Understanding leadership in successful non-profit organizations : A case-study of IKSU

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet; Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet



Type of thesis: Bachelor thesis

Number of pages: 98

Title: Understanding leadership in successful Non-profit organizations: a case-study of IKSU

Authors: Linnéa Larsson, Peter Storhannus

Supervisor: Jessica Eriksson

Date: 2008-01-24


Most leadership research has made within regular corporations or public sector organizations in the business world. However, the research on leadership in the non-profit organizations (NPOs) has been scarce even though these organizations play an important part in society and the economy as well. It is argued that leadership in NPOs is different from that of a for-profit organization due to the different preconditions that exist in a non-profit organization.

The research question of this thesis is therefore; “what characterizes leadership in NPOs and what leadership styles can be found?”.

Our purpose with this thesis is to provide an understanding of the leadership in a successful non-profit organization. More specifically, understand the leadership at IKSU. We identify IKSU as a combination between a mutual benefit organization and a voluntary association. We have chosen to make a case study by interviewing managers in different positions at the successful non-profit organization IKSU located in Umeå.

The interviewees also answered a questionnaire about their leadership as a complement to the interviews. Further, a questionnaire was sent out to the interviewed managers’ employees in order to receive better contextual understanding about their self-perceived leadership. Literature about NPOs and leadership in both NPOs and for-profit organization has been used. Two frameworks are central throughout the thesis; the situational leadership model constructed by Hersey & Blanchard (1981) have been used to analyze and understand the leadership styles and the four cornerstones of leadership by Ekstam (2002) have been used to construct the interview guide and to analyze the leaders’ roles in the organization.

The results have shown that he leadership styles that we can find at IKSU are supporting and coaching and that the leaders most developed roles are the roles as developers and teambuilders. We conclude that the use of high supportive behaviour might be due to both the fact that they have such close relationships between leaders and subordinates that the leaders feel uncomfortable adopting a low task/low relationship style, as that could instead damage the close relationship and lead to lower motivation and commitment from the employee. Another reason to use high relationship leadership style is due to that there exist no clear goals within the organization. The leaders work close together with their employees and the employees seem to work independently, thus with the support from the leaders. They let the employees be part of the decision making processes and they take care of the employees skills and knowledge rather than doing everything themselves. Further, they lead the employees through the constantly changing organization and understand that the organization have to develop since the profits have to be reinvested which will lead to further development of the organization.

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