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Four Perspectives on Dilemmas in Management Analysis in Greenland


What is the situation of management research in Greenland? Academic knowing is about how to work with the formulation of the knowledge that we do not have. We arrange the discussion in the Hegelian perspective: knowing is about how subjects formulate objectives with the help of concepts (Østergaard 2004 and Hegel 1807). Thus, we look at the meaning of subject position in relation to ethical dilemmas in the process of knowing better, and describe how responsibilities are understood and dealt with by traditional, modernist and contemporary academic perspectives on collaboration in local communities. How can the academic analyst construct the work process towards a relevant formulation of the objective of the academic analysis in different traditions? How do the relevant perspectives see and deal with dilemmas in the work process? Do different paradigms and positions concerning theoretical knowledge generate different spaces for dilemmas or different relations to the research object? How, then, do they respond to dilemmas in the research process, regarding the research objective and the stakeholders?  We discuss these questions in relation to how analysis has been done in Greenlandic management studies and how Greenlandic managers create productive interactions as articulations in the organizations,

The ‘self-governed’ society Greenland is dominated by ethnic Inuit and mixed up with arrangements and institutions from the colonial activities and period (e.g., settlements and cities established during that time; an arrangement not based on Indigenous Inuit traditions but under the influence of the Danish and other European ideologies, businesses and formal organization). Also, the country is in a process of independence that is not comparable to most Indigenous Peoples’ situations. Still, Greenland is a very small semi-national community, and bears some similarities with other Indigenous communities, which is the reason why this perspective has found a forum in particular arts, pedagogics and social studies in Greenland. This particular situation requires rethinking management research in Greenland.

If we look at the history of the study of management in Greenland we can demonstrate the need for rethinking management research and practice. Many publications and extensive discussions on leadership and management in Greenland are based on anthropological and in particular ethnographic works that are successful because they employ an idea of unique situations as the foundation of social processes as proposed in the idiographic perspectivist analysis. The Danish author Peter Freuchen wrote about how organizing took place in Greenland. He examined this with a background of studies on life and nature in the Northern Arctic in Greenland, Canada, Russia and Alaska. He also had experiences from business and colonial activities, which he performed between 1905-1935. He tried to influence both the Danish, Greenlandic and American public and political spheres through his relations and publications about the significance of the Arctic communities and the way the Danish and American relations to Greenland and Inuit was maintained. But foremost Freuchen wrote several books about local life and how the Inuit Greenlanders organized their society. Among the many books, novels, stories and biographical notes was a historic novel White Man (first published in 1943).

It might have been of inspiration for later ethnographic researchers and both resident and non-resident writers. Within his attention were issues of how the Greenlanders in small groups, and often semi-nomadic communities, organized in situations of paradox and conflict.  One ethnographic study on leadership practices in Greenland has given unique and significant grounds for further studies in Arctic leadership (Gert Nooter, 1976), as it integrated the analytical model into a frame usable in the description of unique nomad and Indigenous communities, where the political changes of the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century hit small remote communities, as it happened in the Arctic area. He introduced in his analysis distinctions between management systems (present as the colonial authority) and leadership (based on particular competencies).  Langgaard (1987) similarly published long term ethnographic studies, which he discussed with local informants before publication.

These approaches have been interesting, but they do not really correspond to the contemporary challenges of management research in Greenland. The task is to rethink management research in order to develop better concepts of management for Greenland, taking into account contemporary changes in management. One new perspective is the Kantian idea of how to decide about individual responsibility (Kant, 1983) in management. Fundamental questions that lead to the identification of conflictual distinctions and dilemmas should include: “What is good action?”, What is responsible management?”, “What is good and responsible management in action?”. This is the contemporary challenge of rethinking management research that we need to adopt everywhere (Rendtorff, 2019). Research should discuss the fundamental ethical questions concerning the move from leadership theory to action, from theory to practice and to ensure good, prudent and responsible management in the practice of businesses and corporations in Greenland. This is an essential dimension of rethinking management research in order to promote better practices of management.

In this context, research should evaluate different methods, methodologies and theories of management in order to address their importance for practice. Here it is important to develop our philosophy of science in order to rethink management practices in Greenland. We need a philosophy of management to analyze leadership practice (Rendtorff, 2013; 2019). The problem is how general theory can inspire management practices of leadership in Greenland.  We might say that there is a basis for understanding the legitimacy of corporations present in modernist theories of leadership and management. The fundamental questions to ask when developing the discipline are philosophical questions like “What is?”, “What is management?”, “What is justice?”, “What is responsibility?”, “What is meaning?”, “What is good leadership?” and to all these questions we should add the question “And what does this mean for Greenland?”. Thus, our task is to discuss the basis for the development of new forms of management research corresponding to the new forms of methodologies and methods for management research in Greenland.

