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Rethinking the Adaptive Leadership model through the Italian Adaptive Leadership Behavior Questionnaire

Novellini, Paola (2022) Rethinking the Adaptive Leadership model through the Italian Adaptive Leadership Behavior Questionnaire. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


Since Heifetz designed the adaptive leadership framework in 1994, the academic literature has benefitted from many publications about it. Most of these are qualitative research studies focusing on specific adaptive challenges and how the adaptive leadership framework can be practically used to face these. It seems very few have dealt with adaptive leadership through the quantitative lens and have attempted to measure adaptive leadership behaviors or tested Heifetz’s adaptive leadership model. In response, this PhD aimed to develop a greater understanding of followers’ perception of adaptive leadership behaviors in the Italian corporate context and to investigate whether Heifetz’s adaptive leadership model can apply to the Italian culture. Hence, the research question “Can followers’ perception of adaptive leadership behaviors be measured across the Italian corporate sector and what insights does this give for Heifetz’s adaptive leadership model?” was answered using a multi-method research design which involved two questionnaire surveys, a card sorting activity and an expert evaluation.
Among the questionnaires available in literature, Northouse’s Adaptive Leadership Questionnaire (2016) was chosen for answering the research question. It was administered to a purposive sample of 400 respondents working in the corporate sector in Italy. The psychometric assessment identified that this questionnaire did not seem to be sufficiently valid when applied to the Italian context. In response, as detailed in the thesis, Northouse’s AL questionnaire was adapted and extended into a new questionnaire with the goal of providing a quantitative adaptive leadership behavior measurement tool for the Italian corporate context. This new questionnaire was designed through a card sorting activity which took place over three rounds involving 25 participants. They were to match each designed item with one of the six dimensions the adaptive leadership framework is based on. Once an item would receive at least 85% of participants’ consensus, it would be validated and included into what became the Italian Adaptive Leadership Behavior Questionnaire (IALBQ). The psychometrics of the IALBQ were validated with a purposive sample of 459 respondents across the Italian corporate sector. The IALBQ was further validated through an international 7-expert panel evaluation.
Considering the lack of quantitative tools which have been validated for the measurement of adaptive leadership behaviors, the IALBQ is a significant contribution in this way.
Its use allowed to throw light into what adaptive leadership behaviors can be perceived and measured in the Italian corporate context, that the Italian public sector seems to be paralyzed and change-averse in comparison to the private sector and that Italians are oriented to authoritative and directive leadership over adaptive leadership with this characteristic being evident in typically Italian small enterprises (11-50 employees).
It also identified the adaptive leadership behavior called ‘identifying the adaptive challenge’ as problematic. Hence these results lead to challenge Heifetz’s (1994) adaptive leadership six-dimensional model. Findings suggest that the model should be redesigned as a five-dimensional model, with the exclusion of the so called ‘identifying the adaptive challenge’. Considering the lack of publications aiming to test the claims of the adaptive leadership model, this PhD also makes an important contribution to the world of academics, researchers, and scholars in this way. In addition, the IALBQ leads to rethink adaptive leadership. Differently from many publications which see adaptive leadership instrumentally as a solution to adaptive challenges, the IALBQ opens up a proactive perspective where five observable and measurable adaptive leadership behaviors can take place on a daily basis in order for staff to be ready to face changes when they happen rather than working on adaptability only after a challenge has occurred.

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Depositing User: Miss Nicola Jackson


Item ID: 15863

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Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2023 13:28
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2023 12:00


Author: Paola Novellini

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