Purpose – The purpose of this research is to develop a theoretical understanding of indirect leadership in a severely stressful peacekeeping context, focusing on the perspective of subordinates. Peacekeeping missions in recent decades have led to increased exposure to acute danger.
Design/methodology/approach – Retrospective in-depth interviews were carried out with 17 Norwegian officers and soldiers, who were involved in the handling of a violent riot in Kosovo during a peacekeeping mission. The interviews were analyzed using a grounded theory approach.
Findings – A model emerged with three categories: Situational Characteristics, Organizational Characteristics, and the Commander's Intent. A related core category was labelled Subordinates' Appraisal or Sensemaking. During the climax of the riot, a strict following of the ordinary chain of command was impractical. Local initiatives at lower organizational levels were needed, but these, in turn, required competence and a trustful organizational environment.
Research limitations/implications – Not representative of the entire population. Given the male-dominated military context under consideration, there could be no meaningful analysis of possible gender-related differences. The results related to a general model of indirect leadership and specific stress. Organizational theory-related additions and limitations are suggested.
Practical implications – The proposed model may be a practical tool for management education.
Originality/value – The study's identification of key aspects of indirect leadership in severely stressful contexts is a useful addition to the literature.
2007. Vol. 15, no 1, 23-34 p.