Beyond Leadership: A Relational Approach to Understanding Organizations

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Scott EACOTT, UNSW Sydney, Australia
Classic organizational theories build on substantialist assumptions and grant ontological status to organizations. Rarely do the underlying generative principles of scholarship get illuminated. With an inter-disciplinary and global scale, various networks of scholars, a volume of contributions in journals and books (e.g., the Palgrave Handbook of Relational Sociology), and an array of international meetings, Prandini (2015) argues there is a 'relational turn' in the social sciences. The label 'turn' indicates an epistemological breakthrough that has transformed an intellectual space, altering its constitution and 'providing a blueprint for new developments' (Gulson & Symes, 2017, p. 125). Drawing insights from the recently published Beyond Leadership: A Relational Approach to Organizational Theory in Education (Eacott, 2018), this paper offers a starting point for the relational approach I am advancing through the explicit articulation of a concept glossary. Paying attention to the core thrust of the relational program - the relational extensions - this paper demonstrates how the key concepts of organizing activity, auctor, and spatio-temporal conditions are crucial to maintaining theoretical integrity and coherence. Creating distinctions from other 'relational' positions, such as the adjectival, co-determinist, and conflationary, I offer a nuanced, within the confines of a conference paper, account of how a relational approach and explanatory framing differs from hegemonic substantialist approaches. This paper is not about constructing a dense and inaccessible technical language rather, articulating and defending a vocabulary to discuss and understand the social world relationally. As a series of starting points, this paper contributes to bringing some clarity and coherence to shared principles of relational approaches for understanding and significantly, how these ideas and concepts can be mobilized for empirical work courtesy of insights from an ongoing project on principals experiences of temporality.