Breakthrough Research

RCLA's original, cutting-edge research is shifting the discourse about leadership from a focus on heroic leaders to a more collective, relational and inclusive view.

RCLA scholars move beyond questions of who is a leader and what leaders do, to how leadership is practiced and how leadership makes change possible. We conduct research with leaders rather than on leaders to uncover and cultivate insights that describe leadership clearly and with an authentic voice.

RCLA's research radically expands the notion of how people at all levels of organizations and across all sectors of society can take up leadership for the public good.

Characteristics of Our Research

  • Participatory Methods for Discoveries that Matter: Amid rising concern about higher education loss of relevance in the face of real-life problems, we are committed to engaged scholarship  research with an impact on current social issues and real-time strategies for addressing them. We draw on and document leaders practice-grounded expertise to offer insights for others engaged in similar work and to produce knowledge about how leadership happens.
  • Mixed Methodologies: Leadership is a complex phenomenon with multiple dimensions and individual as well as collective elements, so we design research projects to reflect this complexity. RCLA uses state-of-the-art methods for research and analysis, including ethnography, case studies, narrative inquiry and surveys, as well as participatory methodologies.
  • Action-based Research: In addition to more traditional research methods, RCLA often uses action learning approaches, such as Cooperative Inquiry, in which public service leaders engage with peers in cycles of action and reflection around burning questions from their work. Such collaborative learning environments foster knowledge directly applicable to the work and build new theory based on what works in practice.
  • A Developmental Approach: Through our research, RCLA engages with individuals and organizations to uncover and document tacit and explicit knowledge. As leaders enhance their own awareness, they deepen their personal and organizational capacity to adapt to new challenges, institutionalize new leadership and management practices, and document and share information and learning on a regular basis.