We can turn to questions that need to be asked in order to be creative in the practice of management when we want to develop the field in Greenland. With the help of management theory, we can ask the ontological question  “What is good management?” We also need to ask the question about what is important and meaningful. This could also be seen as a Socratic approach to leadership where leadership management theory asks the radical question  ”What is it?”

In order to answer the question about how analysts do their management analysis, and how they see and must deal with dilemmas in their work process, we will meet perspectives on management in the following paradigmatic positions. One of these is not based on modernist assumptions about realism that makes nomothetical theorizing possible, but rather on the ambition to be able to analyse unique and complex situations of change, which implies reflexive analysis of organizing and management processes.

But first, we address the basic assumptions about academic knowledge, which is the problem orientation that we employ during the discussion about decisions and dilemmas in all four perspectives.

Problem orientation

Our situation is in general about how to develop the practices and principles of high-quality university education and research in Greenland, in relation to inquiries into leadership and management in Greenland. Thus, our effort to rethink the methodology of management research and philosophy of science in Greenland is focused on having a relevant impact on the practice of management. But, here we also need to take our point of departure in the concrete and specific experience of management in Greenland. In order to be pertinent to the local community, we have to engage in urgently relevant fields. We need to base research on the experience from the local community. The analyst must give an extensive explanation for the knowledge objective prior to the specification of the observation and analysis. Accounts for relevance is central for research that is problem-oriented and makes a difference for the practice of management.

The complexity of research issues in management and leadership motivates the use of both local competence and theoretical knowledge in the construction of qualifying questions. (Hegel, 1807; Østergaard, 2004; Becker, 1998; Blumer, 1969). The benefit of this research is not only to help the local community, it is also essential for understanding the reality of the practice of management. Locally embedded and stakeholder-oriented, critical research should focus on problem orientation and knowledge, contributing to the development of local organizing of business and management. Thus, we need to engage both researchers and research participants into a discussion on the relevance of how to address and account for the relevance of the way to describe, observe and conclude about the objective. The reason to propose problem-oriented in this context is that you cannot understand the reality of management without studying real problems and doing research based on the examination of concrete problems to make a difference in the practice of management. Academic problem orientation is an activity where we address a lack of knowledge in a particular situation. The object and knowledge question is based on a description of a situation, by the help of theories and actual observations, the analyst constructs a formulation of something not known, which we need to know. (Olsen & Heaton, 2012: 199-200; Pedersen 2019).

What distinguishes the academic style from less reflected contemplation is that the analyst keeps focusing on the particular aspects that are not known and relevant enough to spend analytical effort on. Academic analysis implies the ability to reflect on singular problems using general concepts and formulate theories based on interpretations of real events. And it is demanded that the academic analyst expresses how and what is done, in order to specify and answer the question in focus. Among these obligations is to express how the context and the theorizing lead to the specific formulation, and to explain how it is not known well enough. The analyst (the active academic subject, collective or single individual) carry the obligation to formulate the objective of the inquiry. A manager often has, due to her involvement in the ongoing complex practical process, to move on in the flow of activities whether something is known well enough or not. The complex process of organizing demands that the practitioner continues to take part in the flows of practising, and the tool to use academic problem-oriented analysis is to have a dialogue with competent analysts or to engage in analysis activities in the vicinity to the organizational practice. This creates the ability of the manager to perform a reflective analysis of the event in a situation.

The theoretical framing that is brought into the description is a structuring aspect of how the knowledge objective will be formulated, due to the concepts that are employed in order to formulate the relevant lack of knowledge. And the framing of the practical situation, where the new knowledge is meant activated, is important for relevance and powerfulness of the knowing.


Table 1.

Classical, modern and contemporary methodologies and their response to research dilemmas:

Analytical characteristics of the position The paradigms of leadership studies
Centralized “Classical” and “modernist” studies “Critical post colonial studies” “Engaged Scholarship” “Idiographic perspectivist analysis”
Ontology Classical: Essentialism, Modernist: Realism Realism  



Management is the practicing of it, overt or covert.
Epistemology C: Empiricism or rationalism. M: Interpretivism. Interpretivism/subjectivism Interpretivism. Knowledge is the social practice.


