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Changing Perspectives on Leadership through Leadership Blended Learning

Outcomes from an Insider Management Action Research conducted at Johnson & Johnson Medical, Italy

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation 2016 190 Pages

Pedagogy - Miscellaneous Topics

Excerpt

Contents

Abstract

Contents

Acknowledgements

Publications derived from work on the Doctoral Programme

Chapter 1- Introduction and background
1.1 J&J Medical Italy: sponsor, employer and area of investigation
1.2 The new leadership model of J&J
1.2.1 A framework based on 4 leadership imperatives
1.2.2 The new leadership blended learning programme
1.2.3 Investments and expectations on the new leadership model
1.3 My motivations and interests for Leadership Beliefs
1.4 Structure of the thesis

Chapter 2 - Literature review
2.1 Beyond leadership knowledge and leadership skills
2.2 Belief systems
2.3 Educational research on belief systems
2.3.1 Changes in educational belief systems
2.3.2 Conceptual metaphors and belief systems
2.3.3 Repertory grids and belief systems
2.4 Belief systems from education to leadership
2.5 Blended leadership training and its efficacy
2.6 Conclusions

Chapter 3 - Ethics, ontology and research methods
3.1 Ethical challenges of this research
3.2 Theoretical perspective and epistemology
3.3 Methods deployed for gathering data
3.4 Questionnaires
3.5 Repertory grids
3.6 Methodology adopted to analyse data
3.7 Research choices and management
3.7.1 Area of investigation
3.7.2 Research questions
3.7.3 Research protocol
3.8 Further considerations on data collection and analyses
3.9 Conclusions

Chapter 4 - Collection and coding of research data
4.1 Research description and outcomes
4.1.1 Recruitment of participants
4.2 Metaphor analyses
4.3 Selective coding of metaphors
4.4 Observations on collected leadership metaphors
4.5 Repertory grid analysis
4.6 Open and selective coding of repertory grids
4.6.1 Variation of the ideal leader positioning within the PCAs:
4.6.2 Variation of the self-positioning within the PCAs:
4.7 Observations on collected repertory grids
4.8 Compounded theoretical coding
4.9 Conclusions

Chapter 5 – Discussion of research outcomes
5.1 Research questions
5.2 Research question 1: changes in leadership belief systems
5.2.1 Assessment of the change in beliefs
5.2.2 Resultant change in beliefs
5.2.3 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses
5.3 Research question 2: patterns of change or stability in leadership belief systems
5.3.1 Patterns of change
5.3.2 Patterns of stability
5.4 Research question 3: dynamics of leadership belief systems
5.5 Research question 4: learning modalities and leadership belief systems
5.5.1 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses
5.6 Considerations on training attendance and motivation
5.6.1 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses
5.7 Beyond leadership beliefs
5.7.1 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses
5.8 My Personal reflections and learning as an internal researcher
5.8.1 The challenge of bias in the investigation
5.8.2 The challenge of bias in presentation of results
5.8.3 The challenge of repeated assessments and voluntary participation
5.8.4 The challenge of trust
5.8.5 The challenge of asymmetry of power
5.8.6 The challenge of mixing research tools and traditions
5.9 Conclusions

Chapter 6 – Conclusions and recommendations
6.1 The effectiveness of leadership training
6.2 Gender and leadership
6.3 Leadership learnability or learning agility
6.4 Insider research paradigm for the development of new leadership skills
6.5 Conclusions

References

Appendix One – Structure and contents of J&J leadership online sessions

Appendix Two – Structure and contents of J&J leadership F-2-F sessions

Appendix Three – Online questionnaire on leadership metaphors

Appendix Four – Ideogrid customizations to investigate leadership beliefs

Appendix Five – Outcomes collection and coding sheets by participant

Abstract

This exploratory study investigates the evolution of leadership cognitions as they emerged from the analysis of leadership belief systems of 16 managers who participated to the leadership development programme, organized by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Medical, Italy, early in 2013.

The study addressed the following research questions: Did managers’ cognitions of leadership change as a result of their participation in the blended leadership training programme offered by J&J Medical, Italy? Did any relevant pattern emerge from the analysis of registered changes or stabilities? Can different change dynamics and/or different change-paces be attributed to the use of face-to-face (F-2-F) versus online learning solutions? How have the modalities used in the blended learning program been useful in modifying the beliefs of participants about leadership?

Outcomes from this research indicate that changes in leadership beliefs of managers of J&J Medical, Italy, did follow their participation in the leadership blended training that the company organized. Changes of beliefs were more relevant in individuals who attended both e-learning and F-2-F sessions, in comparison to the ones who were only exposed to e-leaning. Further studies are suggested to investigate to what extent participants’ gender, self-esteem and other factors may predict individual leadership learnability and the responsiveness to different leadership training modalities.

Acknowledgements

I thank the research participants for accepting to take part to this study. I also thank J&J leaders, peers and others with whom I crossed paths along the way, who proved to be a supportive means of this investigation and the reflections it contains.

I thank my supervisor, Professor Malcolm Tight, for his guidance and encouragement through all the stages of this thesis development. His persuasive questioning helped me enormously both in the design and in the reporting phases of this research.

I thank my examiners Professor Paul Blackmore and Doctor Brett Bligh for dedicating their time and attention to this investigation and for making my viva-voce examination a positive and memorable experience.

I thank the tutor team on the e-Research & Technology Enhanced Learning doctoral programme as well as the programme administrator and my peers on the e-Research & Technology Enhanced Learning doctoral programme, for the inspirational supportive engagement they all displayed at the different stages of this journey.

My gratitude to my wife Barbara, my two daughters - Sveva and Ludovica - and my son - Federico Tancredi - for their understanding and patience as I am fully aware that this challenging academic adventure has inevitably distracted my attention from a few family commitments.

Ultimately I just want to acknowledge Johnson & Johnson Medical, Italy for having supported and partially funded the research work that is disclosed in this publication.

Publications derived from work on the Doctoral Programme

The following research papers were submitted as part of the requirements of the e-Research & Technology Enhanced Learning doctoral programme:

- Module 1 (ED.S821) - Research Methods in Education and Social Science Settings: “Remote administration of repertory grids through Microsoft Live Meeting in an organizational context”.
- Module 2 (ED.S822) - The Development of Professional Practice: “Theoretical framework for the application of Critical Discourse Analysis to the study of learning cultures: a desk-based study”.
- Module 3 (ED.S823) - Researching Technology Enhanced/Networked Learning, Teaching and Assessment: “Thematic electronic mailing lists: feedback from list’s members on their experience in terms of knowledge and network development”.
- Module 4 (ED.S824) - Groups and Communities: Researching Technology Enhanced / Networked Learning Communities: “Exploring the influence of anonymity in an organizational learning setting: perceptions, outcomes and practical implications”.
- Module 5 (ED.S825) - Globalization and Interculturality: “Neuroscience perspectives on culture and intersubjectivity and their implications for technology enhanced learning: a literature review”.

The research paper for modules one, two, four and five led to the following four publications:

Magni, L. (2010). Remote administration of repertory grids through Microsoft Live Meeting in an organizational context. Personal Construct Theory & Practice, 7, 49-64.

Magni, L. (2011). Research proposal for the application of critical discourse analysis to the study of learning cultures. Journal of Critical Realism, 10 (4), 527-542.

Magni, L. (2013). Anonymously productive and socially engaged while learning at work. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-17.

Magni, L. (2012). Neuroscience perspectives on culture and intersubjectivity and their implications for technology enhanced learning: a literature review. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 4 (5-6), 373-382.

Chapter 1- Introduction and background

1.1 J&J Medical Italy: sponsor, employer and area of investigation

This thesis concludes 5 years of postgraduate studies at Lancaster University that Johnson and Johnson (J&J) agreed to finance just a few months after my employment as Human Resource (HR) Director of J&J Medical, Italy. It seems appropriate to introduce this research with a few words on J&J as it stands behind this study in a threefold role: as my sponsor, as my employer and as my object of investigation. In fact, the research reported and discussed, concerns the impact of a leadership blended learning initiative on managers of J&J Medical, Italy.

J&J is a company based out of New Jersey. It operates in three different but contiguous sectors – pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer. J&J counts more than 275 operating companies in more than 60 countries and employs about 120,000 people. Founded in 1886, J&J was listed on the New York Stock Exchange for public investors in 1944. The year previous to its public listing, Robert Wood Johnson – the son of one of the company's founders - wrote Our Credo, the mission statement that has guided the company ever since. The credo dictates that the company's first responsibility is to doctors, nurses, patients, mothers and fathers and everyone else who uses its products. It also says it is responsible to its stockholders, so it needs to make a sound profit, experiment with new ideas and invest in its facilities. “Our Credo” is very much vivid within J&J and it has been the constant reference point through all the changes that the company has faced in 70 years; last but not least this set of values deeply permeates J&J’s recent change of perspective on what leadership is and how it must be pursued.

During its history, J&J has built the most comprehensive base of health care businesses in the world, generating approximately 70 percent of its revenues from No. 1 or No. 2 global leadership positions in its respective markets. For years, leadership training has accompanied J&J in its continuous growth and success (Fulmer & Goldsmith, 2001) and quite naturally, in 2012, immediately after his appointment as CEO of J&J, Alex Gorsky with his executive team reconsidered the J&J leadership model to equip the company with the operating modalities that an increasingly tougher market environment requires. The urge for a leaner, sharper more strategically focused operating model explicitly emerged in the new model: its framework is made of 4 leadership imperatives which were immediately translated into the design, the development and the implementation of a conspicuous number of processes and tools. Centralized F-2-F and online communications and training activities have firmly supported the deployment of the new J&J perspective on leadership. The study that follows describes and takes advantage from the research opportunities that were offered by specific blended learning programme that took place at J&J Medical Italy in 2013, as part of the above corporate-wide leadership development effort.

1.2 The new leadership model of J&J

The learning programme that J&J Medical implemented in Italy was designed and delivered with the support of a local business school.[1] It offered the opportunity to gather and to analyse data on how an articulated blended learning programme may impact participants’ views on leadership and their reflections, and on leaders’ behaviours. The training initiatives under scrutiny were mainly based on conventional classes and open F-2-F discussions, but they also included some online materials and forums, providing the opportunity to investigate and compare how such diverse learning solutions may impact learners’ belief and reference systems with regard to leadership. Blended learning is the solution for which, more and more frequently, J&J opts. Like other organizations that are territorially dispersed and/or are characterized by large numbers of employees, J&J has heavily counted on technology enhanced learning either as a self-standing solution or as an important integration to more traditional training. E-learning and blended learning are particularly appealing for J&J Medical, as not only can the company count on good technical infrastructure, but also on a large group of highly qualified employees, who are computer literate and technology savvy as a result of their educational and professional backgrounds.

1.2.1 A framework based on 4 leadership imperatives

The new J&J leadership framework is based on 4 leadership imperatives: connect, shape, lead and deliver. It replaces a more complex leadership profile that was originally introduced the late 90s, but that present management realized it was adopted with difficulty, across J&J, as it was based on numerous behavioural dimensions and was too complex to be fruitfully and consistently reflected into key human resources processes, such as hiring, performance assessment, development and rewarding.

Since its launch in 2012 (see figure 1), this change of perspective on leadership was meant to be much more than just a revamping of HR processes and tools; the Leadership Imperatives around which the new model is built are different from general dimensions that may define any leadership profile. The Leadership Imperative – Connect, Shape, Lead and Deliver – embodies the strategy that J&J intends to pursue in the next 3 years and in their imperative form they also clearly express they intend to guide firmly all employees towards modalities of reciprocal interactions most relevant to J&J growth. This strategic role that these leadership imperatives play explains the high involvement of top executives in the launch and in the subsequent training initiatives that followed. This also explains the magnitude of resources deployed and number of people who are expected to participate in the multiple online or F-2-F training sessions (see figure 2) that promote the adoption of the new leadership model.

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Figure 1.1 Launch of leadership imperatives, July 2012

According to J&J’s plans, effective from 2014 the performance of all J&J employees were to be assessed against the new leadership model and for employees with people management responsibilities the company has therefore been investing in their training to ensure the highest level of understanding and adherence to the model. In this journey, presidents, vice presidents, directors, managers and all other employees had to be involved, following a snow-ball engaging process (figure 1.2). Since its launch the strategic importance of the model has been constantly emphasised in most J&J internal communications and many learning occasions and materials have been provided to elaborate on the changes the corporation is undergoing. Managers have been constantly invited to familiarize themselves with the new model, either by discussing it with colleagues of by undergoing a 360°degree feedback process entirely framed around the 4 Leadership Imperatives. In order to provide a general overview of what these are and what areas they tackle, here below they are listed and presented, in one of the briefest formats that J&J is using internally.

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Figure 1.2 The snow ball implementation approach

By mid-2013 the 4 Leadership Imperatives had been defined and communicated worldwide within J&J: either via online communications and training sessions or traditional F-2-F meetings and learning initiatives. The leadership imperatives are summarized in the table below which contain the language and key behaviours addressed and promoted with the launch of the 4 leadership imperatives. The new model led to a profound revision of the tools used in J&J for hiring (i.e. interview guides), assessing (i.e. performance assessment forms), rewarding results (i.e. calibration tools) and developing talents (i.e. 360° feedback, stakeholders’ feedback forms, succession planning).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1.1 The 4 leadership imperatives

1.2.2 The new leadership blended learning programme

Besides the communication activities and multiple online and distance learning solutions on the 4 Leadership Imperatives, each country and local company deployed some initiatives to strengthen the understanding and the adoption of the new model. At J&J Medical Italy this translated into 4 training modules of 2 days each (8 days of training in total, plus some online activities over a period of 4 months). These learning initiatives were meant to offer senior management and above, an opportunity for deep-diving into the key concepts behind the new leadership framework. They provided an occasion to reflect on the most relevant leadership themes, through participation in traditional training classes and synchronous online dedicated forums.

It seems appropriate to detail the contents and state where/when they were presented in the 4 training sessions, as the treatment of each theme might have influenced the views of participants with regard to the multiple aspects of leadership that were investigated in this research. Exposing the syllabus might in this sense provide readers with the necessary information about the learning sequence to which participants were exposed, during the different phases. The two assessments that provided the data for this study intersected the training sequence differently for some participants and this might have affected their responses. The contents that were addressed in this training program are detailed in appendix two.

1.2.3 Investments and expectations on the new leadership model

The new leadership model – its development, launch and implementation - represents one of the main endeavours for J&J and has been reflected in the objectives of the entire management of the corporation since 2012. While communication about the change of leadership model was almost immediately extended to all J&J employees, the deployment of training followed a ’snow ball‘ approach: it was initially concerned with only the highest roles of the organization but it is now ‘rolling down‘, involving the entire company. When this study started, only presidents and vice presidents had been trained on the new leadership framework and by the time the first outcomes of the study will be available there will be still more than 80,000 employees to be trained. An early identification of the most effective learning modalities would therefore still provide an opportunity to guide training decisions and investments towards the most fruitful leadership learning options. Indications of which learning elements turned out to be the most effective, among the many that were deployed for the new leadership model, would then immediately translate into substantial corporate savings.

One of the most widely held principles in human resource development is that leadership training, if well designed and accurately implemented, can influence the cognitions of learners and help them to become more effective leaders (McCormick & Martinko, 2004). This explains the interest in the theme by corporations, business schools and practitioners. The purpose of this research though is to investigate whether the attendance to a mandatory corporate blended learning initiative influences participants in the way they conceptualize leadership and discriminate among leaders’ styles and capabilities. This study is therefore focusing on changes that occur in individual cognitive/conceptual domains as a consequence of participation to multiple and variegated leadership learning activities, either F-2-F or online. While the focus of the investigation may resonate with research most recently done in neurosciences (Waldman, Balthazard, & Peterson, 2011), the study had to focus on constructs and metaphors eliciting procedures - rather than functional magnetic resonance Imaging (fMRI) or other forms of more invasive brain mapping procedures - to detect how training affects participants in their elaboration and retention of leadership learning. This being just one of the evident constraints that the ‘real life’ nature of this research imposed on the choices of research methodology and data gathering techniques: fMRI remains extremely expensive and impractical for field applications.

1.3 My motivations and interests for Leadership Beliefs

Besides the mentioned organizational circumstances, the focus of this research project derives also from my personal interest in learning and individual beliefs. My curiosity for the interplay of individual traits and elements with learning emerged already in 1988, when I investigated, as part of my MSc Dissertation (Magni, 1988) the relationship between personality traits and individual learning styles. The mutual influence of subjective traits and the intersubjective alignment deriving from learning, around reality, is the corner stone of the ontological proposal that I recently exposed in the Journal of Critical Realism (Magni, 2011). There I invited to enrich the stratified ontology, originally developed by Bhaskar (1975), with the Learnable (see Chapter 3.2): the sediment of individual experiences and learnings that set the horizon for subsequent perceptions and sense making opportunities of external stimuli and experiences. In this perspective I view individual beliefs systems as a core component of the Learnable and I have therefore decided to pursue their study, within the context of leadership learning, to clarify how a corporate training program may impact the Learnable of employees with regard to leadership. In other words, if/how learning may affect the development of leadership beliefs systems and how these may operate on subsequent perceptions, interpretations and assessments of leadership behaviors.

1.4 Structure of the thesis

This thesis is organized into six chapters, including the introduction. These delineate antecedents, description and outcomes of an insider action research experience that took place in 2013 on a specific blended learning program that the author assisted in deploying for managers of J&J Medical in Italy.

Chapter 2 contains a literature review that takes into consideration all the writings that inspired this investigation and determined some relevant methodological and interpretative choices that framed this research. For practical reasons the literature review is divided into 4 sections which somehow delimit the perimeter of the investigation:

I. The first section focuses on blended learning and how this concept has developed over the past two decades influencing educational and business institutions in their decisions with regard to learning and management training.
II. The second section concentrates on leadership training and the themes that various authors and practitioners have stressed as being the most relevant both in terms of training content and training methodologies
III. The third section will deal with literature on cognitive and conceptual change and most recent research and studies that have relied on either repertory grid techniques or metaphors elicitation procedures to analyze the dynamics of such changes.
IV. The fourth section will concentrate on neurosciences and how these are influencing perspectives and research in the field of leadership and leadership training.

Chapter 3 elaborates on the epistemological position from which the research departed and it highlights some of the ethical challenges that had to be addressed and resolved, given the insider management action research (Coghlan, 2001) nature of the study. This part also presents the research questions that the investigation intends to address and details the tools that were used to collect experimental data. Key decisions on the treatment and analysis of data accompany the presentation of the tools – namely online questionnaires (appendix three) and repertory grids (appendix four) - that were administered during the different phases of the research. This section also specifies how such tools were administered to participants who were part of the experimental group and to those who belonged to the control group.

Chapter 4 presents and compares the findings highlighting where these seem to provide an answer to the research questions presented in Chapter 3. This part summarizes in multiple tables and graphs all the outcomes of the research. Principal components analyses (PCAs) for all the repertory grids administered will be illustrated with pertinent comments on the polarization of emerging constructs. These will be integrated with observations connecting the outcomes of repertory grids with the analyses of metaphors that were elicited via electronic questionnaires.

