The Leadership Imagination

The Leadership Imagination

An Introduction to Taxonomic Leadership Analysis

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Donald R. LaMagdeleine

In the interest of reimagining leadership as a highly contextual activity with moral overtones, LaMagdeleine argues for blending sociology and history of religions scholarship in leadership analysis of black swan leadership dilemmas. His analysis introduces the term “leadership imagination” to describe the resulting approach.

Chapter 2: Reimagining leadership

Donald R. LaMagdeleine

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of the origins of western thinking on the origins and structure of knowledge, with specific focus on phronesis, Aristotle’s golden mean between abstract universal truth and particularistic craft-based skill. As applied to ongoing processes with no definitive end “product” like statecraft, Aristotle advocated for phronetic knowledge that adapts to new data and conditions, is highly contextual, and incorporates an element of moral astuteness. The author develops this theme as applied to leadership, and argues that neither those advocating for increased scientific rigor as conventionally understood nor those who consider it an ineffable art capture the nuances of a phronetic approach to leadership. What is needed instead is a hybrid between the two approaches that can accommodate morality as a key component of culture even as it foregrounds the ubiquity of power in social and organizational structures. This approach necessarily treats leadership as a context-dependent arena of knowledge and practice.

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