Leadership characteristics that shape the leadership style of leaders of financially sustainable Social Innovation Projects

by Laura Ruiz Diaz

Institution: Umeå University
Year: 2015
Keywords: leadership; leadership styles; leadership characteristics; social innovation; social innovation projects; challenges faced by social innovation projects; Social Sciences; Economics and Business; Business Administration; Samhällsvetenskap; Ekonomi och näringsliv; Företagsekonomi
Record ID: 1365091
Full text PDF: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-98089


This thesis aims to increase the understanding about leadership in social innovation projectssince they constitute an efficient alternative to merge the social and business arenas. In orderto do so it identifies, describes and analyzes the characteristics that shape the perceivedleadership style of the formal leader (Project Manager) of financially sustainable socialinnovation projects, departing from the challenges that this leaders face and the previousliterature. The study begins examining the literature of social innovation projects to demonstrate thatdue to their specific nature, they constitute an interesting and particular context to studyleadership. Then, the extensive leadership literature is explored in order to understand thatdifferent schools have described leadership styles using a diverse number of elements and thatthe different leadership schools have agreed that leadership is contingent to the context.Consequently, a framework of twelve unified characteristics was created to allow the redefinitionof the existent leadership styles in a common language. Additionally, leadership inneighboring contexts (leadership in innovation and leadership in projects) was reviewed toidentify common challenges with leaders of social innovation projects and the possibleimplications in terms of characteristics of their leaders. The study had an inductive approach and is cross-sectional, focusing on the most commonchallenges faced by the leaders of social innovation projects and the perceived characteristicspresent in leaders of social innovation projects. Semi-structured interviews were used to getthe insights of eleven interviewees in ten financially sustainable social innovation projects inthe UK. The analysis was developed using a series of templates which provided the flexibilityto interpret and categorize the findings in order to answer the research question andaccomplish the objective, combining both deductive and inductive reasoning. The results evidence six common challenges that those leaders of financially sustainablesocial innovation projects face as well as a set of twelve common characteristics that containsbehaviors, knowledge, skills or emotional attributes that shape the leadership style. These are:the ability to build and maintain relationships, idealized influence, self-awareness of theleader, flexibility, delegation – Freedom, intellectual stimulation, individualizedconsideration, motivated by emotional reward, an awareness social need – personal motive,the ability to use business tools and understand social need, the ability to show evidence ofsocial impact, and the ability to raise awareness of their cause and explain their businessmodel. The results of the thesis contribute to the existing literature of the field and could haveconstructive implications in the selection of leaders for this type of projects, in the design ofstudy programs, and in a clarification of the both the nature and the boundaries of field.Furthermore, the application of the…