration of agapé in leadership practice

KLIPAN, Helena (2022). Love leadership: an exploration of agapé in leadership practice. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis is an exploration of love in leadership. Love within the context of this research is understood in the sense of agapé, as unconditional, moral love for oneself and others, grounded in compassion and appreciation of our common humanity. Leadership literature suggests a need for empirical research at the motivational level of leadership and for further research on love in leadership. To contribute to the body of literature and to advance insights for practitioners, the exploration was guided by the research question: How could love look like in leadership practice? The research was designed and conducted as qualitative research in which the researcher takes an acknowledged, active role in the process. Participants were selected based on meeting the criteria of being in a position of authority and considering people-centricity, care, or agapé in their leadership. The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with a duration of 45-120 minutes and collected further insights after the interviews from those participants who were willing to share additional experiences from their leadership practice. Within the context of leadership, participants reflected on their life history, on who they are, what matters to them, what guides them in their interaction with themselves and others, and why. After 16 interviews, a perceived saturation of insights was reached. The interviews were transcribed and analysed in a reflexive thematic analysis in which the researcher engaged with the data from different perspectives and in an iterative way. The findings were interpreted in relation to the research focus and identified that the conceptualisation of love in leadership practice contained four main perspectives: inner, perceptual, relational, and conscious. Relevant quotes from the data set supported the identification and presentation of these as major themes. The findings were contrasted against existing literature. Supporting and countering aspects were emphasised along the identified themes. Love in leadership as identified within this thesis suggests the need for a sustained inner love towards oneself, a perception of equality with others, a congruence in purpose, and a conscious attention at each level: inner, perceptual, relational, and conscious; all of these are interconnected, grounded in and tested against the compass of agapé. For each theme, key contributions to theory were outlined and include a shift from demarcation to a perception of connectedness and to establishing a sustained stability within the leader before attempting to serve others. Mutually shared aspects of humanity and opportunities to come together in equal strength and value become more important than hierarchical distinctions, such as leader and follower, or identities, such as types of people. Attitudes and perceptions are aligned to agapé and reflected in the active choice of behaviours intended for the mutual benefit of oneself and others, derived from conscious attention and dialogue. Prescriptive behaviours are replaced by conscious attention enabling leaders to choose their behaviours and be flexible to adapt to the needs of different situations and contexts. Key contributions to practice were presented and include a selective dedication of conscious attention to each of the identified perspectives and a reconsideration of the leadership of self, others, and organisations through the lens of agapé. Leadership development could benefit from including these learnings to enhance established practice and develop new ways of approaching leadership in organisations, at individual, group, and organisation wide levels. Further research could explore the practicality of implementing the findings of this thesis in leadership practice, test the concept from different research perspectives, or expand its geographical and cultural scope.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Cole, Caroline
Thesis advisor - Mcauley, John
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr. Caroline Cole and Prof. Dr. John McAuley
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2023 17:27
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2023 17:30

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