This thesis explored the social construction of leadership in a disaggregated context. As leadership theory developed, it became evident that leadership can be described as a socially constructed process, rather than as a form of personal influence exerted by a heroic individual. The leadership construction process has also been conceptualized as a reciprocal process between leaders and followers, of claiming and granting leader and follower identities in an organisational context (DeRue & Ashford, 2010). However, thus far, this conceptual model as a means to understand leadership construction has not been explored outside the organisational context.
The thesis argued that the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the self-proclaimed governing body of integrated reporting, has claimed a leadership identity for integrated reporting. The IIRC’s leadership claim asserts that “integrated reporting will be a force for financial stability and sustainability”. The IIRC posits that integrated reporting will influence the capital allocation decisions of providers of financial capital (investors) by offering such investors better and more holistic information, so that they can adjust their investment decisions. Decisions should be sustainable in the long term to become instrumental in achieving the goals that drive integrated reporting, namely financial stability and sustainability. The IIRC thus claims that integrated reporting offers leadership to the proclaimed followers of integrated reporting to serve providers of financial capital.
Building on existing theory on the social construction of leadership, the thesis has explored and expanded leadership theory. A critical realist ontology and constructivist-interpretive epistemology were adopted. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 providers of financial capital, representing seven different investor categories. The findings of this qualitative survey illustrate that the proclaimed followership of integrated reporting do not in fact claim a follower identity for themselves. Nor do they grant a leadership identity to integrated reporting. Thus the findings point to the existence of a leadership void in this disaggregated context.
Moreover, the thesis investigated possible explanations for the leadership void in the form of non-following. The empirical results confirm some of the suggestions in the prior literature regarding the reasons for leadership voids, but also contradict some of the findings in the prior literature. The empirical findings point towards further constraints to the construction of leadership, namely the perceptions of followers about their own roles and responsibilities about the leadership phenomenon itself, and about the declared goals of the leadership phenomenon. These perceptions are, in turn, determined by governing rationalities which determine the world view of followers. The thesis concluded that governing rationalities are a major constraint to the construction of leadership in a disaggregated context.