Når hierarki og delt ledelse mødes: Et casestudie af et gourmetkøkken

Agnethe Pontoppidan Frantsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


New approaches within the field of organizational theory as well as leadership theory reject the idea of hierarchy as a valid and effective organizational structure. Even more they reject the authoritarian leadership style that comes with it. Instead these theories seem to favor the idea of flatter and more democratic team structures and, accordingly, the idea of dispersed leadership. Power should not rest with one individual alone, but must be shared between several leadership actors. This causes a clash between hierarchy and team work since it bases itself upon the paradox between domination and empowerment. The thesis at hand will attempt to show how such a clash or conflict hold a solution in the use of distributed leadership. The thesis is based upon a case study of a modern gourmet kitchen. An ethnographic approach was chosen to uncover the leadership phenomena as it unfolded in the kitchen, while a priori concepts for an in depth analysis of that particular phenomena were chosen subsequently. These concepts are differentiation and domination as representing the hierarchy and thereby also the more traditional approach to leadership versus de-differentiation and collaboration representing dispersed leadership and thereby a blurring of the boundary between leader and follower. The analysis shows how the kitchen draws upon a hybrid way of organizing, resulting in a very complex approach to leadership. The structure of a traditional hierarchy serves as an overall setting or main frame for the kitchen. Within that setting, however, distributed leadership finds it scope through team based structures. Hereby the team members are both empowered by the kitchen´s top management and by their own perception of themselves as skilled workers able to take on a responsibility. Such perceptions means that the team members know when to step into the active leadership role according to the situation at hand and when to go with the roles defined by the hierarchy. Reliable performance and coordination of the task at hand, often under a heavy time pressure, is consequently the result of the melding of hierarchical role-based structures with more flexibility-enhancing processes including a blurring of the boundary between leader and follower. From a theoretical point of view this causes at least two questions: Is it possible to talk about distributed leadership within a hierarchical setting, or will it merely become yet another of the top management´s control mechanisms? Who is the leader and who is the follower within a dispersed leadership setting – and is it necessary to make such a distinction at all? The thesis at hand will include a discussion of these questions building on the notion that this particular kitchen has a well-defined hierarchical system of distributed leadership.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages121