Critical Perspectives on Leadership

Critical Perspectives on Leadership

Emotion, Toxicity, and Dysfunction

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Jeanette Lemmergaard and Sara Louise Muhr

Situated in the field of critical leadership studies, the chapters of this book set out to challenge the general assumption that emotionality is the antithesis of rationality. The authors expand upon the existing discussions of leadership emotions and reveal how toxicity and dysfunctionality are not merely simple, negatively coercive, or repressive phenomena, but can also have productive and enabling connotations. The book includes comprehensive overviews of traditional leadership thinking and in addition provides readers with critical reflections on concepts such as ignorance, authenticity, functional stupidity and vanity in leadership.

Chapter 5: Leadership in a family business: kinship and emotional control

Emma L. Jeanes

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, politics and public policy, leadership


This chapter explores the concept of leadership in a small family-run organization using the metaphor of the family, incorporating broader notions of kinship structures. It presents a case of a reluctant leader who is perceived as a leader by virtue of being the authority figure. Typically leadership literature has focused on extreme and relatively uniform characteristics of leadership, such as those exhibited by the so-called great leader or heroic leader (Nanus 1992), or more recently, the narcissistic (Kets de Vries and Miller 1985; Maccoby 2000) or bullying leader (Kärreman 2011). The case presented in this chapter, however, demonstrates the need to take a more nuanced approach towards understanding leaders and leadership. In this case the leader is more appropriately described as average in his leadership capabilities (Meindl et al. 1985; Alvesson and Sveningsson 2003a, 2003b), and relies upon a range of relational devices (consciously or otherwise) to enact – or substitute for – his leadership role. The case presented demonstrates a leader negotiating a set of complex and uncertain roles. He moves between roles such as that of a father-figure, a naughty boy, or even a victim, to name a few. The study argues for an understanding of the father-figure as an archetype of leadership located in the context of the ‘family’ in order to fully appreciate the fluid and contradictory roles the ‘father’ plays. The case also demonstrates how the family culture gave rise to a particular set of emotions and dysfunctions as would be found in any familial or kinship relationships

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