Grounded theory and leadership research: A critical realist perspective

Stephen Kempster, Ken W. Parry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-120
Number of pages15
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

Fingerprint

grounded theory
leadership
realism
Research
philosophy of science
positivism
confidence
Research Personnel
Grounded Theory
Grounded theory
Critical perspective
methodology
science
Critical realism
Philosophy of science

Cite this

Kempster, Stephen ; Parry, Ken W. / Grounded theory and leadership research : A critical realist perspective. In: Leadership Quarterly. 2011 ; Vol. 22, No. 1. pp. 106-120.
@article{ef5afa6eab7c4e59a6dc698b8e9ef4d3,
title = "Grounded theory and leadership research: A critical realist perspective",
abstract = "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.",
author = "Stephen Kempster and Parry, {Ken W.}",
year = "2011",
month = "2",
doi = "10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.12.010",
language = "English",
volume = "22",
pages = "106--120",
journal = "Leadership Quarterly",
issn = "1048-9843",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "1",

}

Grounded theory and leadership research : A critical realist perspective. / Kempster, Stephen; Parry, Ken W.

In: Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1, 02.2011, p. 106-120.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Grounded theory and leadership research

T2 - A critical realist perspective

AU - Kempster, Stephen

AU - Parry, Ken W.

PY - 2011/2

Y1 - 2011/2

N2 - 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.

AB - 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.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=79951724764&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.12.010

DO - 10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.12.010

M3 - Article

VL - 22

SP - 106

EP - 120

JO - Leadership Quarterly

JF - Leadership Quarterly

SN - 1048-9843

IS - 1

ER -