Emergence of leadership in communities

A study on how leadership emerges through an innovation process for solving community problems

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Many regions around the world are facing water shortage, low water quality, unsustainable overuse or other problems that may even cause conflict among different actors. These water resources are typical examples of common-pool resources. Leaders seem to play a crucial role in the emergence of community-based management of resources and overcoming the collective action problem. The main purpose of this study is to find the mechanism behind the emergence of leaders in the process of starting collective action.
I synthesized leadership studies from different domains and created Leadership for Community Development (LCD) theory. Based on LCD, leadership emerges from influencing interactions that are done to share a vision and make other community members dedicated to it. In this process, leaders gather the requirements of collective action, like support or political capital. Central to this idea is the innovation process, which has four phases of idea generation, idea elaboration, idea promotion, and idea adoption. The idea in the innovation process is the same as the vision.
According to this theory, first, there might be problematizing leaders who challenge the current state and give attention to a problem through influencing interactions. Dissatisfaction with the current state can lead to idea generation. In the idea elaboration phase, the idea creator will try to elaborate and gather support for the idea among his or her close connections. If this is successful and enough support is received, dedicated actors will start promoting the idea by influencing others. In the idea promotion phase, enabling leadership emerges when actors promote their own vision and echoing leadership emerges when convinced actors advocate the vision of their influencers. Enabling leadership and echoing leadership form up effective leadership, which is the indispensable influencing effort of actors for reaching the next phase. Idea adoption or implementation, which is in the domain of management, starts when requirements such as political and intellectual capitals are enough. This theory is further supported by a case study and interview.
I created an agent-based model based on the LCD theory. The model was a successful proof of concept for the LCD theory and how the identified types of leadership emerge through the process of initiating collective action. I used the model to identify the most significant factors on the role of leaders and the initiation of collective action. The social network proved to be the most important factor.
Based on these findings, I emphasized on the importance of focusing on networks and building connections in the communities. Moreover, I have suggested using these findings to diagnose the lack of collective action in communities and to use this diagnosis in the process of facilitating collective action in communities. I proposed many recommendations for future steps in this study. The top priority recommendations are a call for case studies to be done to further validate the LCD theory and to perform group experiments to increase understanding of the role of the social network in collective action problems.