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Liselore Havermans

Leadership in project-based organizations: Dealing with complex and paradoxical demands


Despite the overwhelming amount of attention given by scientists and practitioners to leadership, most theories of leadership have been developed to explain the role of leadership in traditional line organizations, not to explain how leaders deal with complex and paradoxical demands in project-based organizations contexts. In this thesis we explore leadership in project-based organizations. We show how leaders enable project-based organizations to deal with complex and paradoxical demands through adaptive and paradoxical strategies, practices and narratives.
In project-based organizations most work is organized in projects in which people from different functional backgrounds, and often different organizations and geographical locations, tend to come together for a limited period of time to accomplish a shared goal. As these projects are instigated to deal with an emergent demand they are well positioned to enable the organization to deal with complex and paradoxical demands.
In this thesis we focus on the role of leadership in dealing with four paradoxes of organizing in four separate studies. These paradoxes are efficiency-adaptability, exploitation-exploration, integrative-disintegrative tendencies, and aligned-conflicting perspectives. We identify a number of leadership strategies, practices and narratives leaders enact and construct in order to deal with these paradoxes.