Methodology Deduction: To describe reality with concept as the phenomena are.

Induction: to describe the reality as observed.


Engaged cocreation.  Action research Most techniques, also those based on categories and quantities or time series Studies on interactions and social dialogue

The centralized studies, classical or modernist

The modern mainstream research practices of management were developed in the 20th century with the upcoming and successfully expanding modernization of societies, which changed the Western societies from smaller states and communities, based on religion and smaller or expanding power-centres. The prime characteristic of the classical research philosophy was rationality, objectivism and essentialism in knowledge, based on natural sciences procedures of knowing, while the characteristics of modern research practices were realism, even though acceptance of interpretation as a condition for knowledge, and nomothetic repetitiveness. At the same time research was incorporated into dependencies of funding, giving priority to political projects that brought attention to governments and industries. Most management research traditions from the 20th-century claim neutrality and objective truthfulness, based on distance and disinterestedness in the researched complexity, which caused the need for discussions about the colonial functionality of some research, as pointed to by both the present self-understanding in Greenland and the post-colonial theorizing. Indeed, here we can propose embedded problem-solving as an alternative to these research traditions. It goes for some modern approaches to management studies, like those based on applied science, empiricist and most international scientific community orientations, that work with big general knowledge constructions build on verification, evidence, specified categories aiming at quantitative data structure like some dominating theories in management strategy (Porter, 1990), marketing (Kotler, 1967), finance (Dreyer et al., 2020), time-series studies (Glomserød et al., 2021), rational organization theory (Daft, 2017) and even entrepreneurship studies (Hamilton, 2000). All these traditions need to apply problem-oriented research in order really to be relevant for management research in Greenland.

It is a condition for the idea of unbiased and objective social science research, that researchers are at a distance from their object of research so that they can form independent and neutral opinions about the research field which is not influenced by morality, political ideology and practical interest in the situation that is investigated. But, this kind of research risks being biased and normative as such since it ends up objectivizing and constructing the research object in the light of modernization or in the light of the power centre, which implies the application of power and oppression to those people that are constructed as research objects.

When the scientists claim neutrality, and even objectivity, they avoid a discussion on the significance of the subject position in research. They may as well integrate assumptions about globalization, international economy, stakeholder relations and business environments that do not problematize particular situations for the Greenlandic population or businesses. Reflections on the responsibilities of the designer of the research question are rejected by claiming objectivity and neutrality.

Thus, objectivist social science researchers need to establish a discussion about how researchers critically orient themselves, and they need to understand how research is more dependent on the actual research situation and how they must pay attention to the dependencies to research communities, scientific dogmas and financial dependencies.

Robert Merton (1942) pointed to the principles of sciences as: 1. Universalism 2. Sharing of knowledge 3. Disinterested Attitude 4. Organized Skepticism 5. Fallibilism. In the context of ethics of research these principles help the scholar to move beyond the limits of the traditional and modernist gaze since universal, sceptic and critical principles of science are replacing the subjectivism of studies organized by power centres like anthropological studies supported by imperialist business intentions or the categorizations layered into statistics and business comparisons. Ethical principles of science involve respect for human dignity and moral consciousness of scientific integrity in order to protect the vulnerable research subjects in the framework of respect for basic ethical principles of autonomy, dignity, integrity and vulnerability (Rendtorff, 2009; 2012; 2019).

Robert Merton and Elinor Barber wrote about the capability of a research process that a certain amount of luck and open-eyed attention is an important element in research and analysis. They refer to the presence of an idea of serendipity in a book from 1958, where they discussed the origin of the term and even mentions the meaning of the term as it appears by looking up 30 language dictionaries from the period of 1909-2000 (Merton & Barber, 2004 (1958): 246). The formulation was in 1913 “the ability of finding valuable things unexpectedly” and in 1934 in the Websters New International Dictionary of the English Language “the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. The idea is that some knowledge is established by attention and ongoing attempts to identify something relevant in the situation, that is not known before. These not known aspects become known due – not to systematics and planned procedures but – to careful attention to what is not included in the frames that are known before. It is not based on asking and confirming a hypothesis, but on the need for new theoretical constructions that are not prepared in the well-known lexicon, and therefore has to be formulated in new better ways, and with the use of better concepts that those signing the well-known categories.

