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 4: Organizations as micro-rituals, taxonomic myth, and embedded power

Donald R. LaMagdeleine

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


Building on the foundational work of Durkheim, Chapter Four outlines the core theoretical contributions of three key scholars whose writing augments the Durkheimian tradition. The first of these, Erving Goffman, borrowed heavily on Durkheimian premises but applied them to the microinteractional level of social action. His development of a dramaturgical approach to such interactions as well as the concepts of moral career and total institution form part of the core analytic framework of the leadership imagination approach to leadership advocated for in the book. The second scholar discussed, Bruce Lincoln, is a history of religions scholar who has applied its theory and research methods to contemporary social processes and events. In doing so he foregrounds authorial power and its effects in cultural traditions, practices, and discourses. Among Lincoln’s core premises are the virtually impregnable character of myth, its ubiquity in many forms of social reality with which it is not identified, and the taxonomic categories that constitute it. Pierre Bourdieu, the third theorist, also emphasized the influence of power on social structures, from the micro- to macrosocial level. While he studied many of the same social issues raised by Durkheim, his work emphasizes making specific connections between the various levels of social reality. Among the key concepts that characterize Bourdieu’s work are the structuring of social space, the manner in which a worldview (habitus) develops and its implications, the various forms of capital, and the ways in which the webbing of various fields for conducting social activities operate. The chapter concludes with a schematic and clarifying discussion that introduces the technical name for the resulting approach to leadership research, which is taxonomic leadership analysis. The schematic depicts how the three theory traditions discussed build on Durkheim’s work while interweaving with each other.

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