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 7: Happily working until they drop: when there is no longer a balance between stress and fun – a task for leadership

Yvonne Due Billing

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


In contemporary society, it is not uncommon that people seem to live to work rather than work to live. Many people are highly committed to their jobs and their personal and social identities are closely connected to what they do for a living. They often enjoy the fruits of this engagement; perhaps working in places with positive work cultures, which create well-being for employees. They are highly committed to the teams they work in and they work hard. However, for some employees this commitment may lead to self-entrapment; an area which seems to be overlooked in the leadership literature. Although there is a focus on how to improve workplaces there has not been much attention paid to the problem of entrapment. It is strange – Burke et al. (2011, p. 338) suggest, along with other researchers – ‘that we know surprisingly little about […] how leaders create and handle effective teams’. In their review of team leadership Burke et al. consider the importance of facilitating performance management, but they do not discuss the problem that workers’ willingness to work hard may result in over-commitment and may lead to self-entrapment. On the basis of a study of knowledge workers in an IT/design organization situated in Copenhagen (referred to as Design IT), this chapter argues that leadership faces a problem if it is not attuned to the strains experienced by team workers in the organization. The employees at Design IT were highly committed to their work and generally displayed high work satisfaction,

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