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Structure versus freedom of action: Leadership during the rescue operation following the 2004 tsunami
Försvarshögskolan, Institutionen för ledarskap och management (ILM).
Försvarshögskolan, Institutionen för ledarskap och management (ILM).
2010 (English)In: International Journal of Emergency Management, ISSN 1471-4825, Vol. 7, no 3-4, 304-322 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this study was to develop a theoretical understanding of leadership during a complex rescue operation following a major disaster in a foreign country. The analysis followed a grounded theory approach. Seventeen informants from three Swedish authorities were interviewed on leadership in the emergency handling of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. A theoretical conceptualisation was developed which includes three superior categories: antecedent conditions, situational constraints and core aspects of leadership. Within the last-mentioned superior category a core variable was identified: a balance between the need for structure and the need for freedom. Leaders who strive to create structure at the expense of freedom of action are less inclined to delegate and more likely to wear themselves out. Conversely, those who strive to create great freedom of action bypass many links in the organisational chain, thus 'short-circuiting' the organisation as a whole.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 7, no 3-4, 304-322 p.
Keyword [en]
Collaboration, Decision-making, Disaster, Freedom of action, Leadership, Stress, Structure, Tsunami
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-26430DOI: 10.1504/IJEM.2010.037014OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-26430DiVA: diva2:606897
Available from: 2010-12-20 Created: 2013-02-21 Last updated: 2013-03-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Bridging Boundaries in the Borderland of Bureaucracies: Individual Impact on Organisational Adaption to Demanding Situations in Civil and Military Contexts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bridging Boundaries in the Borderland of Bureaucracies: Individual Impact on Organisational Adaption to Demanding Situations in Civil and Military Contexts
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this thesis is to reach a deeper understanding of how boundary spanners are bridging boundaries between uniformed bureaucratic organisations and their environment, characterised by demanding conditions.

The main part of this thesis is based upon empirical data gathered through 71 interviews with Swedish civil and military informants from several uniformed organisations. Four articles have been included in this thesis in order to address the overarching aim.

The results show that boundary spanners are crucial to the adaption of uniformed organisations to demanding conditions. A number of aspects that are included in the process of organisational adaption have been identified. One of the tasks is to balance between structuring and improvisation where much is at stake. The other task is to create confidence among the involved actors and contribute in different ways to create a sense of symmetry between partners. Finally, the third task for boundary spanners is to recognise improvised roles such as spontaneous links in order to maintain stressful conditions and bridge a gap in the bureaucratic organisation. 

The present thesis contributes to sociological theory of emotions, disaster management and military studies through a common denominator, namely the demanding context. Taken together, the findings increase awareness of how organisations act towards their environments and how individuals, especially boundary spanners, adapt the organisation to its environment. For leaders and managers, it is important to make decisions, provide mandates and authorisation, as well as invest confidence in boundary spanners. The hierarchical chain may remain in existence, but it can be made shorter and more transparent through this kind of knowledge.

 

 

Abstract [en]

BAKSIDESTEXT:

Organisational adaption to the environment is a complex area of research, necessitating enquiry into how such adaption may take place. The purpose of this thesis is to reach a deeper understanding of how boundary spanners are bridging boundaries between uniformed bureaucratic organisations and their environment, characterised by demanding conditions such as disasters and war.

The main body of the thesis is based upon interviews with Swedish civil and military informants. The results show that boundary spanners are crucial to the adaption of uniformed organisations to demanding conditions. Their tasks involve balancing between structuring and improvisation, creating confidence among the involved actors and recognising improvised roles such as spontaneous links in order to maintain stressful conditions and bridge a gap in the bureaucratic organisation. 

Taken together, the findings increase awareness of how organisations act towards their environments and how individuals, especially boundary spanners, adapt the organisation to its environment. For leaders and managers, it is important to make decisions, provide mandates and authorisation, as well as invest confidence in boundary spanners. The hierarchical chain may remain in existence, but it can be made shorter and more transparent through this kind of knowledge.

The present thesis contributes to sociological theory of emotions, disaster management and military studies through a common denominator, namely the demanding context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2013. 93 p.
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2013:12
Keyword
Boundary spanners, uniformed organisations, bureaucratic organisations, adaption, systems theory, contingency, stressful environment, civil-military relations, disaster management, emotional labour, Gränsöverskridare, uniformerade organisationer, byråkratier, anpassning, systemteori, contingency, påfrestande förhållanden, civil-militära relationer, katastrofhantering, emotionellt lönearbete
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-26445 (URN)978-91-7063-487-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-04-05, Andersalen, 11D 121, Karlstads universitet, Karlstad, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-03-19 Created: 2013-02-21 Last updated: 2013-03-19Bibliographically approved

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