University of Portsmouth (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Page: 5784 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
This paper explores implicit leadership theories through visual research, and illustrates a drawing exercise used in multiple teaching and learning contexts with university students and business executives. Many leader and leadership development programmes start with students encouraged to clearly define the role of a leader. The lists of ideal traits and behaviours produced are then used as a blue print for participants to asses themselves against in order to mould their behaviour accordingly (Ford, Harding & Learmonth, 2008). However, implicit leadership theories expand thinking around leaders and leadership as relative terms which are dependent on context and cultural constructions (Schyns, Kiefer, Kerschreiter & Tymon, 2011). Increased awareness of implicit leadership theories illuminates issues inherent in leader recruitment, development and appraisal.

The nature of implicit leadership theories presents challenges for the educator. Traditional teaching methods, such as rating predefined lists or open question techniques (Schyns & Shilling, 2011) can trigger socially desirable responses, thus regurgitating current vogue leader profiles. For example, informed participants often associate traits and behaviours stemming from new paradigm approaches that emphasise equality and the importance of followers. These models include; leader-member-exchange; shared, conjoined or distributed leadership. Paradoxically, the lack of diversity in leaders in practice suggests that the leadership world is still dominated by traditional western stereotypes such as; the `think-leader-think-male phenomenon` (e.g. Schein, 2001) and; heroic models of the `romance of leadership` literature (Bligh & Schyns 2007).

Findings from the visual research with more than 150 groups suggest that the drawing activity helps to surface embodied assumptions in a non-threatening way. The exercise provides a useful platform for wider debate about leaders and leadership and has proven particularly useful in mixed cultural groups. Analytical coding of the drawings shows that traditional views such as a focus on the leader and their traits as opposed to followers and, gender stereotypes are prominent in leader prototypes (Schyns, Tymon, Kiefer & Kerschreiter, 2013).
This research presents an alternative technique for educators in leadership and may also provide a useful stimulus for organisations to reassess their leadership selection, appraisal and development practice.

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Visual Research, Implicit leadership, Leadership development.