Research Spotlight on Bristol Leadership & Change Centre

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Over the next few months, we will be bringing you Research Spotlights on some of our research centres and groups to give you and understanding of the work undertaken within each area.

This first spotlight focuses on the Bristol Leadership & Change Centre:

Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC) is a research centre within the Bristol Business School, with 52 members including 32 faculty members, 8PhD students and 12 visiting fellows/professors. BLCC has built a thriving community of academics, practitioners and students all actively engaging with and exploring the complex nature of leadership and change in contemporary organisations and society.

The focus of their work ranges from promoting leadership and organisational change in the NHS, to supporting people with complex multiple needs in Bristol, developing entrepreneurial learning in Turkey and supporting malaria elimination in Southern Africa.  Such examples demonstrate the potential for inclusive and collaborative leadership to build a shared sense of purpose and commitment that makes a real positive difference to the lives of many people. It is a welcome antidote to the myth of the hero leader and the divisive and destructive practices that feature all too often in news and social media headlines.

Within the Centre members focus on key research themes based around the question ‘How to mobilise and sustain responsible change in complex and uncertain contexts?’ Their research sits within four broad themes:

  1. Leadership & Followership in a Changing World: including responsible and sustainable leadership; complexity, paradox and ambiguity; distributed, shared and systems leadership; and alternative ways of organising.
  2. Cultures of Leading and Organising: including equality, diversity and inclusion; space, place and time in organisations; language and indigenous leadership; and power, influence and identity.
  3. Leadership and Organisational Learning and Development: including ethics, wisdom and spirituality; action research, collaborative enquiry and evaluation; leadership & Management Learning; and coaching & Mentoring.
  4. Behaviour Change and Social Influence: including social Movements; Systems Change; Social Practice Theory; and Creativity, innovation and enterprise.

The following projects showcase a snippet of the work they have been involved with over the last two years, but please visit the research pages to find out more.

Case Study 1: Our Work with the NHS Leadership Academy

Bristol Leadership & Change Centre is involved with a number of projects with the NHS Leadership Academy, below we have showcased two of the projects they are currently working on.

Project 1: Leadership Landscape in London – Learning from the pandemic to inform future leadership development – Richard Bolden, Professor of Leadership & Management

Leadership Landscape in London is led by Professor Richard Bolden and has been commissioned by the NHS London Leadership Academy to capture learning and insights from the Covid-19 pandemic to inform the design and provision of leadership development interventions for NHS staff (and affiliates) across the health and care system in London. 

The NHS in England is facing a series of substantial challenges that raise questions about what kind/s of individual and collective leadership capacity is/are required and how this can be most effectively developed within the current context.

The overarching research question for this study is:

‘What has the pandemic revealed about the nature and purpose(s) of leadership in health and care and how effective leadership capacity can be nurtured for the future? ‘

Through a mixed method, qualitative study, we aim to capture a diverse range of perspectives on issues including:

  • How leaders, managers and staff across the health and care sector within London have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • How individuals, teams, organisations and the wider system have responded to the challenges and what learning and insights have emerged.
  • Where there are examples of innovation and adaptation that could be drawn on to inform future leadership and/or management practice and development in London and beyond.
  • What gaps/limitations have been revealed around current leadership/management capacity and support and what needs to be done to address this.
  • How to begin addressing the trauma and inequalities revealed by Covid-19 through the creation of spaces for open and honest discussion and opportunities for reflection on lived experience.

Findings will be presented in a report to the NHS London Leadership Academy and partners to review, revise and develop leadership and management development provision in the region.

Project 2: Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System OD Collaborative – Carol Jarvis, Professor of Knowledge Exchange & Innovation

Given the well documented and significant challenges facing the Health and Social Care system, organisations need to develop new and different ways of doing things to sustain their success, and this includes tapping into the potential of their staff to develop creative, innovative and technologically advanced ways of working and caring for patients and service users.

Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System (ICS) is leading the way on integration to close the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes against a backdrop of limited finances, increasing population numbers and increasing numbers of people living in ill health. To support this, partners are working as an Organisation Development (OD) Collaborative across the whole system to develop well supported, informed and involved leaders and services that have the ability to influence the wider system into working effectively with partners across health, social care and the voluntary sector to provide joined up patient/service user care.