Chapter 5 focuses on the extent to which the data previously presented respond to the research questions presented in Chapter 3 and/or eventually challenge the results or the hypotheses that other authors might have put forward in their studies.

Chapter 6 concentrates on elements, or areas that emerge from this research, which may require further clarifications and/or may benefit either from a deeper or extended investigation. Conclusions and recommendations to J&J Management on how to proceed most effectively and efficiently with the training on the new leadership model are also included in this section as a logical closing of the thesis.

Chapter 2 - Literature review

What follow is not a conventional literature review. The impact of leadership training on leadership beliefs is an area of research that has received little attention so far. The conspicuous corpus of literature that has been published on the theme of leadership, in the past decades, has focused on many elements: skills, behaviors and even habits that leaders must master or may display. However no relevant study seems to exist that directly and thoroughly addresses leadership beliefs, how they are acquired and how they affect behaviors or change in different organizational and training contexts. Some biographical/autobiographical reports have vaguely referred to this element, but even these fall short with regard to any explanations and clarifications on how such beliefs could be impacted by either conventional or blended training.

I have therefore decided to consider and discuss the broader studies that have guided and informed this research. The first section refers to studies which helped me in defining the research perspective on leadership around which the entire study has developed: leadership beliefs as opposed to skills, performance or behaviors. The second part of this chapter focuses on belief systems and how these have been defined and addressed in research which may be considered to be close to the one here presented, even if focusing on different competences and social environments. In this respect the three sections that follow this second part provide a deeper view of closely related studies, clarifying how belief systems have changed and have been studied in some educational contexts. The educational environment is also where some interesting investigative tools and procedures have been adopted to monitor the evolution of beliefs. I therefore decided to include and discuss such studies here, because of their contiguity to the path that I followed in this research.

2.1 Beyond leadership knowledge and leadership skills

Silbergh and Lennon (2006) point out that leadership is a highly contested concept, but when it comes to leadership training and its effectiveness, they clearly identify two different categories of studies into which all investigations can be divided: the studies concerned with the development of leadership knowledge (i.e. what leaders need to know) and the studies on the development of leadership skills (i.e. what leaders need to be able to do). The present research adds a third class to the ones above as it refers to specific leadership training that covered both leadership knowledge and skills; and the study investigates how such a programme impacted the beliefs of participants about leadership. Since the programme used both traditional and e-learning methodologies, this study also provides an opportunity to consider the effectiveness of such methodologies with respect to the modification of leadership beliefs.

The fact that this research is not directly assessing how the above leadership programme impacted leadership behaviours and performance should not lead to an underestimation of its relevance. The very nature of some leadership models and the organizational priorities that stand behind them dictate the relevance of leadership beliefs, which in some circumstances become even more relevant than observable leadership performance. In fact, when it comes to leadership training, large companies like J&J are likely to prioritize cultural and value alignment, rather than immediately exhibited behaviours and performance as these are pursued via processes and systems (like objectives setting and incentives) which can more easily drive and de facto enforce cooperation, attention to people, networking and other relevant social behaviours. In other words, what big organizations fear the most, even in presence of sophisticated processes and systems, is the lack of leadership knowledge and understanding, as these inevitably translate into poor use of systems and tools, no matter how effectively and stringently these embody any leadership principle. In such contexts, focusing on the effective promulgation and sharing of the same leadership culture is far from being a minor target.

With regard to the new J&J leadership culture, on which this study will focus, this translates into 4 Leadership Imperatives – Connect, Shape, Lead and Deliver - a new perspective adopted by J&J worldwide, in 2012. These imperatives are expected to be applied by all J&J employees, across all the countries and businesses where J&J operates. This in accordance with a standpoint very close to what Alvesson & Spicer (2011) named the post-heroic view of leadership: which assumes that leadership happens everywhere within the organization and not only in its highest ranks. People can lead their subordinates, their bosses, their colleagues and even themselves. Behind imperatives such as Deliver - which stresses the capability to make things happen through others, or Lead – which highlights the importance to develop and empower subordinates, J&J declares expectations about leadership behaviours, which clearly resonate with what Crawford, 2007 wrote:

“Leaders should often step back to allow others to step forward; leadership is, then, consistently morphing from one person to another, both by issue and inclination. Taking this view, a good leader does not deign to develop followers, but to share a mission that others can own with equal competence and understanding.” (Crawford, 2007, p. 218)

In the above perspective, the effective sharing of the new leadership framework may well be considered the corner stone of the entire approach, as it is not only generally relevant, but it becomes an example of leadership in itself.

This may also explain the conspicuous resources and efforts that J&J has made on the promulgation of the aforementioned leadership imperatives, on the deployment and the monitoring of initiatives that accompanied the launch of systems and tools that were designed to impact the management of employees’ performance, consistently with such imperatives. A feedback on most effective learning modalities would in this case translate into opportunity of savings, and it would also drive J&J steadily towards the desired long term results.

The organizational prioritization of this training is also reflected in the mandatory nature of the training, which in itself might have mined the efficacy of learning according to relevant research conducted in the recent years (Noe & Wilk, 1993; Colquitt, LePine & Noe, 2000 and Crawford, 2007). These studies have stressed the vital role played by learning motivation in determining the effectiveness of a training programme, as individuals with an ability to learn but low in motivation do not seem to reap full benefits from training,

The positive relationship between learning motivation and training effectiveness in a leadership context is viewed as being so strong by Hassan, Fuwad & Rauf, 2010 that the authors even suggest that organizations should assess the pre-training motivation of their employees before sending them to a training program. They also recommend considering preliminary organizational development (OD) interventions to remove any cause that might undermine the motivation of employees, before enrolling them in leadership training. Being mainly focused on transformational leadership training and its expectations in terms of tangible behavioral change such emphasis should not come as a surprise, but neither should it distract from this research, which takes quite a different perspective for the reasons described above.

2.2 Belief systems

Before focusing on leadership belief systems it may be opportune to spend a few words to clarify what is generally meant by belief systems and how these have been viewed in contrast to the similar concept of knowledge systems. In literature, beliefs are regarded as psychological constructs, including understanding, assumptions, images, or propositions individuals feel to be true (Green, 1971; Kagan, 1992; Richardson, 1996) and that have a significant relation to personal, episodic, and emotional experiences (Nespor, 1987). Importantly, beliefs function as a filter that a person uses to interpret derived experience and to guide decision-making and subsequent action (Pajares, 1992).

To further elaborate on the above concepts, the work of Abelson (1979) appears particularly relevant as it enumerates 7 specificities that cumulatively distinguish belief systems from knowledge systems and/or from other similar concepts:

i. The elements (concepts, propositions, rules, etc.) of a belief system are not consensual.
ii. Belief systems are in part concerned with the existence or nonexistence of certain conceptual entities.
iii. Belief systems often include representations of alternative worlds.
iv. Belief systems rely heavily on evaluative and affective components.
v. Belief systems are likely to include a substantial amount of episodic material.
vi. The content set to be included in a belief system is usually highly open. That is, it is unclear where to draw a boundary around the belief system, excluding as irrelevant, concepts lying outside.
vii. Beliefs can be held with varying degrees of certitude.

Accessing a person’s beliefs is not straightforward and the very pursuing of this objective brings with it a number of methodological problems. It is difficult to study beliefs since they are intangible, form some sort of ‘system’ with boundaries not clearly defined, can be held subconsciously, and are liable to change through combinations of interaction and context (Abelson 1979; Pajares 1992; Rokeach 1968). In a way belief systems have been considered as constituents of individuals’ internal views of the world, very closed to what Bandura (1977) theorized as being both the result and the key constituent of learning, which despite their importance do not necessarily translate into behaviors as both situational and motivational contextual specificities may prevent their manifestation.

In this respect Kelly’s theory of personal constructs and the cognitive metaphor theory, proposed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980a, 1980b), have being reasonably and repeatedly used to identify and/or monitor belief systems, in their evolution, either as a result of training, or as a consequence of experience. Such research approaches and the investigations tools they adopt allow researchers to address and deal with subjectivity of knowledge, representational polarity and incertitude of boundaries, which characterize belief systems.

2.3 Educational research on belief systems

Among the various professional contexts, education is the one where belief systems have been more widely studied. In research on pre-service teachers, Buaraphan (2010) even considered belief systems to be the most relevant element when it comes to teachers’ training and he stated that educators are responsible for eliciting pre-service teachers’ teaching and learning beliefs and utilizing such beliefs as starting points for further professional development. This and previous studies in the same field highlighted that, throughout education, some teaching and learning beliefs held by pre-service teachers may be challenged and modified, whereas others remain untouched. One of the major challenges that the above studies clearly point out is the difficulty in eliciting these beliefs, due to their nested nature and the complexity of their components, which cognitive science suggests are related to other aspects of human cognitions and affect (Abelson,, 1979, p. 355). In this respect after the identification of leadership beliefs, via repertory grids and metaphors elicitation procedures, this study will also attempt to relate the very beliefs and/or their dynamics to changes within sensory, semantic and emotional elements which will be elicited through ad hoc questionnaires.

2.3.1 Changes in educational belief systems

Leavy, McSorley & Boté (2007) elaborated on the research that has been carried out within the area of education and they particularly considered what these studies highlight on the nature and the evolution of teachers’ belief systems and how such changes may result from either training and/or experience. These investigations seem to indicate that modifying beliefs is an extremely difficult and challenging task. Within a specific belief system, some beliefs may be more central than others and the more central a belief is, the more difficult it is to modify it (Rokeach, 1968). Another aspect that has emerged from research (Briscoe, 1991) is that beliefs guiding teaching practices are developed over a lifetime of experiences which can occur both in and out of school. This seems to explain why they are so hard to modify. Research also seems to indicate that when a particular cluster of beliefs change, it may impact others. This emerges in a study by Tsai (2002) where changing teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning science, seems to be a prerequisite for changing their beliefs about science, or vice versa.

While changes in beliefs have been found to occur often, as a result of educational programs (Hollingsworth, 1989; Richardson, 1996), pre-service teachers are not seen to typically develop new perspectives during their teacher education courses (Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981) unless they are forced to confront their held beliefs (Tom, 1997). As Calderhead (1997) noted, becoming and staying a teacher involves complex changes and development, not only in teaching behavior, but also in cognition and emotion and these changes occur within powerful contexts. Some studies have pointed out that the alternative to changing beliefs may be to build on the beliefs that already exist (Calderhead & Robson, 1991). In this respect Leavy, McSorley & Boté (2007) conducted interesting research on how pre-service teachers’ belief systems, about teaching and learning, evolved as a result of training and field based experiences.

The relatively small change they detected, in Irish pre-service teachers’ metaphors, may be due to a number of factors. For many of these metaphors, even though there was not a change in categorization, there was modification (significant in some cases) of metaphors to reflect the experiences over the course of the study. New metaphors were more detailed and complex referring to additional facets of teaching - however in many cases the modified metaphors resulted in the provision of greater detail and a correspondingly broader conceptualization of the tasks of teaching rather than resulting in a substantial change in philosophy (Leavy, McSorley & Boté, 2007, p.1230).

The lack of studies with regard to leadership beliefs and how these can be changed, by means of training, does not allow any comparison with the studies above and even if a parallel between pre-service teachers and leaders can be easily drawn, there are no elements to assume that any of the observations and considerations made in the field of education can be extended to the field of management and leadership training specifically. It would be interesting though to look for similarities and differences, if such studies were to be done.

2.3.2 Conceptual metaphors and belief systems

Beyond the actual findings and their relevance in the field of leadership training, the study by Leavy, McSorley & Boté, (2007) appears particularly interesting for the methodology it adopts in the investigation of belief systems. These authors focused their attentions on metaphor representations and they examined them to identify and monitor belief systems and their changes: “Metaphors may hold an important key to assisting student teachers to understand themselves as teachers and for relating this understanding to their own practice” (Leavy, McSorley & Boté, 2007, p.1230).

Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 1999) were the first researchers who systematically proposed that fundamental abstract ideas are based on a diversity of complex metaphors. According to these scholars abstract ideas are linked to a set of primary metaphors which are mediated by physical experiences that people make in their environments. In this respect they suggest that primary metaphors originate from the recursive coordination of experiences. The translation of subjective experiences into metaphors is therefore presented as the result of the repeated activation of psychological and physiological functions. A similar associative mechanism determines the disposition to relate words to some areas of sensorimotor experience (Johnson, 1987; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999; Lakoff, 1999). In other terms, primary metaphors are derived from the structure of the body and the mind, as well from the characteristics of the world in which people live (Narayanan, 1997).

Maasen & Weingart, (2002) invited social scientists to profit from metaphors in a much more profound way building on what philosophers and linguists have produced over the last decades. The same authors stress in fact that metaphors play a decisive role in the (re)ordering of knowledge and thus they can serve as prime targets and tools of analyses in the realm of knowledge dynamics.

Indeed, Lakoff states that neural theory can help explain “how a small number of metaphors can organize a whole system of thought and become the principles on which one lives one’s life” (Lakoff & Johnson, 2008, p. 36). Arguably then, this view of the role of metaphor in structuring thinking holds that metaphors organize these systems of thought and therefore our belief systems (see Abelson, 1979). It was understood that such schemata, or belief systems existed, but what is not fully clear, and remains an area ripe for further research, is their nature and in particular the dynamic processes involved in their formation and change.

Researchers worked with metaphors in the field of learning to address teachers’ (see De Guerrero and Villamil, 2000; Marchant, 1992; Sakui and Gaies, 2003) or learners’ representations (see Ellis, 2001; Kramsch, 2003; Liskin-Gasparro, 1998) or on comparisons between teachers’ and students’ beliefs (see Block, 1992; Cortazzi and Jin, 1999; Wan, Low, and Li, 2011). They have generally employed one of two approaches for analyzing metaphor, either ‘metaphoric processing’ (reading people’s communications in a metaphorical way) or ‘processing metaphor’ where metaphor is elicited directly (Lakoff ,1993). These studies suggest that metaphor can capture the complexity of learner beliefs through the ‘indirect’ approach, and Kramsch (2003) refers to the learners constructing a ‘belief space’ which is capable of capturing paradox and ambivalent attitudes and beliefs (Fisher, 2012).

The above studies seem to corroborate the hypothesis that people tend to understand their world through metaphors, which relate complex phenomena to something previously experienced. As Lakoff and Johnson (1980b) stated, people seek out their personal metaphors to ‘make coherent our own pasts, our present activities, and our dreams, hopes, and goals as well. A large part of self-understanding is the search for appropriate metaphors that make sense of our lives’ (p. 233). Metaphors convey richness of meanings, for example, mood, control, roles, attitudes, and beliefs that are deeply rooted in individual minds (Gurney, 1995). People sometimes hold on to metaphors, which lie beneath the surface of awareness, and use them as a frame to define experience (Hardcastle, Yamamoto, Parkay, & Chan, 1985). Accordingly, an examination of an individual’s metaphors can reveal their tacit beliefs, mental models, cultures, and inner worldviews which literal language cannot articulate (Gurney, 1995; Moser, 2000). While initially considered a set of stable propositions, beliefs have come to be viewed as potentially dynamic and situated, that is, arising within particular contexts and therefore susceptible to change. This makes them of potential interest to anyone concerned with pedagogy.

Metaphors have been used to investigate leaders’ and followers’ views on leadership (Hatch, Kostera, & Kozminski, 2009; Western, 2007) and to inspire/orient people in the complexity of behaviours and capabilities that leaders display (Lakoff, & Johnson, 2008), but no study has so far leveraged on metaphors to investigate how leadership belief systems can change, as a consequence of participation to traditional versus technology enhanced learning initiatives. If metaphors are a crucial element in how people relate to reality (Alvesson & Spicer, 2011), just like beliefs are, then monitoring their evolution as a consequence to exposure to either traditional or virtual leadership classes might provide some insights on the relative effectiveness of such learning activities.

2.3.3 Repertory grids and belief systems

Repertory grids represent another investigation tool that has been successfully adopted in the field of teacher education to identify and monitor the evolution of belief systems. The attractiveness of repertory grids for research on belief systems lies in the commitment of this approach to eliciting, as neutrally as possible, the ways in which respondents construe their worlds or, at least, those parts of their worlds that are of interest to the researcher. Pope and Keen (1981) have applied this technique to education in general; Diamond (1983, 1985) has used the repertory grid technique in secondary teacher training; Kevill et al. (1982) have used it for in-service diploma course evaluation; and Kevill and Shaw (1980) for evaluating staff-student interactions and teaching effectiveness. This method was originally developed by Kelly (1955), based upon his personal construct psychology. According to Kelly each person erects a representational model of the world, which enables them to chart a course of behaviour in relation to it. This representational model or construct system is subject to change over time, since constructions of reality are constantly tested out and modified to allow better predictions in the future. The repertory grid method was developed to come to some understanding of this representational model, and is generally presented as a structured interview combined with a ranking, or rating, or scaling function.

The essential tenet of personal construct theory is succinctly summarised by Kelly's analogy that invites us to view individuals as scientists constantly attempting to make sense of their environment. This emphasis on the person as the meaning-maker is central to Kelly's position. In order to understand a person's behaviour, it is necessary to know how he construes his particular situation. Kelly argues that persons differ from each other in their construction of events ‘individuality corollary‘. Kelly would not presume that members undergoing a similar education system or belonging to particular groups would necessarily share the same system of construing. However, he did admit the possibility of shared areas of personal meaning and this was made explicit in his ‘commonality corollary’. The individual can personally interpret or construe his world in a scientific manner. That is, each human being can be considered as a scientist who formulates theories, tests them by experiment, then reviews and revises those theories in order to act more effectively in the world.

The person can be seen as a scientist constantly experimenting with individual definitions of existence. Individuals and their anticipation of future events are "both the push and pull of the psychology of personal constructs" (Kelly, 1955, p. 49). Kelly does not deny the importance of early experiences or present environmental circumstances but he suggested that it was more important to know what and how a person thinks about their present situation than to know what their early childhood experiences were or in what environmental circumstances they now finds themselves. The repertory grid technique has in fact been developed to reflect part of a person's system of cross-references between their personal observations and experience of the world (elements), and their personal classifications or abstractions of that experience (constructs). The repertory grid technology can then be considered as a way to graphically translate individual belief systems and in this sense they have been widely used in psychology, psychotherapy and management training, but here it is adopted and specifically focused on the measurement of leadership belief systems and their evolution as a result of leadership learning, or as a consequence of exposure to specific leadership training experiences.

2.4 Belief systems from education to leadership

Despite the abundance of studies on leadership, no study was found that specifically focused on the effects of leadership training on individual leadership belief systems. Investigations have in fact addressed the acquisition of leadership knowledge and the learning of leadership skills, but they seem to have so far overlooked the intersection between the two domains occupied by leadership belief systems which, by definition, comprise both the nature of leadership and its manifestations. Figure 2.1 illustrates the two domains covered by previous studies and how these relate to leadership belief systems and it highlights the originality of the perspective taken by the present study where elements of leadership knowledge and skills are firmly intertwined.

The clear distinction between leadership knowledge, on one side, and leadership skills, on the other side, adheres to the framework proposed by Silbergh & Lennon (2006). These authors speak of leadership knowledge when they refer to the theoretical notions that leaders need to possess about motivation, engagement and management of employees. On the other hand, when they refer to the actual appropriateness of observable actions, they talk about leadership skills.

