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Critical analysis of the dynamics of leadership in the design of events and the enablement of (multi stakeholder) event outcomes

Sheffield Business School

About the Project

Strategic event creation (Sharples, Crowther, Orefice, and May, 2014), closely aligned with the event design approach discussed by writers such as Brown (2005) and Berridge (2011), is an increasingly popular lens through which event management scholars analyse the topic. These approaches emphasise the importance of an outcome-oriented mindset when creating events, the eclectic outcomes sought by different stakeholders, and also the importance of creative design of the experience. Ultimately the role of event creators (managers) is to interpret the manifold stakeholders integral to the event (including client / host, participant / attendee, and for example sponsors and media), and to harness the varied resources to facilitate the achievement of outcomes.

Event creation is rarely, if ever, the product of one individual – rather, it is typically a co-production process involving multiple actors, both internal and external to the event organisation. This complexity of event ownership and production, the variety of stakeholders, and the need for effectual experience design suggests that more strategic event creation should be underpinned by strong leadership. Consequently leadership in events is an important area to study – and yet, there currently exists a dearth of research, with what little that does exist typically adopting a hierarchical perspective that offers little insight into how leadership of creative experiences actually occurs (Abson, 2017). Within this context we are particularly interested in how leadership in events is often devolved, or shared, amongst a group of actors – within and around the event project. Therefore the project would seek to investigate the characteristics of such leadership and how this underlies the facilitation of great event experiences and outcomes, for clients, participants, and sponsors alike.

Specifically, the PhD project would examine:

1. Relationship between event leadership and the designed event experience and outcomes
2. Characteristics and dynamics of leadership within a contemporary event context
3. Enablers and constraints to leadership within event management

Dr Emma Abson is pioneering this with her empirical and conceptual work around shared leadership, and Emma works closely with another member of our team, Dr Katrin Stefansdottir, whose work focusses upon the understanding and enabling participant outcomes within the context of conferences. Katrin is therefore very interested in how the role of event management enables, or restricts, the achievement of outcomes. Dr Phil Crowther’s work is more generally around strategy and events, and how event creation is best executed with a strategic lens whereby the events are designed through an empathetic understanding of desired outcomes and a design led, and solution oriented, mindset. We would be the supervisory team for the PhD project.

We are therefore inviting interested parties to contact us to further discuss.
To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here

How to apply
Please submit your application to

Please do not submit CVs

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Please only submit an application when you have funding in place.

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