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Faculty & Research


Mitigating Anxiety: The Role of Strategic Leadership Groups During Radical Organisational Change

Journal Article
This article examines the role of strategic leadership groups in radical organizational change. Previous research has focused on how ‘heroic’ individual leaders guide change. In contrast, the authors argue that strategic leadership groups are indispensable to understanding and supporting radical organizational change. Building on a longitudinal study in a global European company, the authors' research identifies four phases of ‘negotiated order’ that shape group and organisational responses to change. The authors' findings reveal that strategic leadership groups help with the management of emotions, and with understanding the shifting authority relations that inevitably arise during periods of change. Drawing upon the psychoanalytic concept of ‘projective identification’, the authors develop a theoretical framework for understanding the tensions of change. The model shows how emotional coalitions that develop in strategic leadership groups afford a source of political and psychological containment against the anxieties of radical organisational change. These formations offer transitional spaces for change, providing opportunities for progress. The advantage of this new perspective on radical change is that it helps to move the organization beyond periods of ambivalence and conflict, with positive implications for leadership practice.

Professor of Management Practice in Organisational Behaviour