The area I investigate with this research overlaps with both leadership knowledge and leadership skills. For this study I have assumed leadership beliefs as being different, but not necessarily detached from either the domain of leadership knowledge (what leaders know) and the more clearly observable one of leadership skills (what leaders do).

In fact in this respect I adhere to the definition of leadership beliefs as it was originally provided by Albelson (1979), who sees these as intangible cognitions that influence leadership skills, which may or may not translate into behaviours, as a result of the contingent external factors that eventually intervene.

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Figure 2.1 Foci of leadership training

Since I found no study on the effects of leadership training on the development and/or evolution of individual leadership belief systems, I decided to leverage the research conducted about the efficacy of teacher training on the belief systems of pre-service teachers. Many elements emerged from the above educational studies, but two are of particular interest for my purposes: repertory grids technique and metaphors elicitation procedures have been successfully adopted to identify and monitor belief systems in their development.

Post-training changes and fixities in the belief systems have been fruitfully associated both to individual pre-training characteristics (i.e. motivation) and to features of the training delivered (i.e. reflective elements).

The study that follows fully capitalizes on the above findings. In fact, it not only adopts both repertory grids and metaphor elicitation procedures to investigate leadership belief systems, but in the light of the blended nature of the programme, the study also considers the differential effects of its traditional and online components with reference both to participants pre-training conditions and to the degree of blending characterizing the different phases of training.

2.5 Blended leadership training and its efficacy

In the past two decades, many studies have been published on blended training in business disciplines. Arbaugh, Desai, Rau & Sridhar (2010) provide a very thorough review on what, in just a few years, emerged from investigations around this modality of learning, within many business disciplines, such as marketing, finance and management. The same authors highlight a point that has remained true also in the studies that followed their article: publications on technology enhanced learning, within the business arena, have primarily compared the effectiveness of traditional, online and blended learning, with respect to either specific business knowledge or skills. The impacts of such modalities of training on beliefs and more specifically their impact on leadership beliefs has so far received very little attention. As a consequence I have decided to concentrate this review on just the few but very relevant studies, which most directly addressed the key themes of leadership beliefs and beliefs change through technology enhanced learning.

Although defining blended learning has been something of a challenge for many years (Bonk and Graham, 2012; Garrison and Vaughn, 2007; Picciano and Dziuban, 2007) some consensus on this has recently begun to emerge. Most authors nowadays agree on the concept that blended training combines more traditional methods of teaching - such as instructor-led classes held in a physical classroom - with internet-delivered content, which is learner-driven and self-paced. Research in management education particularly contributed to this theme, highlighting a number of positive results for the use of blended learning environments where the advantages of two learning modalities - classroom instruction and self-paced online instruction - are carefully balanced and fully captured. Ideal blended learning is indeed meant to allow learners to pick and choose how they want to learn and when they want to learn.

Introducing online elements or exercises has been positively associated with course outcomes in numerous studies (Clouse and Evans, 2003; Balotsky and Christensen, 2004; Webb et al., 2005; Hwang and Arbaugh, 2006, 2009), and blended courses have fared well in studies comparing them with classroom and online courses (Webb et al., 2005; Klein et al., 2006; Terry, 2007). Other benefits of blending in management education include increased confidence in working in virtual project teams (Dineen, 2005), increased learner control of the educational experience (Klein et al., 2006), and enhanced dialog skill development (Eveleth and Baker-Eveleth, 2003).

Some of the most obvious advantages that blended learning derives from classroom instruction are:

i. Providing occasions for the social interaction that people need, enjoy and use to share their experiences.
ii. Offering familiar and comfortable learning methods, such as discussions, team presentations and book studies, which have dominated our education systems.
iii. Providing settings – i.e. classes - where learners can receive immediate personal feedback about the appropriateness and acceptance of their own attitudes, choices, by their peers and by an authority figure.

At the same time blended learning can also pursue some of the advantages offered by web-based, self-paced learning such as:

i. The respect for differences in learning styles and pace.
ii. The highest levels of flexibility and convenience for learners by means of virtual classrooms which might be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
iii. The highest consistency over time: once created any content can be tested and validated and re-proposed identically, over time, regardless of where or when learners access the material.

Until very recently management education researchers have often failed to be explicit about whether a course is purely online or blended (Klein et al., 2006; Hwang and Arbaugh, 2009; Hwang and Francesco, 2010). This lack of specificity in denoting the degree of blending has been severely criticized (Arbaugh et all, 2010, Kellogg and Smith, 2009) as it undermines any attempt to determine the conditions under which online or blended learning is most appropriate. Distinguishing these courses would allow researchers to address questions of optimal blends through comparison studies, much in the manner that fully online and fully classroom courses have been studied (Arbaugh, 2000; Sitzmann et al., 2006; Kock et al., 2007). In response to this kind of criticism in this study I will refer to the combinatory matrix in table 2.1 to specify what traditional and web-based components the different participants were exposed to during the different phases of the study.

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Figure 2.2 Traditional educational approaches and e-learning

In the matrix in table 2.1, traditional and purely web-based approaches are categorized on the basis of the level of autonomy (instructor-led versus self-led), the constraints on time (synchronous versus asynchronous) and delivery method (F-2-F versus online) they involve. Just by combining the above three dimensions, 8 different categories/types of learning are identified and these obviously lead to variegated forms of blended learning which once investigated by educational researchers (Offir, Lev & Bezalel, 2008) seemed to reveal that synchronous learning is generally more effective than asynchronous learning.

2.6 Conclusions

Investigations on the impact of training on beliefs systems have been conducted almost exclusively within the field of education. Such studies were conducted either in universities or schools and this imposes some caution in extending their conclusions to different organizational settings. With regard to the present investigation, those studies provided a valuable starting point and guided me in the design and the realization of this study within J&J.

Chapter 3 - Ethics, ontology and research methods

This chapter addresses how the entire process of leadership training, as well the study which accompanied it, generated some inevitable ethical challenges for me as an internal researcher and as a member of the management of J&J Medical, Italy. Furthermore, this section of the thesis addresses how these ethical challenges were resolved during the design and the administration of the learning process as well as through the reiterated collection of data from participants. The chapter also explores numerous fundamental aspects of the research: it includes an elaborate review of both the ontological and the epistemological stances from which this study originally departed.

Based on the distinction proposed by Crotty (1998) about methods, methodology, theoretical perspective and epistemology, here below I clarify how I adopted, in this research, a mixed methods approach which translated into the use of both quantitative and qualitative data-gathering techniques and procedures. From the methodology perspective, I applied a grounded theory methodology which guided me in a systematic coding of the findings that emerged from the use of online questionnaires and repertory grids. In its complexity such a mixed methods version of grounded theory corresponds to the path originally proposed by Johnson, McGowan & Turner (2010) and is meant to reconcile, under the theoretical perspective and the epistemology of critical realism, the intricacies of an investigation about leadership beliefs and their evolution, in response to specific company driven leadership training efforts.

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Figure 3.1 Research approach

This section of the thesis also introduces the research questions around which the study was designed and which led me to choose specific data collection tools and analytic methodologies. The two key tools that were used for the collection of data were: online questionnaires and repertory grids. Such tools allowed the gathering of a great deal of data - very diverse both in their nature and format. This allowed for the definition and the pursuance of an original approach to data analysis and treatment that will be illustrated in subsequent chapters.

3.1 Ethical challenges of this research

I had just been employed at J&J Medical, Italy as Human Resource Director, when I enrolled for the PhD at Lancaster. The company agreed to finance my PhD and this study as part of it. Therefore, I undertook the research that follows as an inside-researcher within J&J Medical, Italy and it was inevitable for me to experience some ethical challenges while undertaking this research. One of the key difficulties that I had to address in conducting the study was to ensure that I could conduct the investigation with reasonable independence from the organization (Coghlan, 2001). I had to conduct the research and also perform the other more institutional duties as required by my role within the organization. As such, I was a participant in the leadership training programme launched by the organization and for which I was acting also as an insider investigator. I had to ensure that I did not fall into the trap of biasness while addressing the impact of the blended learning programme adopted by my company on my colleagues and me. This dual role constantly exposed me, as manager and researcher, to an ethical dilemma and to the risk of insufficient objectiveness of the research (Holian & Coghlan, 2013). As a researcher, I had to ensure that there was the minimization or eradication of bias and conflicts of interest, while performing the roles of being an employee and a researcher in the same organization.

Further, there existed the ethical difficulty of ambiguity of the research (Holian & Coghlan, 2013). It is always possible for researchers to be ambiguous in their investigation and explanations of various variables of the research. There exist political dynamics within the organization and especially in the higher levels of management in the company. As an insider action researcher, I recognized early the need to manage the existing political dynamics within the organization as this affected the process and the reporting of the research being conducted. As such, in order to manage the political dimensions brought about by ethical challenges concerned with the duality factor of the researcher, there was the need to balance the formal justification of the organization concerning the project with a personal tactical justification for the study (Coghlan, 2001). It could be intimidating to report negative aspects concerning the impact of the blended learning programme. However, the ethical approach to this situation would be to ensure the best recommendation of the learning process and outcome to the management of the organization. As a member of the organization, it is also in my interest to ensure the best outcome for the organization after the completion of the blended learning programme, which translates into managers and employees being able to immediately apply their newly acquired leadership understanding, in their various positions they may held in J&J.

This investigation was subject to a series of constrains which can be related to the fact that I conducted it as an internal researcher. Some limitations are probably common to many similar studies, while others can be more specifically linked to the fact that in J&J Medical I have the role of Human Resource Director and this heavily interfered with some of the research decisions and choices that I took, More specifically, if we concentrate on the constraints I had in common with other internal researchers, I would quote not only the field of research, but also the timing and the identification of participants for the study. The very choice to focus on the efficacy of leadership learning, skipping other more technical areas of learning, was facilitated by the fact that leadership training was under my direct area of responsibility and I was therefore entitled and encouraged by the company (my bosses, peers and subordinates) to gain the highest possible understanding of what occurring in that area. An alternative decision to investigate areas of learning beyond my area of direct responsibility might have been more difficult to pursue, not been equally acceptable and welcome by the organization.

From the organizational point of view, all participants to the study were at a level equal or below mine: this in compliance with the etiquette that characterizes most organizational contexts where subordinates have little room to questions people higher in ranks. A request to run the same kind of study with other colleagues, who were higher in the company hierarchy, could have created level of discomfort and resistance that I intentionally avoided. On similar grounds, I also decided to contain the assessments within the time frame of one hour duration: this self-imposed limit clearly reduced the opportunities to broaden or to deep dive into the many aspects that the study, but I sensed that longer assessments would have easily translated into high level of disengagement and/or resistance by either the company, or by participants to the study.

In my role as Human Resource Directors of J&J Medical, Italy, I also felt obliged to demonstrate a particular attention not only to above organizational sensitivities, but to the fears and the discomfort that participants might have experienced when assessed on what they had absorbed as a result of a company leadership training. The possibility that each assessment was misread and considered by participants as a measurement of their capabilities as learners was high and I therefore took the decision to reduce my direct face-2-face interactions with participants during the study. The assumption being that a controlled standardized written communication would have reduced the occurrence of misinterpretations. On the other hand, this decision excluded the use of interviews among the methods of data gathering and might have limited the possibility to sharpen my understanding of beliefs and their dynamics.

3.2 Theoretical perspective and epistemology

Critical realism, with its combination of positivism and constructivism, provided the theoretical framework for this investigation. Critical realists believe in scientific experimentation where the object under investigation and the mechanisms involved are actualized in order to realize an actual outcome (Archer et al. 2013). The philosophy of critical realism inspired and permeated this study, as not only in its assumption it accepts that beliefs exist, but also because to these it attributes causal powers (Elder-Vass, 2010) and an active role in the attribution of meaning and in the reading of different contexts by individuals (Magni, 2011). As such, critical realism theories justify and enable the study of beliefs, even when not directly or completely manifested in human behaviours. The research that follows indeed investigates the beliefs independently from their link to leadership performance. Once the analysis of data is completed, the outcomes from this study are expected to reveal, both to the investigator and his sponsor, a part of the reality that is presently not considered, but which may be of use to the organization and promote its emancipation.

In analysing the use I made of critical realism, in this study around the blended learning programme opted by J&J, it is important to consider the assertions made by Hodkinson, Biesta and James (2008) when they affirm that in any situation, people have the opportunity to learn something. The process and the ability to identify the opportunity for learning depends on one’s learning nature. Critical realists, as such, have the characteristic of basing their ontological beliefs on the hardships encountered by humans as they try to interpret reality (Peters et al., 2013). This, therefore, has led to the existing disputes that constitute the theory of critical realism, between social and natural sciences. In as much as critical realists support the learning and understanding of human behaviour, they also take into consideration the differences that exist between the real and the actual.

Bhaskar (1975), the founder of critical realism, proposed an ontological model based on three realms that include the real, the actual and the empirical (Bonk and Graham, 2012). The real is described as formed by powers which are causally efficacious, although often unobserved, while the actual realm refers to what exists in both space and time. The empirical realm is what human beings can observe. In Magni (2011) I offered an addition to these three realms by including the realm of the learnable, which elevates to the level of ontology both the symbolic processes and the results of human cognitions emerging from the direct and mediated interactions of individuals with the empirical. Once the elements of the learnable emerge, they affirm themselves as entities with causal powers. The learnable can manifest itself in focusing or distracting the attention (Waxman et al., 2016) of individuals and in guiding their perception (Özgen, 2004; Choi et al., 2016), as well as enabling previous and subsequent learnings (Hohensee, 2016). As such, the adoption of this extended critical realist perspective – characterized by the inclusion of learnable into the stratified ontology of Bashkar – sustains this study in probing further into leadership belief systems and how they relate to other elements within and beyond the realm of the learnable. This is the ontological stance on which I have structured this study and which I believe may offer a new perspective for the understanding of leadership training and its impact.

On the other hand, the blended learning leadership programme, which has been taken as the object for this research, offers an avenue to improve the change management processes applied by J&J Medical in Italy. This study arises from the belief that leaders need to have an integrated understanding of both the knowledge and the skills applicable to leadership. It is about how a blended learning programme has impacted on the views of participants about leadership. Leadership training is a comprehensive process that enables the adaptation of a long-term approach to leadership. As this research specifically focuses on an actual leadership training which merged and leveraged both traditional and e-learning methodologies, it enables the exploration of opportunities and limitations involved in both leadership training methodologies used by J&J Medical Italy.

3.3 Methods deployed for gathering data

Early in 2011, J&J recognized that it did not have an effective leadership model, able to support the leadership training strategy that aimed at the reshaping and alignment of beliefs acquired and developed by managers across the corporation, over the years. As such, the company decided to embrace a learner and focused leadership model which the management of J&J could embrace and benefit from to withstand the effects of an increasingly tough market. The source of data and the grounds for knowledge of this research are mainly from the administration of questionnaires and repertory grids before and after the training initiatives which participants of the blended learning leadership programme underwent at J&J Medical, Italy in 2013.

Here below is an overview of the research project which illustrates how the different phases of pre and post F-2-F training assessments intersected with one another, along the different training modules on leadership.

The blended learning that was adopted by J&J Medical Italy started with a session online, asynchronous and self-led: this leveraged video recorded materials and was supported by an online logbook that participants had to follow and complete while watching the videos. Online sessions were subsequently integrated with F-2-F synchronous and instructor-led modules, which were meant to reinforce the contents that had already been presented online.

As part of the present study, pre and post F-2-F training assessments were conducted through the administration of online questionnaires and repertory grids; these respectively lead to the identification for each participant of relevant metaphors and repertory grids, illustrating their own beliefs around leadership.

Metaphors collected before participation to F-2-F trainings were labelled as Metaphor1 while the ones that were elicited after the trainings, or just after a lead-time period in the case of the experimental group, were indicated as Metaphor2. The same was done with repertory grids: the label Grid1 indicate the results of pre-training assessments, while Grid2 indicated the results collected after training or lead-time. This study then focused on the comparisons of pre and post F-2-F training measurements which were obtained via the mentioned methods. Other approaches could have been used to feed and possibly enrich the analysis: among the alternative methods of data collections, interviews would have certainly represented a very valuable path, but unfortunately incompatible with the level of anonymity that I wanted to guarantee to participants. Considerations around my role of Human Resource Director in J&J and its possible intimidating effect on participants guided towards the adoption of data collection methods that allowed the use of pseudonyms and reduced the personal exposure of participants. Responding to online questionnaires and repertory grids using pseudonyms was considered key to promote openness in participants’ responses.

Equal attention was paid to the prevention of distortions that could have occurred in the management of data. There my choice has been to avoid, as much as possible, any form of manual elaborations and to record all the data automatically collected, via online questionnaires and repertory grids, in highly comprehensive tables (Appendix Five). Each table is meant to clarify what data and feedbacks were collected and how these have been eventually elaborated and interpreted. The detailed presentation of these data sets is therefore functional to provide readers with the opportunity to spot and highlight any instance of possible, although unintentional, misinterpretation or distortion.

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Table 3.1 Overview of training and study steps

3.4 Questionnaires

The use of questionnaires in this study had the objective of enabling the researcher to gain recorded information concerning the process and outcome of the blended learning programme of leadership training established at the J&J Medical, Italy. The data collected via the questionnaires include the gender and demographic characteristics of the respondents, their previous exposure to leadership training materials and questions leading to elicitation of the beliefs developed by the participants as a result of taking part in the J&J leadership blended training programme. Among the important factors considered while choosing this data collection tool is the practicality of online questionnaires to collect factual data, important to enable me as a researcher to classify the participants in the study. Online questionnaire administration reduced to a minimum the possibility that data could be involuntarily distorted or misrepresented at the early stage of their collection. In fact, online questionnaires provide researchers with the opportunity to gather large amounts of data from participants, rapidly and in a relatively unfiltered manner (Myers 1997).

This research is all about learning, understanding and interpreting the mind-set shifts of the participants in the study, who share the experience of participating in the blended leadership training programme. Through the use of questionnaires, I was able to gauge the beliefs, attitude and opinions of the participants with regard to leadership and leadership behaviours in the corporation. Additionally, the use of online questionnaires supported me in the recording of the information obtained from participants and in the development of a baseline indicator and information that I could use subsequently to determine the effectiveness and impact of the training programmes supported by the corporation. As such, the use of questionnaires enabled me to recommend amendments to the blended learning programme adopted by J&J Medical, Italy, in order to ensure maximum utility to other the participants of the training process and also to the entire organization.

The questionnaires used in this research were designed in order to fulfil the advantages already discussed. The questionnaires used provided nominal data for the study. This means that they were closed in nature in such a way that all the responses would fit within the categories of answers provided by the researcher. This method of data collection allowed for economic usage of finance for the research as a lot of data could be gained for a relatively cheaper cost. Further, it was possible to provide standard questions for the research. Standardization of both the questions and responses of the respondents allowed for the inhibition of bias and misinterpretation of the answers of the participants. On most items, the questionnaires used a multiple choice response scheme which allowed for an easier analysis of the data collected from the research process. On the other hand, the section of the questionnaire that focused on the collection of leadership metaphors was maintained very broad and open to minimise any misleading influence on responses. Part of the online questionnaire was also devoted to the investigation of participants’ emotions ad attitudes as possible building blocks and/or influencing factors of their leadership beliefs.