Merton is critical towards the simplicity of rational designing, objectivism and the idea of stable and long-lasting knowledge in relation to knowing about significant new analytical objectives. Even if he refers to functionalist roots, he does not suggest the use of dogmatism in positivist methodology. It takes more to know what is needed than what can be planned and precisely asked for. What is needed is reflexivity based on some preparedness to see what is not seen before, and some attention to what appears by chance during the process of trying to know better. Relevant analysis demands critical attention to ones own presumptions, work process and a careful reflection over events appearing and used during the process. And in relation to modernism, one should see Merton’s comment as a warning to modernist research, when it assumes that already known theoretical constructions repeat themselves throughout into the future as they appeared sufficient in the present or past. Unfortunately, this concern was never well integrated into traditionalist or modernist management studies and theorizing, but rather exchanged with repetitive systems and look out for applicable signs of evidence. In relation to the modernist studies in Greenland, these points may be of help for the researchers who perform extensions to realist and positivist thinking, in order to establish a critical reflection to the realist or centralized academic practices.


Decentralized analytical perspectives

From a contemporary problem-oriented view the specification of the lack of knowledge develops during the ongoing attention to the relevant complex situation and the information that can be created about it, including ongoing attention to theoretical attempts to formulate something about the situation. Again, problem-orientation is essential for the development of new research practices in Greenland. And the problem area becomes more and more detailed and certain during the analytical work and the knowing about the empirical aspects. It seems not to be a logical process only, but a process that becomes more and more precise and well-reasoned, and ends up with a research question that was possible to answer, and which answer is better than what was possible to know before. Thus, reflexivity and transparency in the work process are what we look for in valid research processes. Also, today, when we try to produce an academic quality to the theorizing and analysis about leadership and management in Greenland, and the academic education in leadership.

Most contemporary analytical approaches to management studies integrate the practitioners or local perspective into the research scheme. They involve practitioners in the analytical process or emphasize the local perspective to research in leadership and management. To investigate how they define and act upon the dilemmas of legitimacy for the researchers, we look through some headlines of three of these strategies.

They are firstly the “Critical Politics Perspective”, which formulates how to avoid suppressing the local ethnic perspective and to avoid new dependent relations. The leading orientation is constructed by an understanding of the needs of the local environment, that is established on realist grounds for seeing relevant aspects in society. It is often in this case activated when critical studies are relating to indigenous cultures. These perspectives do not have to envision or presuppose that the analyst or researcher are indigenous or Greenlandic. However, if the analyst and researcher are not indigenous or Greenlandic, it is important to be able to take the place of being embedded into the culture and management practice of Greenland.

The idea of “Engaged Scholarship” discusses how analysts and practitioners may cooperate based on a critical realist approach, which means that academic priority is given to the theoretical world of the scholarship, while the practical priority is open for reflection. It suggests an active involvement with the investigated practitioners.

The “Idiographic Perspectivist studies” refer to the unique construction of an object and theoretical structure for the observation and discussion. They represent opposition to realist theoretical positions, as they address the upcoming and being of management ontology as what is created in interactions. This approach supports attention to the local management discussion and the academic and practical objectives that are relevant including the conflicts and dilemmas that may motivate reflection and decision.


Critical studies and the subject position – the realist position to local studies

This line of critical methodology emphasizes that research should be engaged in the relationship between researchers and the people in Greenland. Researchers should be participating in the local community and collaborate with the people in Greenland when carrying out the research. Researchers should not only collect data in Greenland and publish it abroad and contribute to international discussions only, but they should also give, by using their knowledge to contribute to co-creation and problem-solving in the local context of Greenland. In this way, research should be stakeholder-oriented and communicative and co-create knowledge in the research process. In this sense ethical formulation is an important dimension of successful research as decisions take place during the research action, and integrates or exclude the involved research informants’ perspectives into the upcoming action.

Thus, in order to be concerned with the powerless and vulnerable dimensions of society in Greenland, it is essential to propose a critical perspective of management research. The critical politics perspective is based on priorities given to pay attention to power and problematic implications in dependency relations. It represents a way to problematize arguments in research that are embedded in reasoning outside the local community.

The critical theoretical position assumes that it is useful and necessary that researchers discuss their scientific assumptions in the light of the local embedded perspective, in order to create a local embedded subjective position in the research. Critical theory needs to be critical, but it can also include ethical evaluation of developments in the field of research (Rendtorff 2016). In discussions on how to do critical politics in the interpretation of ethnographic studies in indigenous inquiry, Smith points to eight questions that indigenous scholars should pose in order to know about qualitative aspects of decisions in the research design in a critical politics study (from Denzin, Lincoln & Smith 2014 p 9). The questions may as well be posed in relation to studies within Critical Theory, taking the position of the less powerful informants in the research set-up.

