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 6: The emotional rollercoaster: leadership of innovation and the dialectical relationship between negative and positive emotions

Stephan Schaefer and Alexander Paulsson

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


Although leadership literature has included its link to emotions (see Lemmergaard and Muhr 2011 for a discussion), there has not been much discussion – and research for that matter – on the interrelationship between leadership, emotions and innovation (Lockyer and McCabe 2011). Opposed to formalized processes and routine tasks, innovation is an uncertain and highly ambiguous endeavour (Kline and Rosenberg 1986; Poole and Van de Ven 2000). Intuitively, then, participation in innovative processes should involve a variety of emotions, such as fear, anxiety, hope, frustration, anger and exhilaration. The interrelationship between leadership, emotion and innovation is therefore worth further investigation, and will be the topic of this chapter. As will be demonstrated in the following, because of its assumed ability to achieve change, transformational leadership is often argued to be the ideal leadership approach to facilitate innovation (Sosik et al. 1998; Van de Ven 1986). Transformational leadership, however, has received a lot of criticism for its lack of moral foundation. As a response to this criticism the concept of authentic leadership was developed (Bass and Steidlmeier 1999). Authentic leadership, which is based on ideas from positive organization scholarship (POS), assumes that positive emotions are preferred since negative emotions are generally considered to be dysfunctional (Cameron and Caza 2004). This unilateral theoretical development raises interest in the interrelationship between leadership, emotions and innovation and we will therefore discuss the preference for positive emotions from a critical perspective. We will question whether only positive emotions such as excitement, relatedness and optimism lead

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