Investigating a narrative based approach to leader development : life stories, middle managers and the leader-follower paradox : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the postgraduate degree of Master of Advanced Leadership Practice at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
There is a small amount of emergent leadership literature recommending people
incorporate a narrative based approach into their leader development. This
approach involves the identification and reflection on experiences and events from
ones’ life so a story can be told about who they are as a leader (life stories). To
date, life stories research has yet to account for the fact leaders must also follow.
Middle managers embody this paradox.
This study was an investigation into the potential for life stories to contribute to
middle managers’ leader development. This study also looked at how life stories
might contribute to middle managers understanding of themselves as followers
and how they might use life stories in negotiating the leader-follower paradox.
The overall aim was to make a further contribution to understanding the potential
for life stories in leader development.
A case study of five Auckland New Zealand based middle managers was
conducted. Life history interviews were thematically analysed using life stories as
a sensitizing concept. Participants demonstrated little to no previous knowledge,
skill or experience in life stories as a development process. They told stories as
leaders that generally implied existing life stories self-development themes but
they did not explicitly identify them. They told stories as followers that were
somewhat at odds with general opinions they held on following. There was little
correlation with existing life stories self-development themes. Overall,
Participants’ life stories base intrapersonal leader and follower self-narratives had
potential to be coherent, but were instinctive and under-developed.
Participants’ ability to draw on life stories to identify, discuss and negotiate the
leader-follower paradox matched their existing integration of life stories and
intrapersonal leader-follower identities. Overall, participants had potential to
produce a coherent and integrated leader-follower narrative, but this potential was
under-developed. More research is required. A narrative based framework for
further leader-follower life stories development processes is offered as a starting