The questions Smith formulates (2000: 239) as relevant for studies in relation to the local community are:

  1. What research do we want to be done?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. What difference will it make?
  4. Who will carry it out?
  5. How do we want the research done?
  6. How will we know it is worthwhile?
  7. Who will own the research?
  8. Who will benefit?

The aim of each of these investigations is to change the perspective from a meaning specified by a distant centralized governing perspective or by a scholar and professional perspective to a local embedded perspective.

The questions are addressed to the research, in order to introduce particular reflections about their way to identify the research objectives. However, it is important also to take into consideration the subjectivity of the researcher. Most of the eight questions are formulated as if they will be answered by an administrator or a politician who has some funding or other resources to direct an upcoming research activity. Still, the author mentions that the questions are supposed to be reflected by researchers in “oppressed, marginalized and silenced groups … through emancipation groups “(Smith 2000 p229). The author and her colleagues offer some supporting explanations about how to deal with the position of being an academic researcher at the micro-level, in the mentioned environment. The advice is about both to be an advanced academic, e.g., in the use and the development of theory, and to be accountable for the local environment (Denzin & Lincoln 2014 p 10). They highlight, that being useful as an academician in a local environment as taking part in decolonizing activities, implies advanced use of academic abilities. The academic approach to research can in this context increase reflexivity in relation to the embeddedness in a society of critical research. In itself, this is a formulation of the meeting of advanced academic abilities, which will have a precondition of internationally related and oriented scholarship, and traditional or ethnic competencies, relations and positions.


Engaged Scholarship and the subject position

Engaged Scholarship is a relation to social sciences and management studies which in Van de Ven’s formulation is closely related to critical realism. The ”Engaged scholarship is a participative form of research for obtaining the advice and perspectives of key stakeholders (researchers, users, clients, sponsors, and practitioners) to understand a complex social problem.” Van de Ven mentions about his participation in a research project among low-income inhabitants that “Through these trial-and-error meetings we developed what became known as the Nominal Group Technique; which subsequently became the most widely used method of group brainstorming. I still recall the rewarding feeling of an elderly person telling us after one neighborhood block meeting that this was the first time in his life where he felt he could speak his mind.” (Ven, Andrew H. Van de. 2007. Preface page X) Van de Ven describes his personal transformation from an objectivist and rational construction of research starting at a research question followed by an empirical procedure where observations were collected, changing into a more complex (and collective) problem discussion and identification among researcher colleagues.

This change implies a more interpretive epistemology thus still aiming to contribute to nomothetic theories of normality in studies of organization development. “But the time and trouble of engaged scholarship paid off. Involving others forced me to alter my initial conceptions of the research problem and to modify the study in ways that I would not have done on my own.” And “I can say in retrospect that some of my greatest insights and learning experiences came from engaging others in better understanding complex social problems and ways to study them.” Van de Ven sees the mentioned publication (Van de Ven 2007) as a tool to integrate practitioners into the analytical process as he understands it, and divide into four steps. “It (the book)  provides a guide for involving stakeholders in each step of the research process: (1) ground the research problem and question being examined in the real world; (2) develop plausible alternative theories to address the research question; (3) design and conduct research to empirically evaluate the alternative models; and (4) apply the research findings to resolve the research question about the problem.”

All steps but one (2) expresses the critical realist thinking through the actual formulation of each step. First, the idea of being able to test a particular knowledge in the real world is to emphasize the reality before the relations and the involved persons actualization through their communication. It is possible to describe the reality through theories that express stabilities and general rules, which will be answer to the question. That the research process is constructed by alternative theoretical models, and to establish tests of models is to say that theories about reality can be tested or at least discussed.

In this step, one could ask for more reflection about what is observed and what is the situation as addressed in the abductive reflection. Abduction means according to the Stanford dictionary “abductive reasoning involves deciding what the most likely inference is that can be made from a set of observations. … Abductive reasoning is important because there is often many or an infinite number of possible explanations for a phenomenon.” Rather, Van de Ven’s pre-determined realism leads to simplicity, which implies dependency on the theoretical frames that are already available. Pragmatists would point to the necessity to consider the abductive decision takes transparent reflection in order to collectivize the knowledge, while the critical realists assume some kind of representation of the real as principle of truth.