3.5 Repertory grids

The repertory grid technique was important in this study because it enabled the soliciting of personal constructs and emotion of human beings (Jankowicz, 2005). The grids were generated through software - Idiogrid (Grice, 2002) and an automated procedure was used with participants to elicit a table matrix, where the columns identified their models of leadership, and the rows report the constructs which frame their leadership beliefs systems (figure 3.1). The above grids were then taken as a reference to assess and monitor how leadership belief systems were influenced through the blended learning programme used by the company. Variations and similarities in the data collected via the repertory grids were used to measure and assess the alignment of the participants to the new model adopted by the company (Jankowicz, 2005). The main reason behind using repertory grids in this research is because their adoption, by automatizing data collection and treatment, prevents most relevant forms of bias and/or partisan distortions of data (Catania & Randall, 2015).

The process I followed to construct a repertory grid around leadership can be summarized in three main steps:

1) Elicitation of elements: participants were asked to identify and name relevant leaders in their families, among theirs friends and at work.
2) Elicitation of leadership constructs: participants were asked to compare the previously elicited leaders with their ideal leader and themselves, in order to identify dimensions/constructs along which, once compared in triplets, their relevant leaders were close or differ from one another.
3) Assessment of elicited leaders against elicited leadership constructs: participants were asked to evaluate each elicited leaders on each elicited construct, the resulting strings of evaluations describe how close or far the leaders are with one another on the different leadership constructs and the centrality of each construct in defining, for the participants, the theme of leadership.

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Figure 3.2 Example of repertory grid data

Just to provide an example of what a raw repertory grid looks like: Figure 3.1 illustrates what was obtained in this study through the above mentioned steps. There the first row of numbers indicate that all the Leaders that were elicited in step 1 - Padre, Giuliano, Sandro and the participant (Pisa02) - are very close, with regard to the construct of always look for solutions, but they are not exactly positioned where an Ideal Leader should be according the subject who filled in the repertory grid. It is through the automatic statistical elaboration of raw grids, like the one in Figure 3.1 that Principal Components Analysis graphics - like the ones in Figure 4.2 and Figure 4.3- were derived.

In a way repertory grids allow for the researcher to have a precise definition of the relationship, existing between the various concepts established in the research, without any direct intervention by the investigator in the most delicate phases of elicitation and interpretation of data.

In data collection, through the use of the repertory grid technique, there was the construction of elements relevant to the study (Collis & Hussey 2013). The elements identified for this study included the ideal leaders, a leader experienced within the participant’s family, one who was part of their circle of friends, one within their professional reference group and the last being the participant. This is because the new model of leadership adopted by the J&J Corporation involves managers and employees who were leaders within various capacities. After the identification of the elements to be used in this data collection method, there was the elicitation of construct information through the use of perception ability and level of the participants in the study. The triadic method supported by the repertory grid technique (Collis & Hussey 2013) enabled the collection of data through the investigation of the personal constructs provided by the respondents of the study.

Among the variables investigated by this study, the key one was necessarily the level of internalization by participants of the new J&J leadership model. For this purpose, the elicitation of constructs via Idiogid was guided through the comparison of the different elements (familiar leaders, ideal leader and self), chosen by each participant, alongside standardized situations which exposed their adherence to J&J leadership imperatives. Additionally, in order to collect information concerning the perception of trainees about the blended learning programme, within J&J Medical, Italy, participants were also questioned about their understanding of leadership and leadership behaviours. This is important in enabling the study of the dimensions involved with the different perceptions of the participants concerning leadership responsibilities and behaviours (Jankowicz 2005). The new model of leadership has the objective of enabling the company to have a better leadership structure in order to manage the challenges in the tougher market. When designing the repertory grids, the relationship between the participants and other leaders of the company was also considered as an important factor contributing to the development of personal constructs and in the support of what was instilled via the blended learning programme.

The individual constructs that emerged through the use of the repertory grids represented the first point of reference to compare what being a leader meant to each trainee. This outcome was achieved through the use of reiterated rankings which allowed the detection and monitoring of personal leadership constructs, together with their polarization and depolarization, during the different phases of the training. The importance of the ranking of elements in the repertory grid technique is so that it accommodates, through the evaluation of changes in the reciprocal positioning of the elements, how the belief system of the individual evolves. In this research this evolution was specifically tackled through the observations of polarization and depolarization effects that accompanied the training experience.

3.6 Methodology adopted to analyse data

Data in this research consisted of information obtained though the administration of structured online questionnaires and repertory grids. This determined the mixed methods nature of this research which focused on leadership perceptions and beliefs of a specific set of employees when they were exposed to a defined form of leadership training. The process of data analysis proceeded in a meta-analytic direction, suggested by grounded theory (Glaser& Strauss, 1967) and drove me, in the organization of the data collected, to break down the data into meaningful groups and search for patterns and important aspects informing the objectives of the research (Bogdan and Biklen, 1982). As such, the analysis of data collected included a theory-building data analysis procedure in order to minimize bias in the elaboration of findings (Myers, 1997). The meta-analytic procedure, that was here adopted, was inspired by classic grounded theory: open, selective and theoretical coding are in fact the three key steps that guided me towards the discovery of connections in this study. As such, the data analysis involved a discovery-focused technique where data were analysed through coding, in order to make a conclusion regarding the perception and beliefs of participants developed due to their participation in the training on the new leadership model.

As previously mentioned, the use of closed questionnaires enabled an easier coding of the data that were obtained during the data collection phase. With its structured questions and answers format, the online questionnaire generated data which were standard and easy to code. This analytic process proceeded by fracturing different responses into classes and grouping them into codes, from which a theoretical hypothesis could then be developed to facilitate an explanation. The outcomes of repertory grids were also fed the coding process to account for the dynamics of leadership constructs which are the key focus of this research. The coded data were then critically evaluated in their stability and changes in search patterns of differences or similarities, which might have allowed for establishing a conclusion of a uniform or highly consistent trend in the observed cases. The important finding of the study concerns the understanding of how beliefs, views and perception of the participants about leadership could be impacted by the training around the four imperatives that J&J sees as critical in characterizing the future ideal leader of the corporation. As such, the coding of data collected enabled the categorization of leadership beliefs by participants and it also allowed the monitoring of pre- and post-training changes.

3.7 Research choices and management

Besides the theoretical and epistemological choices that characterized this study, there are a few other options that framed this research in the way it was eventually conducted. Such choices concern the area of investigation on which I decided to focus my attention, the specific research questions from which the study departed and the research protocol that I have decided to follow. All this here below presented and made explicit, in the attempt to facilitate a full understanding of the study not only in its results, but also in its premises.

3.7.1 Area of investigation

Blended learning is the key area of investigation of this study. In the effort to understand the term, the benefits and the limits of blended learning as applied to leadership training, it is imperative to recognize the dimensions involved. The main concept behind blended learning is that the students learn in part through the delivery of instructions in a controlled location, place and pace, combined with the virtual delivery of content. As such, the methodology of blended learning involves a shift from a pure e-learning experience to involve a portion of class instructions. The benefits of blended learning, as discussed by Graham (2006) are that it enables more productivity of organizations and learners. This is both in the dimension of academic and financial productiveness and benefits. However, due to the new nature of blended learning in organizations, this process requires a lot of support-building and effective communication before the implementation of the process. The two modalities involved in the programme used by J&J Medical, Italy should ensure that all foundations for the blended learning process are established. J&J was prepared for this initiative through ensuring an effective technological infrastructure within the company, and computer literate employees involved in the blended learning programme.

Success for the blended learning program within the J&J Corporation has been possible due to the communication of the goals and visions of the leadership training program to the participants of the programme. The objectives for J&J that enabled a strong support system for the implementation of the blended learning programme included the prospect of the overall growth of the company, ensuring the ability of the corporation to survive in the challenging market, and also to provide powerful learning experiences for the participants of the new leadership programme in the company. Considering that the goals of J&J were project-specific in using a blended learning approach in their leadership training programme, the organization has high chances of success in the implementation of the blended approach. According to Bailey et al. (2013), the perspectives of the staff are important starting and measuring points for the nature and success of a blended learning programme. The confidence of the staff with the new productivity and learning tools and the usefulness of the assessment data obtained from them can help an organization determine the effectiveness and impact of its blended learning programme for the entire organization.

The use of e-learning was expected to rise dramatically with the development of the internet. However, this has not been the case. Most trainers now prefer to blend F-2-F learning sessions with e-learning in order to realize the maximum benefits of the learning process. However, there exist challenges to blended learning, especially if the organization implementing this type of learning strategy does not have a strong support system before the start of the process. Organizations should realize that blended learning is not an end in itself (Picciano et al., 2013); it can only be termed as a valuable process of learning especially in a scenario that involves understanding people skills. An inherent and possible pitfall associated with blended learning is in the development of the programmes using this type of learning. Most organizations that apply a blended learning programme do not keep in mind that the entire learning process is more about the learner (Bailey et al., 2013). A blended learning program should be tailored to fit into the success-design for learners. The blended learning process, as applied by organizations, is a means to ensure the delivery of a just-in-time learning process where the participants involved can apply the knowledge and skills gained as soon as they acquire them. As such, in a technology-savvy organization, a blended learning programme ensures that the learners get just-enough, just-when-needed and just-in-time content that will enable them instantly to improve their knowledge and skills (Bonk & Graham 2012).

3.7.2 Research questions

The objective of this research was to gather and analyse data on how an articulated blended learning leadership programme may have an impact on participants in regard to the views and reflections of leadership and eventually, although not necessarily, leaders’ behaviours. The research questions developed for this study will reflect upon this objective.

Did managers’ cognitions of leadership change as a result of their participation in the blended leadership training programme offered by J&J Medical, Italy?

Did any relevant pattern emerge from the analysis of registered changes or stabilities?

Can different change dynamics and/or different change-paces be attributed to the use of F-2-F versus online learning solutions?

How have the modalities used in the blended learning program been useful in modifying the beliefs of participants about leadership?

3.7.3 Research protocol

The participants in the study were divided into two groups: the experimental and the control group that form the participants of the research. The independent variable, which determines the main difference between these two groups, is the participation of enrolled managers in the F-2-F and online sessions of leadership training under the new J&J leadership framework based on 4 leadership imperatives: connect, shape, lead and deliver. This new leadership framework model was illustrated to selected employees through a blended learning technique through which the J&J management hopes to impact better leadership skills of the participants on the learning programme. As such, the experimental group involved in this study has been involved in the F-2-F leadership training process within J&J Medical, Italy. The control group, on the other hand, had not yet participated in the programme when they were assessed via questionnaires and repertory grids in the early phase of the research. They had all only completed the online training that occurred early in 2013 and is described in appendix one. Through these two groups as participants informing this research, I could explore the dynamics of leadership beliefs and their causative factors within the experimental group.

The division of participants into two groups, one with an experimental focus and the other acting as control group, followed a random selection procedure. The data collection tools were administered to both groups at the same period. The collection of data from online questionnaires and repertory grids occurred before and after the completion of F-2-F leadership training sessions, under the new leadership framework model adopted by the company. The questionnaires administered to the groups, at the different phases of their training, were customized to avoid unnecessary repetitions and ensure the collection of consistent data. On the other hand, the use of repertory grids was identical in both sections of the study, before and after the completion of the leadership training.

3.8 Further considerations on data collection and analyses

The key data in this research consisted of information obtained though the online administration of closed questionnaires and repertory grids. This mixed methods data collection choice was inspired by similar studies in the field of education and driven by considerations of both ethical constraints and the contextual practical constraints that these methods satisfied better than alternative F-2-F traditional methods.

In particular:

- both methods allowed participants to respond while maintaining their anonymity though the use of pseudonyms;
- the time required for the administration of repertory grids and questionnaires was reasonable and compatible with the context and the situation where and when the data had to be collected;
- the possibility for the researcher to verbally or non-verbally influence responses or outcomes was reduced in comparison to other methods of investigations.

Once the data were collected, their analysis proceeded along the three steps of open, selective and theoretical coding (Holton, 2010) as indicated by the grounded theory methodology. In this respect, the research followed what Kenny and Fourie (2015) indicate as the path of classic grounded theory methodology both as a general framework and as a guideline to the activation of different coding practices when processing multiple and diverse experimental data. In both instances, grounded theory well served and completed the critical realist ontology here embraced. Oliver (2011) clearly points out the potential for grounded theory within a critical realist paradigm. In fact, while critical realism provides a very solid philosophical framework for investigations, it lacks connection to familiar research methodologies and this limits its application. On the other hand, critical realism and grounded theory together are highly compatible and ideally suited to the pursuit of both theory-building and practical emancipatory goals in social sciences.

The main reason for using grounded theory here is the fact that the topic of this study, the use of blended learning in leadership training, has been only superficially addressed in literature. The impact of blended learning on the views and beliefs of trainees has not been sufficiently developed to produce any relevant research hypothesis. Therefore, the adoption of the grounded theory methodology is meant, on conclusion, to generate a theory on the leadership beliefs of J&J trainees and how these changed as a result of their participation in a company blended learning program. The main concern I had, as investigator and manager at J&J Medical, Italy, was about the effectiveness of the training methodology used by the corporation, in introducing a new perspective on leadership; equally relevant was for me to assess if and how learners understood and whether they interiorized the new leadership model. Further, both the sponsoring corporation and I, as an investigator, were interested in finding whether the new methodology of leadership training, which involved both online and modalities of instruction, was ensuring that the employees and the managers in the company were aligned to a proposed leadership framework. Through the design of this research, I mainly focused on and built around the data I could collect from the participants to the blended learning leadership program.

The specificity of the investigation and the limited number of cases, which could eventually be taken into consideration, place this research within the domain of exploratory studies, but it provided a very valuable opportunity to elaborate on multiple ethical, ontological, epistemological and methodological issues. There have been several scholars (e.g., Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Maxwell, 2016; Bowleg, Fielding, Maxwell & Molina-Azorin, 2016) who promulgated the use of mixed methods tools for data collection and analysis, and many others (Lincoln and Denzin, 2003; Domegan and Fleming, 2007; Richardson, 2000; Henning, Van Rensburg and Smit, 2004) who highlighted the richness that qualitative research could provide in the investigations on different teaching approaches to human learning, and on the perceptions of learners about the entire learning process. The methods that are commonly used to investigate belief systems are: F-2-F interviews, questionnaires, repertory grids, and online discussions with participants. To minimize bias and prevent situations of possible embarrassment that might have accompanied F-2-F interviews with my colleagues, I intentionally decided to exclude interviews from the tool-box to be used in this study and I fully focused on online automated solutions which could deliver and collect both repertory grids and questionnaires.

3.9 Conclusions

This third chapter of the thesis has analysed various important features of the study, including the explanation of the deepest assumptions and the theoretical grounds at the basis of the investigation. All the above clearly influenced the identification of data collection tools and the methodology thereafter used to order and analyse the outcomes of the study. The research was based on critical realism and mixed methods grounded theory. The critical realism ontology not only highlights the relevance and peculiarity of beliefs systems as elements of reality, but it also led the study to concentrate on the emergence and the evolution of such causal powers, as participants to the research were engaged in a blended learning leadership programme of J&J Medical, Italy. The same critical approach supported epistemologically the analysis of beliefs systems, through the assessment of trainees’ responses to online questionnaires and repertory grids analyses, which translated, into practice, the mixed methods choice adopted in this study.

Further, this section considered how grounded theory was used to compose and analyse research data. The importance of the use of grounded theory in this study derives also from the scarce literature on the specific subject and/or around how leadership beliefs can be impacted via blended learning leadership training.

The data collection tools which were adopted in this research include questionnaires and repertory grids. Both methods were used in their online automated version, which allowed me to anonymize the sources and to automate the elaboration of data. The use of online automated tools clearly minimized bias risks and the ethical exposure, deriving from the insider driven nature of the research. The administration of such data collection tools to participants, both in the experimental and in the control groups, was in fact realized as follows: for participants in the experimental group, data collection occurred in two rounds: just after their participation to corporate online leadership training and after the F-2-F leadership training. For participants in the control group, data collection also occurred in two steps – with a lead time between the two assessments comparable – but both after the online training and before the F-2-F sessions. The comparative analysis of the data collected from these two groups constitutes the core of this study, which searched for patterns of responses and effects of a specific blended leadership training programme on the leadership beliefs of managers and leaders of J&J Medical, Italy.

Chapter 4 - Collection and coding of research data

This chapter presents the data collected and elaborated in this research. Outcomes are here ordered and elaborated following the coding principles and procedures inspired by the grounded theory methodology that I used to integrate the results emerging from administration of online questionnaires and repertory grids. Data collection and their elaboration adhered, where and when feasible to the three main steps of classic grounded theory ascribed by Kenny and Fourie (2015).

In the open coding phase, I grouped the responses provided by participants via online questionnaires. Respondents used pseudonyms which they had created and repeatedly used to sign their inputs via online questionnaires and repertory grids. At the earliest stage, I considered both the data collected from the questionnaires and the outcomes from repertory grids in their rawest format. However, given the difficult interpreting the grids in their raw format, though, I soon decided to replace these with principal components analysis (PCA) graphics, the same software I used for the administration of repertory grids (Idiogrid by Grice, 2002) as it elaborates automatically from the raw data.

In the selective coding phase, my attention was focused firstly on the elements of pre and post training metaphor analysis, and secondly on the pre and post training administrations of repertory grids. This allowed me to compare source domains and construct polarization dynamics as the two areas that most clearly detected individual cognitive changes through the chosen research methods. This phase of selection coding implied a) the identification of vehicle words within the metaphors produced by participants, and b) the convergent and divergent shifts of leadership personal construct, within the PCAs derived from repertory grids. These key elements were combined, by means of synoptic tables, with basic biographical information of participants and with a few more details that literature on metaphors and repertory grids suggested to monitor.

In the theoretical coding phase, I used the combined observations, from the previous two stages, to highlight patterns and dynamics which lead to the definition of an experimental hypothesis about leadership learnability or leadership learning agility. It is this hypothesis that emerged as deserving further study. A thorough discussion around the results presented in this section will take place in the following chapter. There, I will illustrate and argue more in detail, some suggestions around the different areas of investigation which I see as the most consistent and logically grounded in the outcomes here presented.

4.1 Research description and outcomes

Here below is the description of the study in its key phases. With this narrative I intend to illustrate the steps that I followed from the recruitment of participants to the elaborations of the outcomes of the investigation in I view as the most significant findings. This to provide the sense of how theoretical considerations and practical issues often intersected in this field study and they influenced each other along the entire investigations process.

