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The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School

Research project: Integrating diversity in leadership in the learning and skills sector - Dormant - Dormant

Currently Active: 

October 2006 - March 2007

The aim is to understand better how far diversity is integrated into leadership teams and what changes in leadership development and leadership practice might support integration.

Project premises

The project is underpinned by a number of premises:

  • Equality and diversity are crucial and powerful elements in raising the quality of leadership of the sector and thereby its performance
  • Leadership is assumed to be distributed and therefore to be relevant to many staff and not just those with formally designated leadership roles
  • Diversity is understood to encompass the very many characteristics which differentiate leaders
  • Although the definition of diversity is inclusive of a range of characteristics, attention must be paid to the differential degree of disadvantage with which some characteristics are met
  • Diverse leadership has the potential to perform more effectively but only if there is integration
  • Understanding the nature of integration and discovering the mechanism(s) by which integration can be achieved is a critical task for the sector.

The proposed project relates to the key research questions identified by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership:

  • What are the conditions, processes and consequences of leadership practice in the sector? 
  • How is diversity accomplished in the sector and what does it mean for diversity leadership and diversifying leadership?

Research methods

The range of data to be gathered will be individually negotiated with each participating college, but it is planned to include observation of meetings of three leadership groups at differing levels of seniority which may include senior, faculty, programme area and business support leadership groups, and individual interviews with six members of staff from the groups observed. Additionally the participating college will be requested to facilitate individual interviews with a further six individuals who are minority within their leadership groups in terms of their gender, age, disability, religion, ethnicity, function, educational/professional background. The intention will be to include as wide a range of diverse characteristics as is feasible within practical constraints.

The purpose of the observation and interviews is to explore:

  1. How leaders see their group membership identity
  2. Patterns of participation in group interaction
  3. Implicit or explicit rules of working and how these have been agreed or have evolved
  4. Communication; the extent to which individual group members feel able to transmit meaning as they intend and the degree to which they believe others receive meaning as it was intended
  5. Attribution of success and difficulties.

The six-month project period is viewed as offering an opportunity both for immediate outcomes of value to CEL and to the sector and as preparation for building further research.

Project Outcomes

The anticipated project outcomes include:

  • A final report outlining the findings of the project, and the theoretical and practical implications for the sector
  • Internal college reports on the integration of leadership groups, offering development to 5 colleges
  • A minimum of two working papers to be published by CEL
  • A field tested interview schedule and an observation schedule to carry forward to further research more widely across the sector
  • Conference presentations to disseminate and increase the impact of the research
  • Academic papers and further conference presentations to disseminate and increase the impact of the findings to date.

Duration: October 2006-March 2007

Funding Body: Centre for Excellence in Leadership.

Related research groups

Leadership, School Improvement and Effectiveness (LSIE) Research Centre
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