Learning from the impasse in Western leadership: implications of a critical perspective for non-Western scholarship
AbstractWhilst ‘leadership’ remains a ubiquitous term in both academic theory and organisational practice, it continues to be a widely contested concept. For many, the term conjures up images of special individuals; single-handedly capable of transforming organisations with their inherent capabilities and skills. However, in the past 15 years there has been a growing backlash against this ‘belief in the power of one’ (Gronn, 2002: 319), largely spearheaded by scholars now associated with Critical Leadership Studies (CLS). Broadly speaking, CLS aims to de-naturalise and challenge taken-for-granted assumptions of mainstream, functionalist perspectives, which have arisen from predominantly Western scholarship. They do this by simultaneously examining the ‘dark side’ of leadership practice; questioning notions of authenticity; illuminating issues surrounding power and control; and the problematics of relying on single, stable and hierarchically-positioned leaders. As such, CLS provides a deeper critique of the “heroic leader” approach than that found in some mainstream scholarship and training (Palus et al, 2012). This paper argues that the future of leadership scholarship, advice and education in parts of the non-Western world, including within Asia, can benefit from the growing recognition of an impasse in the mainstream of work on leadership that has been highly influenced by Western traditions and examples. The paper also responds to the interest of CLS scholars in moving beyond critiquing dominant understandings and working toward new directions for leadership practice. It argues that some research outside the corporate sphere on “collective leadership” (Ospina and Foldy, 2015) holds potential to break the impasse. The paper does not review research on non-Western, including Asian, approaches to leadership but invites dialogue towards a more critical internationalist approach to leadership scholarship – something that has remained a marginal topic in much CLS work.
TypeConference or Workshop Item
Bendell, Jem; Little, Richard and Sutherland, Neil (2016) Learning from the impasse in Western leadership: implications of a critical perspective for non-Western scholarship. In: UNSPECIFIED.