4.1.1 Recruitment of participants

The recruitment of participants to this research started with an invitation sent to all to managers of J&J Medical Italy – both field and office based - who were enrolled and undertook online and F-2-F leadership training in 2013. Such training was organized by J&J Medical Italy for employees with people management responsibilities to ensure their adherence to a new leadership model described in previous chapters. While the online training occurred early in 2013, the F-2-F reinforcement sessions were organized later in the year and were administered in 4 modules. Each module was offered 3 times, with a monthly rhythm, to minimize disruption that the absence of managers from territories and/or offices would have caused. It was indeed the modularity of the training sessions and their reiterated delivery that provided the opportunity for the multiple assessments on which this research is based. Modularity and reiterations though also resulted in some fragmentation of the study and inevitably led to some loss of data and participants that is very clearly reported in figure 4.1. This graphically portrays how from a theoretical sample of 56 participants the study eventually concentrated on the data provided by 16 respondents.

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Figure 4.1 From a sample of 56 to 16 participants

The group originally targeted for this training initiative was composed of 56 people: they all completed J&J online leadership training and they were all invited to participate to the F-2-F reinforcement sessions and eventually followed at least one module. Due to workload and other personal commitments, only 38 individuals - 23 males and 15 female managers, completed all the 4 sessions. Even though all the 56 managers originally targeted for the F-2F training, were invited to enrol into the research, only 30 eventually signed up. These 30 individuals were randomly divided into two groups the experimental group and the control group. Despite their initial enthusiasm and the effort they made to complete the research assignments – repertory grids and online questionnaires – not all the 30 participants provided complete sets of data. The contribution given by 14 respondents did not pass the data sanity check: some repertory grids and some online questionnaires were not returned or were returned incomplete. All the above reduced to 16 the individuals providing data on which adequate analyses could be conducted and meaningful comparisons could be performed.

By mid-2013 an ample and variegated sets of data had been collected, through a series of multiple assessments, which were conducted before and after an F-2-F leadership training programme that was organized as a local J&J Medical Italy reinforcement to an online training that J&J Corporate had launched for employees with people management responsibilities early in 2013. As an introduction to the data analyses that follow, table 1 indicates the assessments that were eventually conducted with participants in the study. While repertory grids were identical for both experimental and control groups, questionnaires were adapted to account for the different experiences that participants of the two groups had undergone between their first and second testing.

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Table 4.1 Sets of collected data

Participants in the experimental and the control group were randomly assigned and the sets of data they derived from the administration of repertory grids and online questionnaires to quoted participants. From the very first session of assessment participants were asked to hide their real identity behind pseudonyms to allow the highest level of openness in responses (Magni, 2013). Table 2 lists the pseudonyms that were chosen by the participants.

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Table 4.2 Pseudonyms used by participants

Members of the experimental group were exposed to testing before and after the F-2-F training, while participants in the control group, were assessed twice, with lead times similar to the ones that characterized data collection from the experimental group, but without any intervening F-2-F training, between the two assessments. However, both groups had been exposed to leadership e-learning materials before their first assessments.

4.2 Metaphor analyses

In the last 3 decades cognitive linguists have heavily debated on the nature and function of metaphors and how they not only delineate relevant fields of investigation, but also trigger the adoption of specific research tools and practices. Steen (2007) discerned thoroughly about different research approaches on metaphors and how they can best fit with interests and goals that researchers may have. With regard to the present study, the decision was to adhere to a relatively direct and natural analytical approach in consideration of the exploratory nature of this research and the opportunity it offered to collect and use very succinct metaphorical texts.

Despites its simplicity the research intended to cover metaphor analysis from all the 6 perspectives that Cameron (2010) indicates as viable when focusing on metaphors:

i. metaphor as linguistic;
ii. metaphor as embodied;
iii. metaphor as cognitive;
iv. metaphor as affective;
v. metaphor as sociocultural;
vi. metaphor as dynamic.

Some constraints on a more extensive use of metaphor eliciting and metaphor analytic procedures derived from the insider research nature of the study, as will be discussed in a subsequent chapter. The investigation directly and vis-à-vis embodied and sociocultural elements, for instance, could not be pursued because it might have reduced the level of anonymity that was necessary to ensure transparent and reliable responses. Overall the study allowed a sufficient level of freedom in the use of key metaphor analytic strategies and these were implemented and provided informative data.

This study focused on metaphors from a linguistic perspective in the sense that only written metaphors were considered and these were elicited via a written online questionnaire. These metaphors were therefore elicited and expressed in words or in phrases and they were by default linguistic in nature. Certainly there are other forms of metaphors, like the ones that relate to non-verbal communication (i.e. gestures) or the ones that refer to different symbolic arenas. For simplicity and on the basis of what was originally considered as being more relevant to the aim of the study, non-linguistic metaphors were not considered. On the other hand, the research took into account what is generally referred to as metaphor embodiment. The sensorimotor evoking power of metaphors was included as one of the key parts of the investigation in the questionnaires, and well as in the analytic tables that were used to interpret the data. The cognitive and affective dimensions of metaphors were also considered: the first, via reference to conceptual metaphors in the analysis (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980a), the second through the quest for affective evoking elements in the metaphors once they were gathered.

While not intended to address specific sociocultural features, the study did consider composition of respondents, in terms of gender and age, to try to identify how such data matched with their production of metaphors. The number of respondents allowed only very marginal comments on this theme. Reflections on the metaphor dynamics and/or lack of such dynamics are the core of this research together with some observations about consistencies and/or inconsistencies of such dynamics with respect to the ones that were measured via repertory grids.

4.3 Selective coding of metaphors

In this study, the analysis of metaphors consisted primarily in the comparison between the metaphors that participants of the experimental group provided as descriptors of leadership, before F-2-F training sessions (metaphor 1) and after completion of the training or lead time (metaphor 2). Please note that the variations in the metaphors in the control group were captured both before their attendance to any F-2-F learning sessions: this to investigate whether changes occurred in time, despite the attendance to F-2-F training. Table 4.3 details key outcomes from the above mentioned comparative analysis and it captures some patterns that will be discussed hereafter.

The metaphors were firstly analysed by focusing on the identification of vehicle terms within the texts provided by respondents. In metaphors, vehicle terms take the audience from the context under discussion to a domain of meanings (source domain) which, even when it is not strictly pertinent to the specific experiential context, it allows the introduction to or the explanation of new considerations around such context. Metaphors were then viewed and compared with respect to existence, persistence or change of the source domains that participants associated with leadership. In parallel and as a way of integration with the above, an attempt was made to highlight embodied, cognitive and affective elements that emerged in the leadership metaphors elicited from participants. Tables 3 to 19 summarize the key outcomes, individual by individual and the observed dynamics are grouped and presented on the basis of the element to which they refer.

Variations of Source Domain, that is to say the changes of source domains that could be identified via the analysis of vehicle words within the metaphors provided by participants in the study before in the two assessments they underwent. Particular attention in the analysis was paid to the number of common vehicle words that were used in metaphors provided in in the first assessment (metaphor 1) and in the second assessment (metaphor 2). Different dynamics have then been categorized as:

Contiguous - when the domain of metaphor 2 is part of the domain of metaphor 1 (graphically indicated with ≤).

Diverse - when the domain of metaphor 2 has nothing to do with the domain of metaphor 1 (graphically indicated with ≠).

Corresponding – when the domains of metaphor 2 and Metaphor 1 are the same (graphically indicated with =).

An example may help to clarify how the level of closeness, between different metaphors, was investigated and analysed on the basis of their source domains. Focusing on the three different metaphors of leaders that emerged in the study:

1. film director,
2. orchestra director and
3. lion.

Given to the semantic domains to which they refer, the first two metaphors are judged to be closer to one another and diverse from the third. Film and orchestra directors relate to the domains of art, performance, entertainment, while the third metaphor - the lion - connects to more natural semantic domains, such as wild life and physical strength.

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Table 4.3 Synoptic table of metaphor analysis

By comparing data of the two groups and the metaphors they provided, before (metaphor 1) and after training or lead time (metaphor 2), it clearly emerges that there is no distinctive dynamic in the control group, while the experimental group emerges for the stability of source domains - with 6 out of 10 cases. There, 2 contiguous and 2 diverse dynamics completed the measures. In the control group 4 out of the 6 participants registered diverse scores and 2 were contiguous.

Variations of Embodiment, that is to say the changes of embodiment references and/or of the nature of sensorimotor experiences that the metaphors collected in the two assessments evoke. The dynamics have been categorized as it follows:

Diverse - when embodiment of metaphor 2 can be considered as being different from the one leveraged by Metaphor 1 (graphically indicated with ≠).

Corresponding – when embodiment of metaphor 2 can be considered as being the same as the one leveraged by Metaphor 1 (graphically indicated with =).

In the case of embodiment, the comparisons of Metaphors1 and Metaphors2 highlight dynamics that seem opposites to the ones described in the case of source domains. Stability is higher in the control group – with 4 out of 6 corresponding scores – than it is in the experimental group. There only 4 were the cases of correspondence, while 6 participants registered a shift towards diverse sensorimotor experiences.

Variations of Conceptual Metaphor, that is to say the changes of the leading conceptual metaphors on which the ones on Leadership seem to be based. The different dynamics are categorized as it follows:

Contiguous – when the conceptual metaphor supporting metaphor 2 can be considered as being part of the one behind Metaphor 1 (graphically indicated with ≤).

Diverse when the conceptual metaphor supporting metaphor 2 can be considered as being different from the one behind Metaphor1 (graphically indicated with ≠).

Corresponding – when the conceptual metaphor supporting metaphor 2 can be considered as being the same as the one behind metaphor 1 (graphically indicated with =).

There are six metaphors implicitly referred to by participants in this study when they proposed their leadership metaphors. Such conceptual metaphors are: 1) Life is a journey, 2) Employees are resources, 3) Life is a theatre, 4) The company is a family, 5) Markets are battle fields, 6) Life is a jungle. The dynamics of conceptual metaphors, inevitably tracked around the occurrence of vehicle words, partially but not entirely corresponded to the ones already illustrated with regard to source domains. Here again a higher stability in the experimental group was registered, with 5 out of 10 scores indicating correspondence of conceptual metaphors. This stability was in contrast to what emerged in the control group where no correspondence was found, when comparing conceptual metaphors behind leadership metaphors 1 and leadership metaphors 2.

From table 4.4 to table 4.19, I illustrate the coding approach that I used to elaborate the metaphors collected. Each table provides the original statements which were collected in Italian and their translation into English. In both the original and translated texts, vehicle words are highlighted and further analysed on the basis of their evolution into source domains and/or other conceptual, embodiment and affective classes.

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Table 4.4 Metaphor Analysis for Basilicata55

An example of how key data from metaphor analyses have been organized and analysed can be found in Table 4.4. In the first column the table focuses on the metaphor provided before leadership training (metaphor 1). This first metaphor is there reported and translated in English. Then key vehicle terms are highlighted, within the metaphor and based on such words the semantic source domains are enucleated and listed. From source domains I identified and associated to each metaphor one or more conceptual metaphors among the ones more commonly encountered in literature (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980b, 2008) and reported these into the same column. I then made and reported some assumptions about the sensorimotor and affective dimensions that each metaphor evokes. In the second column the very same steps were followed to analyse the metaphor 2 that was obtained by participants after the training. In the third column, row by row the outcomes of the previous steps are compared and conclusions are summarized using standardized symbols that support the visual identification of patterns. Subsequent tables, until table 4.19, adhere to the same representational principles and report the outcomes from all other participants.

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Table 4.5 Metaphor Analysis Grid for Calabria12

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Table 4.6 Metaphor Analysis for Caserta32

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Table 4.7 Metaphor Analysis for Como47

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Table 4.8 Metaphor Analysis for Liguria87

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Table 4.9 Metaphor Analysis for Lodi58

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Table 4.10 Metaphor Analysis for Marche65

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Table 4.11 Metaphor Analysis for Pisa02

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Table 4.12 Metaphor Analysis for Toscana12

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Table 4.13 Metaphor Analysis for Valledaosta87

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Table 4.14 Metaphor Analysis for Francesca003

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Table 4.15 Metaphor Analysis for Gatto957

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Table 4.16 Metaphor Analysis for Laura246

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Table 4.17 Metaphor Analysis for Regina149

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Table 4.18 Metaphor Analysis for Stefi728

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Table 4.19 Metaphor Analysis for Tigre179

4.4 Observations on collected leadership metaphors

The above data seem to confirm that even when observed from a methodologically different angle, belief systems appear to be highly dynamic and their change may not be directly and firmly linked to specific forms of training - online versus blended.

The caveat here seems to be that along the period of testing and training, all respondents have been exposed to multiple, diverse and parallel experiences, which were not measured in this research. Therefore, we can only assume and expect that not only learning but also some and/or all these experiences may have had some influence on participants’ cognitive systems and their responses.

On the other hand, the metaphor analyses performed in this exploratory study highlight a few interesting phenomena:

- Higher stability in metaphors with regard to their source domains and supporting conceptual metaphors, when learning is reinforced through F-2-F sessions (blended learning);
- High level of variability of leadership beliefs among participants who were exposed only to online training, but such a dynamic seems to evolve along existing embodied frames.

4.5 Repertory grid analysis

Repertory Grids 1 (Grids 1) and Repertory Grids 2 (Grids 2) have been compared by focusing on the graphics of their respective Principal Components Analysis (PCA). PCAs from Grids 1 are here after named PCAs1 while PCAs derived from Grids 2 are named PCAs2. By comparing PCAs1 and PCAs2, changes in the following areas were considered:

Spread of Constructs, that is to say the relative positioning of constructs in the graphs of the principal construct analysis deriving from the two grids that participants to the study had to complete. Different dynamics are categorized as:

Polarization – when constructs in PCA2 get closer to each other in comparison to their position in PCA1.

Depolarization– when constructs in PCA2 spread wider in comparison to PCA1.

Stability – when constructs maintain the same relative position in both PCAs.

Figure 2 shows the case of Caserta32 where the comparison between PCA1 and PCA2 highlights an evident polarization of constructs, while Figure 3 (Basilicata55) offers an example of the opposite phenomenon, that is to say a case of depolarization of constructs.

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Figure 4.2 Polarization of constructs

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Figure 4.3 Depolarization of constructs

4.6 Open and selective coding of repertory grids

By comparing data from both groups, members of the experimental group seem to have registered more changes, in the way they construct reality, than participants in the control group. Unfortunately, as the numbers of polarizations and depolarizations quite close, it is not possible to derive from this study whether polarizations or depolarizations can be inferred as elements characterizing any of the two groups. It must be noted though that all depolarization cases occurred with female participants in the experimental group whose distance between the beliefs about themselves and their ideal leaders remained stable, due to simultaneous and corresponding translation dynamics, either around the axes or around the origin of emerging principal components.

No depolarization was encountered in the control group, but the absence of female participants in that group does not allow any firm hypothesis on whether depolarization occurred or did not occur, due to the lack of F-2-F training or because of possible gender specific responses to training. In other words, even if confirmed by a larger and more statistically significant sample, the lack of depolarization in the control group would require a closer investigation to identify whether it derives from the absence of women respondents within that group, or more directly from the typology of blended training.

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Table 4.20 Distribution according to constructs’ dynamics

4.6.1 Variation of the ideal leader positioning within the PCAs:

Translation of Origin (abbreviated as TRANSOR) - when the position of the ideal leader shifts symmetrically with respect to the origin of the 2 principal components in the PCAs

Translation of Axes (abbreviated as TRANSAX) - when the position of the ideal leader shifts symmetrically to any of the 2 principal components in the PCAs

Stable – when the position of the ideal leader is maintained in both PCAs.

The relatively higher stability of the ideal leader positioning within the PCAs emerging from the experimental group may appear to contradict what emerged with regard to constructs or it might indicate an attempt to balance the changes in constructs through the preservation of ideals.

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Table 4.21 Distribution based on the positioning of the ideal leader

4.6.2 Variation of the self-positioning within the PCAs:

TRANSOR– when the self’s position shifts symmetrically with respect to the origin of the 2 principal components in the PCAs

TRANSAX– when the self’s position shifts symmetrically to any of the 2 principal components in the PCAs

Stable – when the self’s position is maintained in both PCAs

Similarly, to what was indicated for the ideal leader, the assessments that refer to the self, seem to indicate a higher stability characterizing outcomes from the experimental group.

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Table 4.22 Distribution based on positioning of self

Relative positioning variations of the self versus the ideal:

Convergent – when the self and the ideal leader positions shift from opposed to the origin to either in the same quadrant of opposed to an axis.

Divergent – when the self and the ideal leader positions shift from adjacent to opposed to the origin.

Stable – when the self and the ideal leader’s relative positions are maintained.

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Table 4.23 Dynamics of self versus ideal leader

Focusing the attention on the grids that seem characterized by a relative stability in the spread of constructs in PCA – 3 in the experimental group and 3 in the control group, below is how the selves there were repositioned relative to the respective ideal leaders.

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Table 4.24 Self versus ideal leader when construct systems are stable

Focusing the attention on the grids that seem characterized by a relative polarization of constructs in PCA – 4 in the Experimental Group and 2 in the Control Group, below is how the selves there repositioned relatively to the respective ideal leaders.

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Table 4.25 Self versus ideal leader when construct systems are polarized

Focusing the attention on the grids that seem characterized by a relative depolarization of constructs in PCAs – 3 in the experimental group and 1 in the control group, below is how the selves relative to the ideal leaders were repositioned.

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Table 4.26 Self versus ideal leader when construct systems are depolarized

When looking at the data above it might be beneficial to reflect what kind of psychological/ social dynamics they may reflect.

Polarization and depolarization dynamics which are illustrated in table 4.20 may indicate that F-2-F leadership training implemented at J&J Medical were relatively more effective when it came to instilling new leadership concepts and to provide some new examples around which participants to F-2-F training could reconsider and/or change their reference systems. On the other hand, the variation of positioning of ideal leader and self in that very experimental group might hide a more complex reality, where the change of individual perspectives on leadership and participants’ self-confidence with regard to leadership are interwoven. As already indicated in a comment in Table 21, the level of stability - when it comes to the positioning of the ideal leader - is higher for participants of the experimental group, than it is for members of the control group who had been exposed only to online leadership training. A similar pattern also emerges with regard to the positioning of the self: in fact, not even a single case of stability was registered among the members of the control group, while there were 3 changes in the experimental one, indicating the occurrence of translations with respect to the origin, which are the most extreme shifts that an element may incur with respect to PCA dynamics.

With tables 4.24, 4.25 and 4.26 the attention was focused on the relative repositioning of both the ideal leader and the self as their combined change could have provided insights on the actual change that individuals of the two groups underwent as a result of their training experience and/or parallel phenomena that they might have experienced during the study. In order to observe changes more closely both experimental and control group participants were divided into three sets: those who appeared to have experienced a high level of polarization between the elicitation of Grid 1 and Grid 2, those who showed a degree of depolarization and those who seemed to have maintained a more stable construct system.

Following this highly granular analytic approach it seems interesting to note that:

For participants of the experimental group in all situations there seemed to be a tendency for their beliefs about ideal leaders and their selves to converge or maintain the same relative distance in post training assessments.

For members of the control group there seems to be a pattern by which the perceptions, and therefore the positions of the ideal leader and the selves move apart when a construct system of the individual diverges.

