Using the Multiple Case Study Design to Decipher Contextual Leadership Behaviors in Indian Organizations

By Vohra, Veena | Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Using the Multiple Case Study Design to Decipher Contextual Leadership Behaviors in Indian Organizations


Vohra, Veena, Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods


1. Introduction

In an age of complexity, rapid change, uncertainty and large organizations, leaders are more important than ever (House, Spangler and Woycke, 1991). In the book titled India's Global Powerhouses, Nirmalya Kumar et al (2009) opine that the role of the leader has been an important catalyst for those Indian firms that have transformed from being local Indian players to powerful global players. A study of senior Indian managers highlighted that senior members have to play their strategic, operational, and leadership roles far more effectively than in a sheltered economy (Khandwala, 2004), as in a hypercompetitive economy managers need to be far more versatile and competent.

A primary objective of this study was to explore contextual leadership behaviors in Indian organizations, it was of significant importance to define the context of the Indian business organizations. Additionally, individual behavior is influenced by perception and the sense that we make of our contexts, therefore it was essential to understand the context of the organization as the leader perceived it. This would enable an understanding of the linkage between the leader's perception of the complexity in his environment and the actions taken in response to it. This called for an interpretive and naturalistic approach.

Since the objective of this study was to capture the context of leadership in rich detail, the case study design seemed highly appropriate. When the researcher cannot manipulate the relevant behavior and contemporary events are examined, both conditions in this research, case study is the preferred research design (Yin, 1981). As Yin (1981) notes, because the context is deliberately part of the design, there will always be too many 'variables' for the number of observations made: consequently the application of standard experimental and survey designs and criteria are not appropriate, although issues of validity and generalizability have to be addressed. Yin (1984) stated that though a multiple case design is complex, it permits induction of rich and reliable models. Accordingly, a multiple case design was used in this research, employing two levels of analysis: 1. the external organizational environment as the context 2. the leader.

The remainder of the paper is structured as follows. An overview of the how the appropriate philosophical framework to study leadership was chosen is presented. This is followed by a description of the multiple case study design approach. Next the data collection, data analysis and case study writing sections are presented. The last two sections deal with the cross case analysis and conclusion.

2. Choosing an appropriate philosophical framework to study leadership

"Qualitative researchers approach their studies with a certain paradigm or world view, a basic set of beliefs or assumptions that guide their inquiries"(Creswell, 1998, p. 74). The qualitative approach of the study was informed by Schutz's theory of social phenomenology as both a philosophical framework and a methodology. Schutz's social phenomenology (1967) is a descriptive and interpretive theory of social action that focuses on subjective experience by emphasizing that researchers should look at how actors construct their ideas about the world.

Schutz proposed three essential postulates for the research process. The postulate of logical consistency requires the researcher to maintain a high degree of clarity of the conceptual framework applied and the method followed. A clear process detailing this was outlined in the study. His second postulate requires the model to be grounded in the subjective meaning the action had for the actor. This postulate was rigorously adhered to by using the reflections of the participants, their words and building the participants context based on their interpretation. Schutz's third postulate of adequacy requires the researcher to demonstrate consistency between the constructs as used by the researcher and as understood by the actors. …

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