September 23, 2019

New Research Explores Ombuds' Relationships with Senior Leaders

Mary Conger, the active IOA volunteer leader, has published her recent thesis on, "The Relationship of Ombudship & Leadership in Complex Organizations." The paper examines the importance of Ombuds' organizational placement—as high as possible under IOA standards—and the impact on Ombuds' effectiveness. Conger's qualitative research confirms what many Ombuds experience first-hand. The full dissertation is now available online.

Here is the abstract:
This qualitative study explores the nature of positive relationships between organizational ombuds and organizational leaders. It focuses on success case examples of relationships between ombuds and leaders, utilizing interviews with ombuds (7), interviews with leaders (2), and document analysis across seven different institutions. The purpose of the study was to reality test an idealized model of the ombud-leader relationship implied by the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice in order to identify and, where possible, fill in the gaps between that model and actual lived experience. Key findings of the study include: (a) the extent to which system-wide relationships of all kinds are vital to an ombud’s work; (b) the primacy of trust in positive ombud-leader relationships; (c) the importance and challenge of establishing credibility in these relationships; (d) the many sources of power ombuds utilize in their work; and (e) the use of executive presence as a framework for understanding how ombuds might position themselves to be viewed as credible agents in the shared activity of leading complex organizations. The results of this research provide insight into how some ombuds and leaders have successfully worked together in the past to the benefit of their organizations, and suggest ways in which all ombuds and leaders might conceptualize and operationalize their work together going forward.
Conger completed her EdD at the University of Pennsylvania while working actively in the Ombuds field. In addition to speaking at national and local events, she worked at the UN, was the production manager of the Journal of IOA, and chaired the IOA Communications Committee. (PQDT Open; LinkedIn.)

Related posts: IOA Reworks its Newsletter into a Blog Format; New Management Refreshes IOA Website; Colorado Ombuds Gather in Boulder for Spring 2019 Meeting.


  1. Congrats, Mary. Well Done! I'm already 1/4 through this wonderful opus. Thank you for your hard work on this and dedication to our interesting profession!

    All the best to you,
    Elaine Shaw

  2. Thank you for your kind words and the honor of reading it, Elaine! I welcome any feedback you may have about it any time.