Community as Leadership

Community as Leadership

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Gareth Edwards

This book takes a fresh look at leadership through the paradigm of community. Community as Leadership develops leadership thought through important aspects of understanding community, such as individualism, sense of belonging, friendship, social networks, symbolism, liminality, language and ethics. The book also explores more critical and postmodern perspectives of leadership and community and examines themes for future research, as well as suggesting ideas and implications for leadership learning.

Chapter 4: Leadership, symbolism and aesthetics

Gareth Edwards

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


Community exists in the minds of its members, and should not be confused with geographic or sociographic assertions of ‘fact’. By extension, the distinctiveness of communities and, thus, the reality of their boundaries, similarly lies in the mind, in the meanings which people attach to them, not in their structural forms. (Cohen, 1985, p. 98). This chapter looks at the symbolic representation and interpretation of community and the meaning attached, as Cohen suggests above. This, in turn, relates to the study of leadership. For instance, leadership has been linked with organizational culture (for example, Schein, 2004) and national culture (for example, Den Hartog and Dickson, 2004) for some time, but it tends to lack integration with symbolism. For example, there are a number of cross-cultural leadership studies, such as GLOBE (for example, Chhokar et al., 2007; House et al., 2004), based on quantitative, normative views of leadership styles, behaviours and categories but this then misses the aesthetic nuances evident in culture. This chapter therefore expands on these areas by adding theoretical depth to the culture and leadership relationship through an artistic and aesthetic lens. It reviews the growing body of literature around art, aesthetics and leadership. The chapter then looks at symbolic notions of community and links these to leadership and finally more postmodern ideas of aesthetics and community are reviewed and related to the field of leadership studies.

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