Autonomy in Leadership: A Case Study of the Founder’s Role in Establishing an Organization

  •  Sandro Serpa    


The extent of a leader’s autonomy in establishing organizational culture is a complex issue in organizational studies. The present research analyzed the actions of the founding leader of Asilo de Infância Desvalida da Horta from 1858 to 1879 to determine the extent of his autonomy during his administration using documents in organization archives, local newspaper articles of the period and papers on this topic. The results revealed that the leader’s actions did not occur in isolation but were influenced by the sociohistorical environment. Establishing legitimacy as a leader was a complex, multidimensional process that required consideration of the social, legal, regulatory, political and religious aspects of his actions. Although the current research is a case study, the findings suggest that autonomy based on legitimacy is a key element contributing to founder success.

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