Leadership and Organisation in the Emergency Services in Extreme Contexts

  • Edwards , Prof. Gareth (CoI)
  • Gaggiotti, Prof. Hugo (CoI)
  • Schedlitzki, Prof. Doris (CoI)
  • Galpin, Dr Kay (CoI)

Project Details


This unique project aims to explore the leadership issues within the context of the emergency services which is an under-researched management themes. Data has been collected by Prof. Paresh Wankhade (EHBS) from one NHS ambulance service in the UK which will form basis of this empirical study.

Key themes to be examined in the project:

1. Relational and Sociomaterial Aspects of Caring Leadership. There is an opportunity to extend the theory of Caring Leadership through the exploration of the dialectical nature of over and under caring, particularly in the context of leadership practices predominantly influenced by Command and Control. Examining practices 'behind the curtains' demonstrates that Command and Control can be driven by a desire to care and offers an interesting corollary to ideas about the need for shared or distributed leadership to be developed to reduce gaps in hierarchy and build leadership caring. By using sociomateriality as a lens and viewing the presence or absence of key objects, e.g. PPE as a manifestation of care, leadership performances can be illuminated and critiqued in this light. This has important implications for leadership practice and the management of materiality as well as the complex relations in extreme contexts.

2. Leadership paradox. Sensemaking of Command and Control to enable Improvisation to flourish in extreme contexts. There is a debate that suggests Emergency Leadership contexts might benefit from developing a more distributed approach to leadership. We propose an exploration of the dichotomy of command and control to create room for manoeuvre – how power hierarchies can be navigated and temporarily or permanently subverted through improvisation and sensemaking. This has the possibility to provide a much more nuanced approach to the debate which takes into account the complexity and situated context of leadership performances.

3. Given the complexity of the context of Emergency Leadership, we also propose an exploration of leadership-followership relationships and consider the implications for organisational adaptability using the complexity perspective. This could consider aspects of negative capability, abduction and complex responsive processes of relating - examined through a wish to understand how leaders and other actors navigate complex, emergency situations and make sense of the need to take action and respond in uncertain and complex or chaotic circumstances.

It is expected that the project will generate at least three high impact journal outputs which are aimed at 4* journals such as Human Relations, British Journal f Management and Leadership Quarterly including a potential research grant.

Effective start/end date1/03/2331/05/24

Collaborative partners


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