The fourth sentence assumes that the researcher has a role to play in the practical world. It may be relevant as far as the research is about mapping or identifying possibilities in rational systems. But it is not the case in situations about organizing or leading complex and not well-defined processes. In those situations, analytical academic results may be better understanding of the situation, or better knowledge for doing evaluation in the situation.

This understanding will have high value in the hands of practitioners, not in the hands of researchers. The analyst has the task to inform the involved persons in the situation and the related managers about how to structure the situation, in order to be understandable in relation to decisions about future relations. Our comment about the structure that is related to the engaged scholarship is, that it may be relevant when the questioned aspects of situations are to some extent perpetual or repetitive. This stability allows knowing about the questions to be explained by nomothetic theorizing, which is the basis of engaged scholarship only.

In studies in leadership in Greenland the approach appeared relevant in the sense that the idea is to cooperate with practitioners about critical realist analysis construction, which is seen in Greenland in several cases since 1980. The studies that emphasize cultural aspects in relation to organizing and management address aspects that are generally found in processes changing over years (Lynge 2003, Balslev 2017), or aspects that are related to ethnic and traditional differences implications for leadership and management (Bakka 1997, Kahlig 1999, Knudsen 2016).

The advantage of engaged scholarship in relation to management studies in Greenland is the collaboration with local management partners. At the same time, it refers to the part of management studies environment, that is involved with studies and theorizing of similar kind. Thus, practicing Engaged Scholarship in Greenland implies that the international scholar standards of critical realism, and the issues similar to those met in Greenland, are integrated into the studies of management in Greenland.


Idiographic-perspectivist analysis and the subject position

The critical realist position will not be sufficient if the problem analyzed is unique as when it consists of complex and responsive processes. Unique situations are present in much organizing when managers meet issues they hardly can describe. The reason is that complex orientations meet and support a situation with conflicting accounts and rationalities and with diffused priorities about what should be noticed in the situation. It is difficult because managers are dependent on the understanding and formulation the directly involved share in interactions about activities that are not described before and if the issue is quite new, the intersubjective reasoning may start up on diffuse grounds. The situation will not be answered by copying or other comparison or deduction or rationalizing or another simplification, or setting aims or other perspectives from the past. It must be described in a way that is based on the present observations, and not assume about aspects that are not known about.

The analyst cannot copy descriptions from known theoretical models that function as a deduction from situations that are not similar and enough relevant for the present. The analyst must accept that the description of the present and future situations is both under construction and development, based on important observations and perspectives brought into the reflection of involved interactants pointing to problematic assumptions in the expected action in the organization.

This kind of analysis of organizing will involve several involved persons in the subject position, in order to identify a lack of knowledge in the collective work process. Both the direct involvement in productive activity and interaction in the organization – like an involved employee who experiences dilemmas or conflicting situations (Alvesson & Spicer, 2016; Stacey & Mowles, 2016), those leaders who formulate the common perspective of the organization (Northhouse, 2019: 5), and those analysts or others who may be involved into the verbal reflection managers have underway they decide what the situation is about (Hegel, 1807).

Research in leadership and management will in Greenland involve the actual situations that managers try to deal with, the cooperative processes they activate, and the challenges they meet in doing the organizing process (Weick, 1979: 47; Hernes, 2014 I: 107 & Hernes 2014 II: 294). The position of the researcher is the one of an observer and a responsible and loyal co-designer of the formulation of the unique situation and analysis, and the one who keeps the situation related to relevant focussed reflection – probably in a scientific environment that in Greenland involve further discussions on management, because of the need to be more reflective on management in order to develop new models of management. Still, the involved manager is the person who controls how the leadership knowledge is used, and the productive participant is the one who controls how the new collective knowledge about the situation may be integrated into actual production.

The contribution of the academic analyst, in this case, is the ability to identify, collect and structure data from the collective organizing process into a trustworthy and relevant construction, which will lead to a focused interaction about the unique organizing situation, and which the involved try to deal with. So, the academic skill in use is the ability to contribute to focus a collective interaction, in cases where some of the direct involved managers or producers already are prepared to pay attention. It may happen when they notice conflict, dilemmas, paradoxes or neglect upon upcoming phenomena that are not dealt with in the organization before. The researchers/analysts contribute to the understanding of the persons actively involved persons. It is seen in Rasmussen & Olsen (2020, 2021) and Rasmussen’s extensive presentations in Greenland. As well we might do international contributions to studies in leadership in the Arctic (like Balslev, 2017; Noter, 1976).