4.7 Observations on collected repertory grids

The above data suggest that belief systems are highly changeable and their change may not be directly linked to specific forms of training - online versus blended. The way belief systems evolve though seems to be influenced by the kind of training provided. Blended F-2-F and purely online learning tacks appear to influence differently the relative positioning of participants’ selves and their ideals within their own belief systems:

The blending of F-2-F and online leadership training, for example, appears to favour the convergence between the self and ideal of leadership which may eventually prevent the sense of inadequacy that training like this may produce.

The data gathered in this study do not allow speculation on any link between age and/or the gender of participants and their level of responsiveness to either F-2-F or online leadership training. Depolarization of constructs though did emerge as being predominantly a female dynamic: only women in the experimental group displayed such a phenomenon.

Construct polarization dynamics resulted in being equally distributed among both groups as if there were not substantial differences in both virtual and traditional approaches.

No additional speculation can be made on the basis of the data collected here via repertory grids: participant’s age or gender did not indicate other significant differences with regard to leadership learning.

The tables in appendix five provide a data compounded view and coding by individual participants. Their use in the present study allowed the identification of patterns and dynamics were eventually researched in the following stage of compounded theoretical coding where the same outcomes were gathered and considered within the synoptic in table 4.27.

4.8 Compounded theoretical coding

Table 4.27 presents the compounded outcomes of this study from which it seems that even if repertory grids and metaphor analysis are quite consistent in the responses they offer to this study, there seems to be limited correlation between the sets of data that the two research approaches provided.

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Table 4.27 Synoptic view of overall outcomes

4.9 Conclusions

This chapter has presented a variegated set of data that were collected, through a series of multiple assessments that accompanied a leadership blended learning programme which was launched by J&J Medical Italy in 2013. The way the data were organized and scrutinized, in this exploratory study, allowed the identification of a number of dynamics which, in the absence of more stringent evidence, may be used as general hypotheses around the link between leadership beliefs and leadership blended training modalities.

The research methods applied appear to indicate that higher stability of leadership belief systems can be achieved by strengthening online training with F-2-F sessions and therefore this suggests the higher opportunity offered by blended learning when the objective is to influence the evolution of leadership belief systems. The stability of self v. ideal leader positioning – which was measured via repertory grids –was not necessarily accompanied by stability of either in source domains, or conceptual metaphors, as these emerged from metaphor analysis.

In the following chapter all the results presented will be further discussed and taken as a starting point to suggest further studies involving new research questions.

Chapter 5 – Discussion of research outcomes

This chapter focuses on the extent to which the data presented in chapter 3 respond to the research questions introduced in chapter 2. It also highlights how the outcomes corroborate some hypotheses and contradict others forwarded by referenced authors in the relevant studies, discussed in chapters 1 and 2 of this thesis. It is also the objective of this chapter of the thesis to pave the way for other research investigations that may result in improved academic understanding of leadership beliefs.

5.1 Research questions

The research questions below were developed for this study to reflect upon the influence of different modalities of training on leadership belief systems. They have the aim to explore and develop understanding in the area of leadership training which is assumed as being particularly critical in the development of leadership knowledge and leadership skills in organizations. Leadership beliefs are here investigated for the optimization of J&J Medical’s investments in leadership training, an optimization that necessarily requires the identification of ways to measure the relative effectiveness and efficiency of alternative training modalities.

Within the specific context of J&J Medical Italy and on the basis of the data collected during a leadership training programme that was launched by the same company, this study developed around the following 4 research questions:

1. Did managers’ cognitions of leadership change as a result of their participation in the leadership blended learning programme offered by J&J Medical Italy?
2. Did any relevant patterns emerge from the analysis of registered changes or stabilities?
3. Can different change dynamics and/or different change paces be attributed to the use of F-2-F versus online learning solutions?
4. How have the modalities used in the blended learning programme been useful in modifying the beliefs of participants about leadership?

The 4 research questions are individually considered with the results that emerged from the data analysis in chapter 3, and other broader outcomes that the investigation produced.

In essence, the present exploratory study seems to indicate that measurable changes of leadership beliefs systems did accompanied the participation, of a group of J&J employees, to the company leadership blended training program. This investigation also suggests that the changes of leadership beliefs seemed to follow different, but reasonably distinctive paths, possibly driven by individual characteristics and/or gender of learners as well as by the relatively different cognitive and emotive responses that each modality of training appeared to stimulate. Given the limited number of participants and the data that could be considered, the indications here reported have no other ambition but the one of triggering further additional studies in the field of leadership beliefs and their development. Detailed and technical answers to the original research questions of this research are described here below.

5.2 Research question 1: changes in leadership belief systems

This research focused on how the exposure of a given group of employees of J&J Medical Italy, to a defined form of leadership training – here referred to as the Blended Learning Programme, impacted their beliefs about leadership. By offering a combination of e-learning experiences and F-2-F training, the Blended Learning Programme developed by J&J Medical Italy had the scope to reach different needs, learning styles and personalities, as well as improve the interpersonal connections of the entrusted management, for the benefit of the organization. Notwithstanding the broader goals of such an initiative, this research concentrated on the impact of the above training on the leadership beliefs of participants, as opposed to the more researched areas of leadership behaviours and performance.

5.2.1 Assessment of the change in beliefs

This investigation departed from the definition of the term beliefs as scholarly understood. Adopting other authors’ explanations of this term, belief systems are significantly related to both emotional and psychological personal experiences (Nespor, 1987) of the participants which in turn impact the way the they perceive, interpret and relate to situations in any directly or indirectly associated circumstances (Green, 1971; Kagan, 1992; Richardson, 1996). On this basis, leadership beliefs and their external manifestation by their very nature are dynamic and expected to change when individuals are exposed to effective training. The practical relevance of such changes relies on the assumption that once individuals have changed or acquired a set of beliefs this is then expected to serve as the framework of their decision making process (Pajares, 1992).

Through the mixed research methods employed in this study, which saw the combined adoption of online questionnaires and repertory grids, it was possible to confirm the hypothesis that human adaptation of beliefs is circumstantial. Through the use of the above mentioned research methods, the investigation highlighted numerous changes in the leadership beliefs of individuals, during and subsequent to their exposure to training sessions which specifically addressed the theme of leadership. The data analysis indeed demonstrated that multiple elements of belief systems changed throughout the assessments.

5.2.2 Resultant change in beliefs

While the analysis of the above-quoted results favours the possibility that changes intensify, in leadership beliefs, with the participation in a blended learning programme, it is now opportune to highlight and comment what specific changes in beliefs were recorded. The analyses of changes in the belief systems of the participants took place by comparison of the data gathered from both groups. The list below indicates where the blended learning programme appeared more successful in accompanying shifts of beliefs and a comparison is drawn against the results attained in the control group:

The members of the experimental group who were exposed to blended learning seem to have registered more changes, in the way they construct reality, than participants in the control group. This is suggested by the thoroughly reported modifications in personal constructs, although not echoed in the variability of source domains, as they emerged in the analysis of collected leadership metaphors.

All depolarization cases (see chapter 4) were detected in the experimental group, in the cases when the distance between beliefs about selves and ideal leaders remained stable (in table 4.23, records 5 participants’ beliefs as stable and 5 about self and ideal leader as converging, in the experimental group, as opposed to the control group in which 2 were stable and 4 were diverging).

No depolarization was encountered in the control group. However, this research cannot confirm if this was the result of non F-2-F training or generated by way of gender discrepancy or other factors present in the group dynamics.

Participants undergoing the blended learning programme maintained higher stability in their inner leadership beliefs (i.e. the reciprocal positioning of self and ideal leader). In this light, the current blended learning leadership training of J&J Medical Italy proved more successful in reshaping individual construct systems and in preserving the sense of adequacy, at least among the set of females who participated in this research.

5.2.3 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses

Although not the main focus of this study, it would be of interest to understand more in depth the relationship between the inner strengths of the participants around leadership – i.e. the stability and or the convergence of selves and ideal leadership ideas - and their propensity to enrich their personal constructs about leadership. The quoted propensity might be considered and studied as a sort of individual leadership learning ability and/or leadership learning agility. Along the same research direction, results from such investigations might guide companies in structuring leadership training that by design, or by the way it is administered, may prevent identity struggles and loss of motivation and engagement of those participants who may be more prone to suffer a sense of inadequacy with regard to leadership. It appears reasonable to consider that the lowering of leadership identity struggles might prevent stress and possible potential resignations. Another directly related yet more complex assessment would involve a deeper understanding of whether beliefs, different from the ones here measured, were in play besides the individual positioning in terms of self vs. ideal leader.

5.3 Research question 2: patterns of change or stability in leadership belief systems

After the research confirmed the initial hypothesis that beliefs are context dependent and therefore susceptible to change, I thought it was important to further analyse the underlying patterns that emerged in this investigation. Such patterns can be classified as follows:

- Patterns of change.
- Patterns of stability.

5.3.1 Patterns of change

Research design choices and other factors certainly limit our possibility to comment and elaborate on the changes observed, but they do not set any constraint on the listing of the patterns I observed. Here are the most evident change patterns that I have detected and consider worth mentioning:

- Both experimental and control group participants registered alteration in their leadership belief systems, but in the control group these were less numerous and just characterized by construct polarization.
- Depolarization of leadership constructs emerged only in the experimental group and as a female dynamic: only women who were part of the experimental group displayed such a phenomenon and they also saw such depolarization of constructs accompanied by changes/evolution of the source domains of their preferred leadership metaphors.
- Most females, who changed, depolarized and kept their inner state stable.
- Most males, who changed, polarized and strengthened their inner beliefs.

Within the control group a relatively high number of participants (all males) registered a divergent shift between their selves and their ideal leaders (a weakening of their inner beliefs) even when their construct systems remained stable .

5.3.2 Patterns of stability

In order to ensure a fair view of the results attained from this work I also analysed the cases where higher stability was registered, as I wanted to check whether these might project any light on the limitations of leadership training in general. The unchanged beliefs patterns were as follows:

The stability of leadership personal constructs was evenly distributed among females and males and marginally higher in the control group.

The stability of metaphors though, both in terms of source domains and conceptual metaphors, was significantly higher within the experimental group.

The last point clearly raised questions as to whether and how effectively the idea of self can be really impacted on an interpersonal level, to align it with the organization’s requests. By looking at the outcomes of this study, only from the metaphor analysis perspective, it appears as if F-2-F interactions of blended learning reinforced the participants’ need or opportunity to keep a firm hold on their original metaphors. Women who registered some form of depolarization in their leadership constructs differed from their male colleagues, in that both conceptual metaphors and source domains varied.

5.4 Research question 3: dynamics of leadership belief systems

A preliminary glance at the results obtained from repertory grids and metaphor analysis show a number of consistencies. Evidence from this study indicates that in repertory grids, construct polarization dynamics was equally distributed between both groups indicating that there were not substantial differences in both virtual and blended leadership training approaches. However, there seems to be a relatively low correlation of the elements underlying the same results, making it harder for this research to put forward common traits in the dynamics that lead to a shift in beliefs, and even harder to allocate more advantages to one training method as opposed to the other.

From a comparison of the data representing the two groups, it clearly emerges that there is no corresponding dynamic in the control group but a dominant dynamic in the experimental group in relation to the stability of source domains detected in 6 out of 10 participants. This implies that there is a higher stability in metaphors with regard to their source domains and supporting conceptual metaphors, when learning is reinforced through F-2-F sessions (blended learning) whereas there was a high level of variability of leadership beliefs among participants who were exposed only to online training, but such a dynamic seems to evolve along similar frames. Thus, to a certain extent, metaphors can be indicative of inspiring a shift in people’s thoughts in relation to leadership behaviours as indicated by Lakoff & Johnson (2008). Variations of conceptual metaphor came with consistent changes in source domains which registered a relatively higher stability in the experimental group than in the control group.

Another comparison was drawn around the sensorimotor evocative power of each metaphor, which for brevity is here indicated as embodiment. In this area the two groups registered opposite results. Stability through embodiment was higher in the control group than in the experimental group, which registered a shift of 6 participants towards diverse sensory motor experiences. The above results show instability in the data outcome, which made it harder for me to investigate the underlying dynamics that result in a shift in the belief systems. This somehow echoes what Hatch, Kostera & Kozminski, (2009) and Western (2007) stated some years ago, when they wrote that the nature and dynamic processes employed in the formation of and change in belief systems require more in-depth research as categorisation elements still remain uncertain following this case study.

Altogether my observations from the distinct methodological perspectives have corroborated previous research that belief systems are dynamic in nature and therefore susceptible to change, with the exception of some strongly rooted elements, like the distance between self and ideal leader, which does not always seem necessarily and/or effectively impacted by training. While beliefs form the main dynamic element that was studied in this research, difficulties and challenges I encountered suggest that future investigations might consider other contexts and factors to investigate leadership belief dynamics. The research context and the approaches that I pursued in this study did not allow the adoption of testing protocols, which retrospectively might have significantly strengthened this study and potentially produced more informative outcomes on leadership beliefs and their dynamics.

5.5 Research question 4: learning modalities and leadership belief systems

From the broad reflection around leadership belief systems and their variations, I then progressed with the identification of the training approach, which could be more efficacious in changing leadership beliefs. All this used the material that I collected during the administration of the modular sessions that characterized the Leadership blended learning progamme, organized by J&J Medical Italy. The outcomes of this investigation suggest that in leadership blended learning contexts, pertinent beliefs do change and participants are able to make relevant internal reconsiderations of their perspectives on leadership, as predicted by Abelson (1979).

This study also provided an opportunity to investigate the instances when the use of blended learning could most effectively modify leadership beliefs. The blended learning programme of J&J Medical Italy used a combination of both traditional and e-learning training techniques. In this respect its structured and modular delivery seems to have enabled the growth and reorganization of thinking of participants, minimizing the disruption that an extensive F-2-F training might have on business.

5.5.1 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses

The personal element of the F-2-F combined with the possibility of e-learning seems to have catered for the needs of different belief systems which might be intertwined with different learning styles, thereby allowing a change by impacting the formation and processing of these beliefs. Nonetheless, as the results analysis in this work indicates, such factors require further study.

The research documented a higher participation and successful rate in completion of the desired training in the experimental group. It appears that the personal element of F-2-F training sessions encouraged more attendance of the targeted participants. The combined training technique also seems to have allowed the participants a more in-depth analysis of leadership beliefs. F-2-F seems to have aided the encouragement of the self-image as a leader by maintaining the personal element of traditional training. However, the blended learning programme also seems to have given rise to an underlying shift in beliefs, in terms of the definition of the ideal leader, especially when almost half of the experiment group recorded a shift.

5.6 Considerations on training attendance and motivation

When it comes to planning and scheduling training, like most organizations, J&J Medical Italy faces numerous challenges that the training departments have to take into account and untangle. These range from the scheduling difficulties that derive from the conflicting agendas of participants, to corporate requests around learning trends, and mandatory syllabi for distinct learning audiences, etc. Hassan, Fuwad & Rauf (2010) recommend that organizations should consider preliminary OD interventions to remove any cause that might undermine the motivation of employees before enrolling them in leadership training, and this is most likely to have had an important role in the undertaking of this study. Training attendance or completion of the blended learning training that was organized at J&J Medical, Italy was from this perspective particularly burdensome: the initiative required the mandatory participation in 4 residential modules, of 2 days’ duration each and required the completion of some preliminary online work before and at the same time as the prescheduled F-2-F training sessions. The training was meant to be mandatory as it was intended to ensure the adherence of employees with people management responsibilities, across the entire organization, to a new leadership model described in the introduction to the thesis.

5.6.1 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses

The mandatory nature of the training might have influenced participants’ reactions to it and/or to the research that accompanied it. Further studies on how such an aspect may impact learners and their attitudes towards the models proposed, would be certainly beneficial. Changes in the identification of compulsory training and/or in the organization might emerge as being particularly critical. Investigations in contexts where business commitments and deadlines are constantly viewed as a priority, when compared to learning, would probably reveal important information on how that very belief translates into attendance and the effectiveness of training.

5.7 Beyond leadership beliefs

This study assumed, translated into a research project and eventually tested the hypothetical statement that beliefs can change depending on the circumstances and training. Although this hypothesis has been proven as a strong trait, this investigation has led me beyond the boundaries of that hypothesis towards elements that may question its veracity. Indeed a shift in beliefs has appeared as attainable using different training methods and recorded through metaphor analysis and repertory grids data collection methods. However, these same shifts gave rise to questions as to whether this change in beliefs took place merely due to the training techniques selected or whether other external factors could have also contributed to this change. If other external factors were also responsible for this change in beliefs, to what extent can such a shift be attributable to these factors? Was the degree of influence of these external factors sufficient to eradicate the importance of the role of leadership training? More importantly, do such external factors leave a stronger impact on the registered change in beliefs than the blended learning training method adopted at J&J Medical?

Variations and similarities in the data collected via the repertory grids were used to measure and assess the alignment of the participants in the new model adopted by the company (Jankowicz, 2005). While such variations provided a set or reasonably objective data and while the approach was one that allowed for the complex investigation of beliefs, which are unique to each individual, the size of the samples covered with this investigation was not sufficient to implement a full review of the training dictated by the new leadership model of J&J. This could follow this investigation and potentially discover the main driving forces behind the shifts in leadership beliefs.

Considering how the participation rates developed over time, across the multiple modules of the programme, the recorded belief changes did not seem to sustain the motivation of participants in attending, or fully completing the training. Indeed the number of completed training modules decreased by the time the training programme had moved from the first to its final stage. Similarly, participation did not necessary result in full engagement, especially if we consider that some participants did not return sufficient feedback to pass the data stress test, which was part of this study. Thus, this research indirectly also provided some hints around a broader organizational belief, that is to say the one around the relevance of training attendance and presumably its importance in the attainment of business results. In this respect, future studies should consider whether the very belief that training influences leadership may impact the changes in leadership belief systems, and provide indications around which modalities of training my better respond to different levels of participants’ scepticism and/or motivation.

5.7.1 Specific considerations for future research hypotheses

Another aspect requiring more investigation is whether shifts in beliefs could be attributable to gender differences, particularly in consideration that the depolarization cases that were recorded in this study only emerged in female participants. The composition of groups in this study varied considerably, in terms of gender balance, with the experimental group having female participants and the control group having no female participants: such a predisposed de facto element prevents further investigation around the depolarizations which were recorded in the experimental group. It was not possible for this study to conclude a link between gender, age and any recorded change in beliefs: investigations with more gender and age balanced groups will be essential to relate changes to either training modality (i.e. blended learning) or anagraphic characteristics (i.e. gender and/or age). The unbalanced composition of the groups under scrutiny also limited the understanding of whether both the blended learning training and female gender attributes worked in tandem to provide the resultant change in beliefs, or whether one element could provide the same results in the absence of the other. The relationship between gender and the training methods used as a corollary to the assessment of belief shifting could be a highly welcomed study for future research.

Another emergent aspect of this investigation is that in these female participants their inner belief system remains stable despite the fact that change in their construct system was recorded. Indeed, the positioning of the idea of selves and ideal leaders remained unchanged in these female respondents, which gives rise to further research questions: Are strong inner beliefs a pre-requisite of strong leadership? How does strong leadership relate to the tendency/ability/attitude to polarize/depolarize relevant individual belief systems and adapt to the context and/or to the organizational requirements, either with or without relevant changes in the inner leadership beliefs?