In preparation for the introduction of ICS’s on a formal footing in 2022, a team from BLCC led by Professor Carol Jarvis has been commissioned by NHS Midlands Leadership Academy (Leadership and Lifelong Learning) to conduct a pre-diagnostic study. This research seeks to develop recommendations, grounded in a robust investigation of current and best practice, that will support the implementation of a sustainable, system-wide community of practice, with an emphasis on cultural development; service improvement/innovation methodologies; and leadership and in support of providing joined up patient/service user care.

Case Study 2: Shaping the Teaching & Researching Environment in Turkey – Selen Kars, Senior Lecturer Organisation Studies

In 2020, Arthur Turner, Carol Jarvis, Harriet Shortt, Hugo Gaggiotti and Selen Kars designed and delivered a one-week workshop on “Creativity in Research” to over 30 management researchers across Turkish universities. This workshop forms part of the Knowledge Exchange Partnership with Izmir University of Economics (Turkey) Faculty of Business, funded by British Council Newton Fund Research Environment Links and was led by Selen Kars. It aims to transfer UWE Bristol Business School’s three areas of distinctiveness to the lead project partner, Izmir University of Economics to improve the partner’s research environment. More information about the project can be found here.
During the week-long programme of synchronous and asynchronous sessions amounting to 24 hours of interactive material, Turkish management researchers were introduced to a range of creative approaches to management research from finger puppets to collage, from photography to storytelling. They discussed examples from their own practice and co-reflected with participants how these approaches can be adopted to participants’ own area of research. The workshop was received with enthusiasm and resulted in four research ideas that participants are keen to forward in collaboration with the workshop team, and has also been nominated for higher Education Council Turkey’s Outstanding Performance Award.

Case Study 3: Improved Healthcare service delivery for infectious diseases in Africa – Peter Case, Professor of Organisation Studies

Professor Peter Case secured a prestigious Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant (in collaboration with the Malaria Elimination Initiative research centre based at the University of California, San Francisco) to assist the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) in Zimbabwe to improve HIV prevention. The project, entitled ‘Optimizing Stakeholder Operating Models for HIV Prevention in Zimbabwe’, is running from June 2020 to December 2022 with an overall aim of integrating prevention services and moving them forward in a more sustainable way. Using a variety of methods, such as, key informant interviewing, participatory action research and action learning, the study will focus, in particular, on the transformation and integration of Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) services. The research objectives are to:

  • Identify and quantify the barriers and enablers for uptake of key VMMC and prevention program responsibilities.
  • Identify the current state of motivation, organizational and individual ability to change stakeholder operating models, and organizational intervention gaps to achieve sustainability. 
  • Identify the drivers (e.g. incentive structures, information, and other triggers) to achieve a sustainable HIV prevention and VMMC program.
  • Segment community and system stakeholders by their behaviour towards the uptake of VMMC program responsibilities in order to better target interventions.

Engaging the Community and Society

Alongside research projects, BLCC engages with the wider community through a number of projects including;


“In integrating unleadership into organisational life after the pandemic, we anticipate a flourishing of creativity and the humanising of our workplaces to accommodate the human spirit.”

Covid-19 has brought unprecedented disruption to our lives and workplaces. The leaderly acts that have emerged have often been from unexpected places and have achieved outcomes that inspired us. Professor Carol Jarvis and Selen Kars have characterised these acts and associated practices, descrbing them as ‘unleadership’ (Jarvis et al, 2020; Kars-Unluoglu et al, under review). 

Unleadership Logo

Carol and Selen are curious about how these leaderly practices can allow communities and organisations to tap into their latent leadership potential.  Through seeking out the less obvious and illuminating the spaces in-between they want to create a new movement for unleadership. They will collaborate, reflect upon and be inspired by the leaderly actions of others co-creating innovations that keep developing the concept and practices of unleadership.

Through a series of participative, co-creation workshops and interviews of unleaders they plan to create a resource for others to draw on as we all strive to build back and organise ourselves differently in the future.

To join the Unleadership movement follow us on Twitter @Unleadership.

Find out more about the work undertaken by the members in Bristol Leadership and Change Centre below:

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