Leadership Research Methods

Leadership researchers use different methods to engage with leaders who are both consumers of leadership research and a key source of new knowledge. Beyond facilitating a more equal exchange between practitioners and researchers, collaborative learning approaches enable participants to gain new insights into their own leadership practices and better inform the broader field of public service. We use:

  • Mixed Methods — Leadership is a complex phenomenon, comprising multiple dimensions and both individual and collective elements. We design research projects that account for this complexity by using a wide range of methods from qualitative narrative inquiry to surveys and quantitative studies.

  • Action-based Research — An action learning approach allows public service leaders to engage with their peers to inquire systematically on questions that emerge from their work. This collaborative learning environment exposes leaders to relevant research while they contribute to the development of new theory.

At all phases of research, we emphasize:

  • Encouraging dialogue and inquiry — Our work engages multiple stakeholders, including practitioners, as important sources of knowledge and theory building. By integrating previously neglected perspectives and contexts, we look to build on a more complete understanding of leadership and its possibilities.
  • Using multiple methods, including participatory methods, for discoveries that matter — To produce scholarship relevant to current social issues and strategies, our research focuses on practice-grounded expertise to develop knowledge explaining how leadership emerges that can be shared and applied where it is most needed.
  • Building on a developmental approach — We engage individuals and organizations to develop specific knowledge on effective leadership practices. Our approach enhances awareness to generate the personal and organizational capacity to adapt to new challenges and helps share these insights.