Studying collective leadership: The road ahead

Gail T. Fairhurst, Brad Jackson, Erica Gabrielle Foldy, Sonia M. Ospina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the concluding article, we move from providing a map of the collective leadership (CL) research field that has been conducted to date to providing a travel guide that we hope can inspire both experienced and novice travelers to push out the frontiers of exploration of CL. A Rapid Appraisal analysis of the extant CL research revealed that most of the work to date has focused on shared and distributed leadership; taken an empirical rather than a conceptual focus; and strongly emphasized qualitative versus quantitative research methods. Looking ahead to future CL research, we identify the following three challenges as being the most significant for leadership researchers to confront: the fundamental ambiguity of the space in which CL resides; the definitional problems inherited from leadership studies and exacerbated by its ambiguous nature; and the need to more fully embrace issues of process in CL. In response to these challenges, the following three guidelines are provided: the need to decipher CL configurations and its power-based foundations; the need to establish how leadership is made relevant in a collective setting; and the need for CL researchers to adopt strong process models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-614
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Leadership
  • collective leadership
  • hierarchy
  • process
  • rapid appraisal
  • role ambiguity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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