AOUG Vice-Chancellor Brenda Gourley Award for Business Studies

Awarded to Lindsay Wilson Jones

Sharing Leadership in Top Teams: A Study of Non-profit Federated Board Leadership

The role of the board in leading non-profit organisations is not well understood, and across all sectors boards are often thought of as ‘black boxes’ where inputs and outputs are the research focus. In the voluntary sector, acknowledged to be hugely diverse in relation to purpose and mission, a further challenge is that boards are made up of unpaid volunteers, who can walk away at the drop of a hat. Irrespective of sectors how boards function remains opaque, given the narrow research focus to date and limited boardroom access. For contemporary researchers a key challenge is to gain access to the boardroom to better understand board leadership from trustees’ perspectives of experiencing and taking up leadership positions. My research is an exploratory study of non-profit board leadership in a wider governance system. I was granted access to two boards and the senior management team of one UK national charity. This enabled me to explore leadership and governance from within two boardrooms and one federation setting, in individual interviews; observation of meetings and board archives. Findings from 20 board interviews; four management and 11 others together with observations of six meetings and 41 documents were analysed using a hybrid of thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) and positioning theory (Davies and Harre 1990). I have just embarked on the exciting but challenging process of writing up my thesis. I look forward to sharing insights from this rare perspective on board leadership and how I am opening the ‘black box’ at a future date in 2021. I am a full-time PhD student at The Open University. I hold BSc and MSc degrees in psychology from The Open University together with an M Res in Business and Law (2017). I am a member nominated Director of Faculty Services Limited. Formerly I held senior management roles in Human Resources (HR) in both the Corporate and Public sectors in South Africa and in Professional Legal Services in the UK. I am able to draw on my personal experience of top teams in different cultural settings, to explore the everyday realities of federated board leadership and governance.