Indeed, even if we need new forms of management research in Greenland, researchers and analysts also need to work in the framework of mainstream academic research. When we refer to the importance of universalism in sciences, we could mention that all academic careers are based on publication and international approval, so there may be a cause of reasons for publication, that is not driven by relevance in Greenland. This kind of publication causes hardly any dilemma of legitimacy, in case this publication is a result of decisions in relation to the construction of the localized research in Greenland. Rather, local research needs a cosmopolitan dimension of a universal approach to research that is not only based on local particularity.


The analysts’ strategies to deal with dilemmas of legitimacy

Research is related to possible ethical decisions, depending on the construction of research processes and the particular local situation. Doing management analysis implies a scope of situations, that is directed by the philosophy which the analysis is constructed within, thus general for doing the investigation anywhere. We can mention that it functions as the internal and external aspects of research ethics. And the scope of potentially problematic situations is as well directed by local conditions, that make particular dilemmas relevant and possible. In Greenland, it is directed by the historical and ethnic aspects, as well as the nature, geography and in particular the situations that are generated by the society’s aspirations to be an independent welfare society based on the traditional Inuit life. Due to the particularity of the situations that may expose relevant dilemmas of this type, they have to be treated as unique and paid attention to and decided about as such.

Internal aspects of research ethics refer to problems in the actual knowledge production process and how it is establishing dilemmas and problems for the directly involved persons, researchers, informants, hosts and people who indirectly are influenced by the actual analytical work. Internal research ethics comprises the relation of researchers to their work and their ability to do this research with respect for research integrity and concern for good research practice.

Olsen, Hansen and Rasmussen’s text on internal aspects of ethical issues in quality assessment in problem-oriented project work mentions that ethical aspects will be found in relation to different activities in the analytical work (Olsen, Hansen, and Rasmussen 2019: 205). Thematizing, designing, interviewing and transcribing, analysis, triangulation/verification and reporting are working labels that all may be related to ethical issues. There may often be issues of interpretation in relation to observation, interviewing, document studies and triangulation, due to language. Problems related to data collection and interpretation may call for a particular discussion.

External aspects of research ethics refer to the social responsibility of science where the researcher should be aware of the context in which the research is deciding about how to address local aspects and how to create knowledge. There is a need for risk evaluation and early warning in relation to the use of the research for different purposes. Here, it is important that the researcher is aware of the specific value dimension of the research and indeed the value structure of interests that directs the analysis.

A discussion on external aspects of ethical dilemmas must be addressed in the description of the area of the knowledge problem. Kaare Pedersen points to the relation between the context of the knowledge question and asks if the way to structure the knowledge problem is ethically acceptable. He writes:

In connection with most knowledge problems, you need to ask yourself whether your research is ethically acceptable. Who can use the answer to the knowledge problems and for what purpose (e.g., in connection with an organizational analysis in a company)? What impact can the research have on the people and groups contacted (e.g. in connection with sociological analyses of vulnerable groups or occupational health and safety research)? (Kaare Pedersen, 2019: 42)


The academic analyst must explain the reasons why the objective is formulated as it is and structured as it is. It has to be explained in relation to and no later than the evaluation of the analysis.

Dilemmas and conflicting positions may be found in research work in relations between the analysed and the analyst, and even in relation to stakeholders involved in funding or being dependent on the knowledge. Most issues of ethical relevance will be common for situations in as well other local places as in Greenland. We assume, that even if there are different conditions for the competent academic scholars in Greenland, they may have the same particular conditions for the creation of a research object. The leading question about doing academic problem-oriented analysis in Greenland is: How does the subject analyst notice and act upon ethical dilemmas during the formulation of the objectives? Indeed, it is in this context that we have proposed to rethink the theory and practice of management research in Greenland.


Table 2. All strategies for practitioners’ involvement in academic activity are relevant for both resident and non-resident analyst and analytical situations in Greenland:


Ethical aspects of the position

The subject position in leadership studies

“Classical” and “modernist” studies

“Critical post colonial studies” “Engaged Scholarship” “Idiographic situationist interactionism”
Space for dilemmas Assumption about value free science. There is no dilemma in relation to formulation of the objective.

Dilemmas in relation to data production and analysis are handled as rights to ownership.

Dilemmas are decided on or negotiated with the suppressed group in the research. Identification is in the hands of informants.


