Hamdan, Omar (2020) Leader-member Exchange (LMX) and Political Empowerment within Funded Research Projects: Evidence from PIs and Research Members within Academic Research Teams in the UK. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

LMX (Leader-Member Exchange) theory is a theoretical lens which adopts a unique approach to evaluate the quality of the relationship between two parties, the leader and team members. This doctoral research aims to develop and contribute to the LMX framework through a contextual conceptualisation of LMX as a layer-based theory. Through a stratified double snowball sampling method, funded research projects representing seven fields of research are explored. To this end, 31 semi-structured interviews were conducted with both principal investigators (17) and research team members (14) drawn from 15 different universities in the UK. This research study includes funded projects ranging from £40,000 in value to £7,000,000 and focuses on research projects launched and completed between 2000 and 2018. Based on a constructionist thematic research strategy, a template analytical approach was used to interpret the data. Drawing upon the main constructs of LMX, the analytical process revealed a critical construct referred to as supportive acquaintances, which provides a desired space for professional friendships. The rationale for which was based upon the PI’s and members’ experiences in research teams and daily life. Autonomy was found to be a debatable construct associated with self-governance, differently perceived dependent upon the status of an individual within a team, and linked to the funded party. The research findings explain how role clarity and communication could manage the negative facet of autonomy that is manifested through a lack of guidance and loss of control. This study advances the LMX literature, by demonstrating that LMX relationships are more complex than traditional categorisations of high and low quality relationships. The new generated concept “dynamic common ground” more fully explains these relationships by exploring obscure notions such as team dynamic and team politics. This study recognises four layers of LMX. The layers include political layer “captured through the term political empowerment”, perceptual layer “captured through the term inequality perceptions”, informal layer “captured through the term friendships”, and positional layer “captured through the term power”. This study also identifies the importance of the novel political layer which is missing from the traditional conceptualisation of LMX. Furthermore, the identified informal layer of LMX highlights the increasing importance of the social nature of the workplace. This research study has implications for the work-life balance of academics.

FINAL THESIS - Hamdan.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 9 February 2026.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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