The hypothesis that blended learning contributes to the shift in beliefs can be challenged against several other factors such as age, gender and work-related perceptions and commitment, which also emerged from this research. Resultantly, with the absence of a direct investigation of the role of additional external/internal factors in shifting leadership beliefs, it cannot be fully concluded that blended learning training was solely responsible for such changes in the leadership belief systems of the participants in the study conducted at J&J Medical Italy; even if the blended learning could be identified as playing a role in shifting beliefs.

In order to prepare the way for future research and studies on leadership beliefs and contingent areas, it might be relevant to remind the reader of the patterns of beliefs which this research highlighted as being more resistant to change:

The image of self in a leadership context: The participants of the experimental group showed a regular pattern in all situations for their ideal leaders and their selves to converge or maintain the same relative distance in post-training assessments. The numbers of polarizations and depolarizations in the data analysis proved to be quite close, to the extent that it is not possible to derive from this study whether they can be inferred as elements characterizing any of the two groups.

The pattern of training motivation: pre-training and in-training motivation is a factor directly linked to the success and effectiveness of the training session (Hassan, Fuwad & Rauf, 2010). Indeed the end result of full effective participation in the leadership training participation at J&J Medical went down from 56 to 16 arguably fully engaged participants. This demonstrated a decrease of more than two thirds of the original target participants and consequently raises questions from both the status quo of leadership participation and the financial projection of training modules within an organization.

The outcome of this investigation has also further strengthened the work of Hassan, Fuwad & Rauf (2010) who emphasized that pre-training motivation of employees should be properly assessed before investing in employee training. From the research undertaken in this work, three main elements emerged that may negatively affect an employee’s effective training: personal commitments (whether these are imposed on the employee or of the employee’s own choice); organizational imposed commitments/handicaps and employee’s training implementation capacity.

5.8 My Personal reflections and learning as an internal researcher

This insider management action research provided many occasions and opportunities of learning to me in my double role as manager and researcher. While I will elaborate further in my learning as a J&J manager in the following chapter of my thesis I will focus here on some issues that pertain to the decisions and activities that I had to accomplish as an insider action researcher.

5.8.1 The challenge of bias in the investigation

As a manager of J&J Medical Italy I had to address the typical challenges that characterize insider research. In this respect my main concern was the attainment and the maintenance of the level of objectivity required during the different stages of the study – i.e. the recruitment/selection of participants, collection, elaboration, and analysis of data, to prevent subjective or mediated choices influencing participants’ responses and/or their elaboration.

5.8.2 The challenge of bias in presentation of results

Moreover, putting forward results in an objective manner from an academic perspective was a challenge, due to the potential intimidating feedback from the employer organization and from fellow colleagues especially in cases whereby this research reports current blended learning setbacks in the organization. This challenge was overcome by a sense of duty as a researcher and as a person benefitting from the blended learning programme. It is in the light of this that I put forward the best recommendations to improve the learning process with the scope to assist the organization in the optimization of its goals through leadership training. Reporting in a transparent and clear manner the outcomes of this research to the management of the organization therefore became indispensable.

5.8.3 The challenge of repeated assessments and voluntary participation

Through this research, I was also exposed to the challenge of running a study that required the participation of colleagues with very tight personal and business agendas, to whom I had to ensure the possibility to easily withdraw from the research. The clearly stated voluntary and anonymous nature of the study - as it was clearly state in the consent form that each participant received – certainly facilitate in this, together with the lead-time, between the pre and post training assessments, which clearly opened a window of opportunity for each participant to reflect on their real interest in the study. Most probably this time also opened the way to undesired interfering factors, like unexpected family or business commitments, which made it very challenging to maintain the momentum and the motivation of participants in attending and completing this research.

Over the period that separated pre and post training assessments for the experimental group, or first and second assessments for the control group, half participants dropped out (see chapter 3). Despite all my efforts to develop time-conscious assessments, these still required about one hour to be completed. After their exposure to the first testing, some participants did not participate to the second round, or they did providing incomplete responses which could not be computed. In this sense, the mandatory nature of the leadership training, around which this research was built, does not seem to have influenced the rate of participation to this study. Even though this might be disappointing, it also suggests that the overall design of the study and the recruitment of the participants, offered many opportunities to the individuals who did not want to be assessed to withdraw. On the other hand the people who did eventually participates have done it really spontaneously, despite the compulsory nature of the training programme that hosted the initiative and my potentially threatening double role, as researcher and human resource director of J&J Medical, Italy.

5.8.4 The challenge of trust

Leadership quality is a key dimension in the evaluation of employees and their potential to grow in J&J Medical, like in most companies. This justifies the mandatory nature of leadership training for managers, but it clearly created some anxieties in participants who were invited to take part in this research as they immediately read the assessment as a form of measurement one of their core abilities and therefore as a potential obstacle to their future career at J&J. Here again, great attention was paid in the presentation of the study and in the illustration of its key steps, in the consent form.

5.8.5 The challenge of asymmetry of power

Participants in the study were chosen among J&J Medical Italy employees whose enrolment in the company leadership blended learning initiative was mandatory. This obligation inevitably introduced an element of power asymmetry, which I decided to balance through a series of methodological choices: careful wording of ethical consent forms that stressed the right of participants to retire from the research at any time; and design of a process which, through the use of pseudonyms and electronic collection of data, guaranteed that the identity of participants was completely protected. Repertory grids and questionnaires were consistently delivered, administered and elaborated electronically. This also reduced to a minimum the possibility of undesired mediations by the investigator who could involuntarily treat data with bias.

5.8.6 The challenge of mixing research tools and traditions

This research allowed me to use a mixed methods approach, which translated into the use of both quantitative and qualitative data-gathering techniques and analytic procedures. The usage of repertory grids and questionnaires was a rather insightful combination that successfully responded to my desire to look at the changes in the belief systems, both from a cognitive and an affective perspective, considering dynamics personal to each individual participant, but also relatable to the wider set of participants. The architecture of this research, in its complexity, enabled me to gain objective recorded information concerning the process and outcome of the blended learning programme that J&J Medical Italy established to reinforce e-learning materials that were used to launch a new leadership framework by the corporation.

Combining the distinct methodologies into a single study has made it possible for me to test the results obtained by one methodology against the other, whether this was to confirm or debate a result. A relevant challenge posed by mixing two methodologies, was in the combination of data collection and interpretation it imposed. While being a time consuming approach, this combined mixed methods choice, imposed a highly formative reflexive methodological effort, particularly valuable in the investigation of the unexplored grounds of leadership belief systems and their dynamics.

5.9 Conclusions

Inspired by previous works that studied whether beliefs change depending on the contexts, I started my investigation on leadership beliefs through leadership related metaphors. The participants’ beliefs around leadership did change, as can be seen from very plain metaphor analysis (Green, 1971; Kagan, 1992; Richardson, 1996), with a higher shift recorded in the experimental group, which confirms to J&J Medical that the blended learning programme, is a useful training tool for the organization to meet its training objectives specifically in helping to shift leadership ideals in line with its objectives.

Hence, this corroborates the findings of Leavy, McSorley & Boté (2007) who supported the use of metaphor representations as a path for understanding learning and its dynamics. Furthermore this allowed not only the identification of beliefs, but also made it possible for the same to be examined more in depth and in their rearrangement dynamics. Detecting rearrangements of beliefs was made possible by the use of metaphor analysis procedures, which brought me closer to the understanding of the participants’ thought processes (Abelson 1979, Hatch, Kostera & Kozminski, 2009; Western, 2007). The shifts in their beliefs, albeit the fact that some data constructs analysed show a minimum of variations, further seemed to confirm the idea proposed by Lakoff, & Johnson (2008) that metaphor usage can trigger in participants a thought process about complex reasoning and behaviours. The shifts in beliefs have been in this sense interpreted as the internal mechanisms linked to learning and related to the rearrangement of participants’ thoughts around leadership.

To offset possible bias and/or misinterpretations, the results obtained through metaphorical analyses were further investigated with repertory grids which were particularly useful in the examination of the way the leadership beliefs were impacted. Repertory grids have been widely used in the academic field as a tool that helps prevent the researcher from reaching a biased conclusion on the analysis of the results obtained (Catania & Randall, 2015). Moreover, by means of the repertory grid analysis it was possible to establish that the way belief systems evolve could be influenced by the kind of training provided to the participants. Indeed, different outcomes were observed in the participants’ feedback depending on whether they had received blended F-2-F training or merely online training.

The mixed methods approach that was used in this study allowed the detection and assessment of leadership beliefs in their changing dynamics and in relation to multiple intervening contextual influences like training and the different modalities that this can take. The specific focus of this research though, did not cater for the assessment of all possible contributing factors in such dynamics: some biographical data emerged for their potential relevance in this investigation. Future studies are therefore suggested to directly target gender and age as they might contribute significantly to individual leadership learning ability or learning agility.

With regard to training, this investigation highlighted the relatively higher enriching power of blended learning when this is combined with pure e-learning. This advantage has been indicated by the higher frequency of leadership construct depolarization among participants in blended learning initiatives, as well as by the higher sense of adequacy that the same participants seem to gain from such training. Therefore, when change in leadership beliefs is the target, it seems advisable to couple e-learning initiatives with F-2-F traditional sessions. Further investigations of blended learning methods are all the same suggested, as the responsiveness to different training modalities that emerged in this study appeared to be potentially impacted by gender, age and possibly other circumstantial factors. The identification and the relative weighting of such factors may result in being particularly valuable in pursuing higher levels of cost-effectiveness in leadership training.

Chapter 6 – Conclusions and recommendations

This exploratory study has driven the attention towards the relevance of leadership training on the development of leadership beliefs. More specifically, the research focused on the shift in leadership beliefs of a group of managers while participating in a blended learning programme, which J&J Medical Italy organized to launch the Corporation’s new leadership model. The results of this study highlighted some interesting elements that, should they be confirmed by supplementary investigations, may provide important indications around multiple areas of interest both for researchers interested in leadership and for practitioners in J&J or in other companies that are facing similar challenges.

Here below are the challenges to which I am referring and their split according to their scope and perspectives.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In this chapter I would specifically addressed the challenges that concern J&J and the organizational audience. The little monitoring that leadership beliefs of managers have traditionally received in corporate trainings might be partially explained by the obstacles that such area of investigation poses both to external and internal researches in organizations. Cultural and social pressures limit the opportunities of external researchers to gain access to managers and other constraints prevent internal researchers form leveraging explicit and direct forms of investigations with colleagues even when these might deepen the understanding of complex areas like the one here discussed. As a result studies on the effectiveness of training on leadership beliefs are rare, even though the relevance of leadership beliefs of managers is unlikely to be marginal. Despite the presence more directive forms of organizational control of behaviours –i.e. incentive systems and disciplinary systems - leadership beliefs of managers presumably guide their actions and furthermore the assessments they make of the people reporting to them to a large extent.

By providing an example of how leadership beliefs and their dynamics can be assessed and studied, before and after training, I hope this investigation will strengthen both the interest of researchers and the focus of practitioners on these intangible elements which play a role in what the organization is today, but also in what it may become tomorrow. Therefore I count that the design and the outcomes of this exploratory study can inspire a deeper dive into this area of study and trigger further research with larger sets of participants. My hope is that the insights here proposed and the research questions that originated from this project might translate in research projects that can eventually provide stronger grounds for the development of leadership in present and future generations.

6.1 The effectiveness of leadership training

In the past decade, e-learning has rapidly gained visibility and space in the agendas of most organizations and it has often replaced more traditional F-2-F training methodologies, both in academia and in industry. Blended learning has been developed and proposed more recently, in a multitude of forms, to balance the over-confident use of on-line solutions, particularly in areas where the interpersonal dimension represented not only the means to deliver and develop learning, but also the subject matter of the training. Leadership training represents, in this perspective, a clear example of a field where the balancing of e-learning and F-2-F methodologies became somehow natural, but its value and effectiveness also generally assumed, requires in-depth investigation. Leadership blended learning as put forward in this work is a way in which employees in management positions are exposed to both online and F-2-F training with the ultimate scope to ameliorate their leadership knowledge in line with a particular organizational leadership direction. The outcome of this work has confirmed the hypothesis that changes in beliefs can occur depending on the circumstances. As a researcher, I purposely monitored the exposure to training environments and have focused this research on the effects of blended learning training on participants. Resultantly, this study was an attempt at understanding if and how leadership blended learning can assist in the reorganization of belief systems and if possible determine the type of personal construct dynamics resulting in such re-organization.

It was important that as a researcher I evaluated the relevance of leadership blended learning in attaining the said re-structuring in the belief systems. The results of this research have contributed to understanding of leadership construct dynamics, providing a confirmation that underlying elements of leadership belief systems are changeable as it emerged throughout the assessments run in this investigation. The data analysis in chapter 4 has put forward a number of indications to show that it is possible for an organization, through training, to shift leadership beliefs and the capabilities of participants to assess leadership even without shaping their self-perception and ideals. In fact, the experimental group, which was exposed to blended leadership learning, showed a shift in the way they construct reality without altering their image of their inner self as a leader. This is partly an advantage that companies like J&J Medical can benefit from because once it is proven that re-organization in the belief system is possible, then managers become able to alternate their decision making process in line with the objectives of the company, even without altering their value system or self-image.

I believe this investigation has highlighted that changes in cognitive capabilities are indeed possible in an organizational context, whereby managers can adhere to the framework of their organization, without necessarily adjusting their inner subjective beliefs and values. However, this research has not expanded so far as to confirm that subjective values that are personal to each individual always remain unaltered through blended learning. Investigating this hypothesis would have required a psychological assessment involving a self-worth scale, which was outside the scope of this study. In addition this would have required a larger, more balanced and controlled composition of both the experimental and control group. Once a more extended set of underlying factors - gender, age and personality - are brought under control, it would be interesting to further research whether any re-organization of inner core values are more or less predictive of actual leadership behaviours. In relation to the latter point, the results of my research tend to indicate that re-organization of beliefs is possible only in relation to objective and coming organizational goals, and blended learning training does not seem to impact negatively on the idea of self.

While there were positive outcomes, the exploratory nature of this work did not allow a definitive conclusion on whether blended learning is the ideal, or the most cost-effective approach when belief system re-structuring is the objective, and many questions have arisen, beckoning further investigation. In terms of relevance, shifts in belief systems were recorded mostly within the experimental group adopting the blended training method, and a lower shift was recorded in the other control group using only the online training technique. Other than the ability to trace the movement back to female participants in the experimental group only, as a researcher I cannot forego the analysis as to why no such shift was present in the other control group, thereby leading to a provisional conclusion that blended learning has a role to play in the shift in inner constructs. On the other hand, any major impact in re-organization of constructs could not be fully assessed and the determination of the dynamics underlying such re-structuring was rather limited, beckoning further investigative work before ascertaining the positive role of blended learning. Furthermore, the untangled concurrence of factors such as age, gender ratio disparity, personality type and self-application to the blended learning, have also proven to be a stumbling block in reaching a more final conclusion.

Thus, while it may be assumed that leadership blended learning may be of relevance in re-organization of leadership belief systems, the evidence provided in this work also suggests possible limitations such as blended learning demonstrating an advantage only in female participants. Consequently, any benefits so reaped should be assessed against the overall shift in leadership objectives of the organization, which at the time of this research seems to indicate that depolarization (i.e. enrichment) of constructs is only attained in female employees, thereby questioning the training methods to be used for male participants in order to provide equally enriching experiences. Resultantly, this work has put forward only minor indications as to the role played by blended learning in the re-arrangement of beliefs and much more work needs to be pursued on an academic level before reaching any conclusive evidence. Nonetheless, this study has managed to bring the attention to the role of leadership training and leadership blended learning specifically, on the development and leadership beliefs in J&J. The investigations has also indicated that other factors relate to belief systems and their development: participants’ age, gender and personality may need to be taken into consideration when selecting the modalities of training that the company intends to adopt for the development of desired leadership values and capabilities.

6.2 Gender and leadership

Gender diversity at the highest level of the organization represents a relevant issue for most multinationals and J&J is not an exception. Is the glass ceiling made thicker by the modalities of training that multinationals adopt? The identification and comprehension of how identical leadership training impacts differently participants, on the basis of their gender, may lead to the definition of more targeted and possibly more efficacious training.

Indeed, the results in this study demonstrate the potential role of gender issues in the responsiveness of participants to different kinds of training. It was possible through this research methodology to identify a shift in the female participants within the experimental group. The identified shift occurred only in female participants who were exposed to blended training. This result alone has given rise to additional research questions as to whether female participants responded better in a blended training scenario as opposed to being exposed only to online training. If female participants’ beliefs could be altered through blended learning, one may also want to discuss the reason for this effect in the shift of leadership beliefs. What are the framework indicators, e.g. the definition of different training enrolment criteria - in future leadership training sessions, in order for J&J Medical to reach its objectives? In fact, the outcome of this research also puts forward indications that blended training has certain elements to it that may assist the organisation in aligning the beliefs of its managers to those projected by the company. It is therefore recommended that future studies seek to identify these factors in leadership blended learning. Taking the questions and research methodology adopted in this work as a starting point, J&J might consider sponsoring future investigations around most relevant leadership framework elements and consequently, once concretely proven, the company may take such factors into consideration to determine both the syllabus and the delivery methods of its leadership training programmes.

From this research I was able to establish a path to investigate a few indicators that potentially lead to changes in leadership beliefs. Consistently with such a path and in recognition of the value it demonstrated, I recommend questions and metaphors and hence any research tool to be used in the study starts with elements familiar to the participants (e.g. the identification of a family leader and the establishment of a colleague that is viewed as a leader) and then moves to a more objective and abstract elicitation of information (e.g. self-image against that of an ideal leader). In this study, the research design moved from easy to identify with, to less easy to identify with, tasks. The research methodology used was an important factor contributing to the identification and observation of the development of personal constructs and, and enabled me to investigate their evolution during the blended learning programme at J&J. Since this design proved successful in shedding a light on underlying factors resulting in a shift in leadership beliefs, this design might be used again in any further investigation on beliefs.

Moreover because the recorded shift in beliefs appears to characterize all female participants and be gender dependant, it is suggested that the results obtained by means of this exploratory study are to be further tested with two important criteria in mind: an even level of gender participation and blended learning training as the main assessment framework. This study recorded and was limited by an evident discrepancy of gender balance in both the experiment group and in the control group, with the latter not having any female participants in it. Such gender imbalance of participants has also given rise to doubts on whether gender itself is a main element that determines the success of the shift in beliefs and that consequently one gender is more teachable than the other one when it comes to leadership blended training. Alternatively, looking at the status quo of the gender ratio this hypothesis could also be examined further in terms of the different training techniques adopted within the organisation. It raises the question of whether female leaders respond better to blended learning. As a researcher, I therefore question whether the same shift would have been attainable, had there been any female participants in the control group. If the gender ratio is equal in both groups that are subjected to different training techniques and a similar shift is also recorded for female participants in both groups, then it would be possible to document that gender does matter, and it should be accounted for when organizing and defining what kind of training is better to adopt. It would undoubtedly also become important to identify the key elements in the online training that resulted in different, but present, changes in participants’ leadership beliefs.

