Locating and building collective leadership and impact

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This paper analyzes how collective leadership develops from more individualistic leadership through ethnographic analysis of the rise of urban environmental stewardship in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Longitudinal analysis of a 30-year period reveals how leadership shifted from being highly individualistic, to become more pluralistic, and ultimately more collective. I demonstrate how specifying the location of leadership action in the case addresses ambiguity regarding the definitions of and distinctions among collective, plural, and integrative leadership. I identify two processes that helped to relocate leadership from more individualistic to increasingly collective, emergent spaces, namely fueling a public imaginary and organizing inclusively. These processes were central to connecting and mutually advancing collective leadership and collective impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-471
Number of pages27
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Steering Committee also strengthened and created new opportunities for individual leadership by actively fostering leadership for planning and implementation by new and existing champions. When GGR began, its organizers’ intention was to generate good ideas and high levels of convergence around priorities for securing foundation and government grants for implementation. Soon, however, the Great Recession was setting in and hopes for funding rapidly dwindled. One of the Steering Committee’s responses was to reaffirm that GGR was a process to co-produce a plan, commitments, and resources from many different actors to co-implement the activities, as we see in their design for the priority-setting community meeting. Another response was to ‘‘foster champions,’’ a strategy that began popping up repeatedly in interviews, community meetings, and GGR outreach and media coverage beginning in 2009. Champions could be individuals, organizations, and informal groups that could advance work on environmental issues as an advocate, coordinator, or implementer. Steering Committee members actively cultivated champions for ideas coming up through GGR meetings to encourage people to exercise leadership and to bring legitimacy, volunteer support, and other resources to their causes. Thus, during the third citywide meeting, they publicly introduced people who had agreed to be champions and issued an open invitation for people to step up to be champions of other areas.

Funding Information:
Kathryn S Quick (Ph.D., University of California, Irvine) is an Assistant Professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Academic Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Leadership, both at the University of Minnesota. Her research examines practices and processes of collaboration and public engagement to address complex public problems. She is particularly interested in characterizing management and leadership work that creates connections across traditional boundaries and strengthens community resilience, which she accomplishes through ethnographic research in a variety of public policy areas. Formerly a practicing urban planner, she publishes and teaches in the public management, planning, and leadership disciplines. Her research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Kettering Foundation. Her email is: ksquick@umn.edu.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Collective impact
  • collective leadership
  • environmental leadership
  • inclusive organizing
  • integrative leadership
  • plural leadership
  • public imaginaries


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