Dilemmas are an issue for the practitioners and the researcher to deal with.  Describes collaborative relations to stakeholders as ‘with’ or ‘for’. The practitioners have an opportunity to care about dilemmas, in the object formulation. The analyst must notice and formulate dilemmas and paradoxes also in the design and report activities.
Relation to the research object in management studies Loyalty to scientific traditions and the knowledge-puzzle. Ethical issues are formalized into general codex. Loyalty to dependent local perspectives Loyalty to realist scholar standards and models.


Co-definition of research objectives with practitioner

Loyalty to the involved managers perspectives and involvement, and to reflexive academic standards.

The involved practitioner is the relevant user of results.

Examples of attention to – internal research dilemmas Neutralize information by anonymization of individuals, but open about aggregated data Adjust the research to local resources Work together with practitioners who have the resources to prevent some dilemmas Analyst and informants protect the involved in interactions, design and report.
Examples of no attention to external dilemmas… Blind to local power relations Issues related to macro perspectives. If issues are not represented in the planning group If issues are not relevant for the management analysis or formulated by the involved.
Examples of attention to

external dilemmas (stakeholder)

The researcher decide about public admission to information. Takes the position of the allied group Takes the position of the practical stakeholder or limit the research The analyst support dialogue about the research results, which are specific for the ongoing responsive process.



In conclusion, we can summarize our argument by indicating that we expect to see different approaches to observing and dealing with ethical dilemmas from different analytical perspectives. The ethical dilemmas are in particular arising in two typical situations. One is related to the possibility of developing a good problem formulation as a high-quality formulation of the investigated situation and the objective of the analysis. Misunderstandings or rude simplifications should not be elements in the formulation of the important situations of leadership and organizing activities. We try to answer the question: How does the subject analyst notice and act upon ethical dilemmas during the formulation of the objectives? And answer abstractly, that analysts have the responsibility for the understandable formulation of the objectives in focus, worked out in a transparent motivation that allows issues of ethical character to be noticed and discussed.

We also point to the significance of an extensive collaboration between analysts and actual participants in the situation of leading activities, in order to support co-description by expert participants in the situation. And to provide a prime source for information that may be processed critically in a reflection on the dilemma. Due to the centralized background for some analyses, in particular those that maintain the nomothetic and phenomenalistic basis for analysis (objectivist theories and quantitative empirical studies), they pay less attention to local dilemmas in complex micro situations and conflictual aspects than those management studies that are based on unique design and local involvement in the creation and use of the analysis. In particular, to deal with dilemmas specific for the Greenlandic management environment is – due to the specificity of possible particularities – conditioned by the use of unique analytical designs and the collaboration with the involved managers during analysis.

We investigated how four approaches to research place the decisions of ethical problems related to research. In the traditional (objectivistic and phenomenalistic) and modernistic (nomothetic and realistic) positions, the analyst maintains neutrality at a general level and pays no attention to unique local conflicts and conceptual or other contradictions between the observed and the observations. The analytical model does not always comply with the situation it is supposed to address. Three perspectives pay in different ways attention to conflictual situations and the legitimacy of the academic activity. In “post-colonial critical studies” dilemmas are identified in the perspective of the suppressed. Often analysts use action research approaches to propose ethical dimensions of research and to deal with legitimacy, i. e. to place the dilemmas in the hands of the investigated, or in a theoretical based discussion about the positions in social relations.

In the “Engaged Scholarship” perspective one develops the research in the perspective of an ad hoc approach to ensure the identification of legitimate issues that may arise during the study, based on both the loyalty to professional forums and the reflections within the research groups. Dilemmas are identified from the practitioners perspective. In the “idiographic situationist perspective” studies ethical issues and issues of legitimacy are in the hands of the academic analyst, who has the responsibility to see and deal with conflictual situations, probably in interaction with the investigated managers. Dilemmas must be formulated into the research when it is observed by analysts and local managers. The condition is that research processes are as unique as significant responsive events.

We point as well to aspects that are related to the journey of analysis, empirical work and reporting plus dialogue about what is known better, were differences based on the involvement in Greenlandic discussions and the ability to have admission to everyday life experience due to language abilities and to advanced academic competencies are relevant in Greenland. These aspects of dilemmas are more or less comparable to dilemmas that are well known in all ethnographic work but have particularities, in this case, deriving from the conditions that qualitative/interpretive work will meet in Greenland. Academic proficiency and experience will help to deal with these dilemmas, as well as local life-world competencies are very useful and often necessary in order to verbalize these situations.



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