From a researcher’s perspective, the positive shift demonstrated by female participants raised another important query. Is the innovative leadership training programme at J&J Medical specifically aimed at decreasing the gap between both genders at the management level? Could the blended learning framework be targeted at equipping female managers for higher managerial positions or as a means to strengthen their current professional position? If, following future investigations in the field of leadership beliefs and gender, it is demonstrated that blended learning has the ability to especially cater for the training needs of professional females, then the innovative model by J&J Medical could also be used by other organisations, and perhaps even national authorities and public systems to overcome the gender ratio imbalance. This would reflect the move towards equality of the genders at the workplace.

The monitoring of leadership blended training with a more balanced ratio of gender, among participants, is here strongly suggested. In this way, J&J will be in a better position to identify and tackle further the gender issues raised in terms of the role of gender on the attainment of required leadership standards and with regard to the different leadership training techniques. The researcher would then be able to extract common elements in the training techniques resulting in shifts in beliefs either in relation to the same gender or for both genders, always depending on the outcome of the data analysis. If the outcome of any future research indicates that a shift in belief is a gender trait, within a specific training context or otherwise, then it would be opportune for the organisation to examine whether different training methods are to be adopted depending on the gender type. As a researcher, I feel that this may become particularly relevant for J&J, especially since there is a low evidence of depolarization (i.e. enrichment) in leadership belief systems pertaining to the male gender. One would also need to look into the types of leadership training programmes that best assist male leaders in enriching their leadership belief systems.

However, there are other ethical and legal issues that each organisation would need to take into account before launching gender specific training. Effective leadership training is likely to impact people’s careers, and companies need to consider that such training will therefore most likely reflect on the opportunities, advancements and hence, potential salaries these people will get. Gender specific gaps in training efficacy would then most likely translate into more visible and undesired gender driven gaps in employees’ remuneration. A more appropriate means to an end would be to follow up on my earlier recommendation to have a re-run of the training techniques with a proper gender balance ratio and to identify factors that lead to a shift in beliefs in both genders. Once these factors are identified, training should be designed in such a way as to consist of a combination of both male and female oriented impacting factors. The researcher and the organisation itself would then be able to extract information and run a gender progress comparison to monitor and double test its inset beliefs of key training elements leading to change. This not only prevents unnecessary time consumption but it would ensure that equality of the employees and their leadership knowledge advancement is also appropriately addressed.

6.3 Leadership learnability or learning agility

The present work has shown that leadership blended learning seems to translate consistently into participants’ learning: either in terms of convergence of their belief systems (i.e. polarization of leadership personal contracts) towards the proposed leadership model, or through the enrichment of participants’ belief systems (i.e. depolarization of constructs) which eventually include the same models. Once these differences have emerged, it becomes natural to invite J&J and other organizations to account for such diversity between their employees’ capacity to learn about leadership, which I indicate for simplicity as leadership learnability or learning agility. This ability is obviously rather abstract and it requires the use of a flexible research tool to allow proper monitoring of personal leadership construct progress of each employee.

The source of data and the grounds for this research may in this regard provide very useful and valuable suggestions, as key observations here derived mainly from the administration of questionnaires and repertory grids before, during and after the training initiatives participants of a blended learning leadership programme underwent at J&J Medical Italy in 2013. While, by means of the mixed research method, I was able to confirm that re-organization of belief system was possible within the specific context of leadership training, as a researcher I feel it opportune to put forward additional recommendations in relation to possible future usage of the research tools opted for in this study to detect and measure individual leadership learnability or learning agility.

To tie up with recommendations earlier suggested in this chapter, repertory grids are very useful in eliciting participants’ beliefs which are closely related to cognitive aspects and personal to every individual especially since cognition is harder for the researcher to investigate. Future work would highly benefit from repertory grids as these will assist in collecting in data format the cognitions of the research subjects and will consequently allow their investigation in more detail. The latter would prove relevant in cases where the research is especially focused on the psychological aspect of leadership and when the research objective is that of identifying the cognitive dynamics common to leaders.

Due to the safety characteristic in overcoming bias, repertory grids should also be used in order to codify underlying dynamics resulting in a shift in beliefs. It was already possible through this research to tabulate the participants’ preferred leadership models and constructs that contribute to the shift in beliefs. This enabled the measurement and evaluation of the participants’ success in aligning their beliefs to the novel leadership programme and consequently to acquiring the characteristics being promoted by J&J Medical. Since cognitions are dynamic in nature, repertory grids helped in detecting their evolution and minimized bias in the interpretation of data. Furthermore, repertory grids are also useful in assessing self-perception, the initial analytical level and training progress of the trainees. Repertory grids therefore are a beneficial tool in eliciting personal construct information which is rather abstract and which varies depending on the leader being assessed.

I also propose the future use of repertory grids in either discussing questions that have arisen during this work or in specifically establishing a framework of dynamics which impact the belief structure, because I believe that this method can help the investigator to define very accurately the link between main research elements. This work has, for instance, helped me in assessing the link between blended learning and the image of self as an ideal leader. Moreover, the use of specialized software (i.e. Idiogrid) allowed me to minimize the possibility to influence the participants whether verbally or by other means as I could elicit and elaborate data without my direct intervention and thereby reduce any misinterpretation of the data collected.

Repertory grids are also fundamental in observing the polarization and depolarization impacts once employees undergo different training. Consequently, these grids may be adapted to other contexts and areas within the organization; especially in the case a new system is introduced. For instance, the efficient models adopted in this work can also be extended to professional education. Medical professionals can benefit from employing the concepts as identified in this research in their training. Training progress and consequently professional advancement in a related medical field in relationship to the usage of medical devices may be well monitored and followed up depending on the learning level and agility in the use of such devices. Administering the innovative leadership training framework as adapted by J&J Medical can take place progressively in the introduction of new technology and equipment. Indeed, a derived advantage of this training programme is its flexibility in administering it.

I strongly feel that the use of metaphor analysis with repertory grids provided an opportunity to the organization to monitor and rank each employee’s progress against different training exposure. Metaphors and repertory grids proved very valuable sources from which I could determine if J&J Medical’s training was effective and I could also identify a few aspects of that training which might be reconsidered to unleash the leadership potential of J&J managers.

6.4 Insider research paradigm for the development of new leadership skills

In the past decades, there has been a move towards generating a new type of leadership as current global market challenges are not the same as they were in the past and consequently, former leadership training principles may not contain the teaching of leadership skills that are required to face today’s economic challenges. The ability to collect and read across large sets of complex and diverse data have become more and more relevant in contemporary business environments where traditional management knowledge has less applicability and where the capability to develop ad hoc insights may prove more useful. The strengthening of learning capabilities and data driven sense-making skills has indeed become crucial. At J&J, I not only had the opportunity to develop such skills through the double role of internal researcher that I played in this research but I also had the opportunity to propose and receive approval to extend experience of insider research and learning to other colleagues, by piloting a postgraduate course: Executive Master’s in Management Research, which I co-designed and launched in 2015. The first edition of this master’s degree is still on-going as I am writing this final chapter of my thesis but I believe it was worth mentioning as it was built on some of the learning that I gained acting as internal researcher for this study at J&J Medical Italy.

As internal researcher I had to face numerous limitations, as illustrated among the ethical challenges I described in chapter 3. Conducting this study, in a real organizational environment, inevitably impacted my decisions about the timing of the research, the number and the duration of assessments, the inclusion and the exclusion of alternative forms of data collection and analysis. With regard to timing, when the study was ready to be launched, all the online trainings, supporting the new leadership model of J&J, had just been deployed. Such training initiatives covered both the participants who were subsequently enrolled as members of the experimental group and the ones who became part of the control group. In a way the precocity of the online training, with respect to the start of the research, set the baseline for this study and the collections of data that followed thereafter. This has had the clear effect that, within the J&J leadership blended learning initiative, here considered, the investigation merely addressed the effects of F-2-F learning reinforcements.

With regard to the number and the duration of research assessments, sensitive to the culture of J&J and respectful of participants’ work commitments, I decided that assessments could not be more than two and could not require more than thirty minutes each, to be completed. On this point, long and/or complex elicitations and assessments of metaphors were intentionally avoided as these would have required interviews - incompatible with the anonymous nature of the study – and was likely to expose the entire study to criticism and rejection, due to the pragmatism of the company. For this reason the collection and the analysis of metaphors was maintained very brief and it was dealt leveraging the most evident and accessible elements that metaphor analytic procedures can offer.

By being employed within the same organisation in which I was running the present study, I had the opportunity to personally experience the dynamics of insider research. This dual role required discipline on my part, especially in terms of my perception in undertaking both the research at hand as well as my day-to-day tasks. This experience has moved me on to the new scale types of capabilities that allowed me to look at my daily activities at J&J as constant areas of learning and possible field of experimentation and knowledge sharing. Of initial importance to every internal researcher is to research the concept of independence and its limitations, as this will set a researcher’s frame of mind throughout the execution of the dualistic role entrusted to them. Indeed, understanding the main idea behind independence of mind was the founding stone that led me to acquire more skills along the way. Whenever, I faced a contradiction or each time I was uncertain of the way in which I was to proceed or interact with my colleagues or in my research, I always returned back to the definition of independence. Each time, I examined this definition against the dualistic role I was playing. This has led me to improve my analytical skills as a manager within the organisation and it also instilled in me a deeper quest for knowledge as I carried out this study.

These analytical skills pushed me to develop problem solving abilities, which are indeed at the core of any human resources department, especially since it is usually this section within the organisation which deals with resolving conflicts emerging from human interaction, an issue which no company can avoid all the time. For instance, I was able to understand a crucial element for which the human resources department is usually responsible for – the element of training its employees and to observe inter-personal relationships between colleagues. I was able to determine a number of factors that contribute to or limit attendance at training sessions. This was important for me in my dualistic role as it served as an internal audit for human resources within the organisation. I am now able to put forward recommendations for improvement, not only in terms of attendance by allocating specific training hours for all employees concerned but also for ameliorating other areas and getting to know colleagues on a more professional basis. This analysis has in return also aided me in my overall role as a manager of J&J Medical as I am now better able to manage internal political dynamics within the same organisation since my analytical abilities have deepened and thus I am able to contribute more to resolving problems or challenges within J&J Medical in line with its goals. It is the employment of my analytical skills as opposed to an immediate reaction to problem solving that I believe has increased the overall efficiency of my management ability.

As a researcher, I could identify a number of elements that required further academic probing which were not at the forefront when I commenced working on this study, but which nonetheless have by their very ambiguous nature made room for more growth in the field of leadership beliefs. While this work was not conclusive in all areas, it can certainly form part of a larger group of knowledge development that is currently taking place in order to efficiently tackle new market problems. To this extent, this work is part of the new leadership movement bringing other researchers, academics and managers together as a team in the quest for new knowledge, which has put leadership in the modern economy under the magnifying glass.

It is also true that insider research does not come without challenges. Being a participant in the leadership training itself was perhaps more difficult for me in terms of providing an objective answer, especially since it was difficult to keep the inquisitive mind of a researcher independent from the training sessions. The common ground that I found in order to reduce the risk of insufficient objectiveness of the research in this situation was that to exercise that level of independence as possibly reasonable in this context. However, as an internal researcher, I would always double-check my findings from the perspective of both roles. Employing the mixed method research model has also provided a shield against bias. Each observation was indeed constantly challenged from both my investigative perspectives (as a researcher and a manager) and against the two methods of study (metaphor analysis and repertory grids), which clearly expanded my analytical skills and resulted in more time consumption running the analytics against the concept of independence, than it would have if I was an outsider researcher. I believe that this crossed-double checking exercise developed my critical and analytical skills and has eventually strengthened my standard and appreciation of impartiality as a relevant value. This inner belief shift was consequently one that consequently applied to me. By adding a further element to the already existent blended learning, that is, the task to also act as an observer, my organisational knowledge grew and my analytical thinking assisted in the shifting of my own personal leadership beliefs. Having experienced this first hand, I believe that the organisation could also benefit from relating its common values and goals to other leaders within it and to ask them to follow this up through an observation session which could also become part of the blended learning programme. It is my personal opinion that by becoming participative observers as opposed to being mere training subjects, people in management positions will not only understand the values and goals of the company further but also, this will in itself assist them in making these beliefs part of their own belief system.

Another challenge that I had to face as an internal researcher was that of dealing with uncomfortable situations, since by providing a research study on the intangible elements of leadership as is this study, I had to overcome the fear of rejection and potential setbacks that come when making recommendations for improvements whose benefits are not immediately observable in any organization. Learning to restrain my inner beliefs about possible reactions from my colleagues and employer has helped me develop skills to make well-thought-through decisions in the best interest of the organization, as opposed to my personal best interests. The latter is a very essential leadership element as this generates multiple benefits within any organization. For instance, it allows a manager to keep decisions balanced in such a way that such decisions are not made solely on personal grounds, but on grounds that provide holistic benefits across the organization. The urge for the highest possible level of impartiality and the ability to discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable compromises has become an essential tool, especially when employed within a human resources scenario or in a management position in general.

This experience has stretched and allowed me to develop my multi-tasking skills as a leader not only on a physical level, in terms of personal efficiency - but especially in terms of analytical thinking. Thus, insider research has been a very positive experience not only for the development of my personal and professional skills but also as a contributor to the current search for new leadership principles, alongside other international colleagues. Resultantly, this work has proven that organisations can benefit greatly by allowing insider research as this benefits them in three ways: firstly, they are investing in their own employees and these employees can in return provide valuable input to the organisation on the basis that the knowledge of their organisation has now grown. Secondly, such studies also serve as internal audit for the organisation with recommendations that top level management can assesses and adapt to improve the overall conduct of affairs within the entity. Thirdly, insider research puts the organisation at the forefront of the research within the same market industry.

6.5 Conclusions

This chapter has put forward and assessed recommendations by providing a link between what this research work has achieved and how it can be used as a stepping stone to build a bridge for future academic investigation in the best interest, not only of J&J Medical but also to other organisations alike.

While it was possible to adapt training methods employed in the educational scenario, this chapter has also highlighted some areas of concern in relation to the difficulty not only in the re-arrangement of belief structures but most importantly in the preliminary step of understanding the underlying mechanisms which lead to the re-organisation of the belief systems. This is in line with the current trends towards the identification of new leadership traits and skills that equip leaders with a much deeper understanding and a more circumstantiated knowledge about their role within an organisation.

As a researcher, I feel that by means of this study I was able to trigger the process for further understanding of the more complex and innate element in the leadership arena, which necessitates a firmer identification of the most effective training modalities. It would be an academic achievement if my work is developed further with more concrete outcomes on this important and yet, severely under investigated aspect of leadership training. My achievement did not only lead me to achieve personal and professional growth but it can also be used as a tool that organisations like J&J Medical can benefit from to meet their long-term goals.

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Appendix One – Structure and contents of J&J leadership online sessions

The very first communication and training session on the new J&J model took the form of two videos which J&J managers were invited to view at distance of a few week since the launch of the programme. Invitations were sent by email, directly to participants, and they contained a relatively succinct explanation about the aims of the activity. The emails contained the links and the instructions to access and run the videos.

While the first video can be considered a very broad introduction around the reasons why J&J had to reconsider drastically its leadership model and decided consequently to launch a new framework, the second video focused more on the 4 leadership imperatives, it was slightly longer and significantly more interactive.

These videos were designed to be viewed by participants when they could; videos could be stopped and restarted at any stage and they adapted to the time availability of each participants: in this sense the videos responded and addressed all the typical challenges of online asynchronous training. The second video was divided in four scenes that presented a case study with dialogues around performance management. At the end of each scene, participants were invited to stop the video and complete an online questionnaire which worked like a logbook of the training. This online logbook gathered the views of participants, step by step, and ratified their completion of the first phase of training on the newly launched leadership model. Both videos had the format of cartoons and responded to the clear ambition of J&J to develop rapidly a class of outstanding leaders, capable to understand the challenges in front of them and ready to drive J&J to success in a business environment which was becoming increasingly complex, year after year.

Appendix Two – Structure and contents of J&J leadership F-2-F sessions

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Appendix Three – Online questionnaire on leadership metaphors

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Appendix Four – Ideogrid customizations to investigate leadership beliefs

Idiogrid was customized to produce repertory grids on leadership. This produced and exposed participants to a succession of iterative comparisons among a set composed by five elements: the participant, her/his ideal of leadership and three other leaders, whom were chosen by each participant respectively, among friends, colleagues and family. Comparisons were then driven, via Ideogrid, through a simple sentence completion task, which the software automatically compiled, on the basis of the customisations that are detailed in this appendix.

Appendix Five – Outcomes collection and coding sheets by participant

Outcomes that were obtained from the repeated use of online questionnaires and repertory grids were initially collected and analysed at individual level. In this appendix I report the coding sheets of all participants individual by individual to clarify how the row data were categorized and processed to identify the emerging links. This coding represented a key step in the development of the study and it illustrates how the theoretical hypotheses produced by this investigation are grounded in the research data that I have had the opportunity to collect.

Excerpts of the coding sheets set forth below were included in the main text of the thesis ( to highlight how the different research methods I have adopted did enable the gathering and the analysis of key essential measures. Beside this, it seems important to present also the individual coding sheets in their totality as they clarify how research data, once collected, were ordered and elaborated. It was the constant and transparent reference to the actual data there recorded that allowed me to maintain an appropriate balance between the theoretical requirements of this research and the constraints of the context where this took place.

The coding sheets that follow are the work behind the synoptic table 4.27, which simply aggregates and summarizes their contents. These two levels of data analysis exemplify the extent to which the theoretical hypotheses presented in chapters 5 and 6 are grounded in the data that I have had the opportunity to collect at J&J Medical, Italy. I therefore consider this appendix a key section of the thesis.

DATA COLLECTION SHEET BY PARTICIPANT

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[...]


[1] Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali "Guido Carli" - LUISS Business School http://www.lbs.luiss.it/en/

[2] Category of Age: 1 = 26-30 years; 2 = 31-40 years; 3 = 41-50 years; 4 = + 50 years.

[3] Source Domains: ≤ for contiguous; = for corresponding; ≠ for different.

[4] Category of Embodiment: = for corresponding; ≠ for different

[5] Category of Conceptual Metaphors: ≤ for contiguous; = for corresponding; ≠ for different.

[6] Category of Age: 1 = 26-30 years; 2 = 31-40 years; 3 = 41-50 years; 4 = + 50 years.

[7] Category of Constructs: D = depolarize; P = polarize; S = stable.

[8] Category of Idea Leader and Self: TO = translate around origin; TX = translate around axes; S = stable.

[9] Category of Self versus Ideal Leader: C= converge; D = diverge; S = stable.

[10] Category of Conceptual Metaphor and Source Domains: ≤ for contiguous; = for corresponding; ≠ for different.

[11] Category of Embodiment: = for corresponding; ≠ for different.

[12] Category of Learning: e-L = exposed only to eLearning; F2F = exposed to blended with F2F sessions.

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Pages
190
Year
2016
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3 MB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v345678
Institution / College
Lancaster University – Department of Educational Research
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changing perspectives leadership blended learning outcomes insider management action research johnson medical italy

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Title: Changing Perspectives on Leadership through Leadership Blended Learning