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 6: How US societal shifts rendered public school desegregation moot

Donald R. LaMagdeleine

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


This chapter exhibits using taxonomic leadership analysis to examine a normative case at the national level of the USA. It begins by discussing the issue of public school desegregation as originally analyzed by the author in the late twentieth century. Framed within the context of educational research, one article demonstrated how desegregation had become problematic within a case metropolitan area. The second article, written for a sociology of religion journal, analyzed how desegregation amounted to an attempted healing ritual to heal the lingering effects of US history’s apartheid roots. While framed too narrowly to capture the nuances of why desegregation was faltering, each analysis incrementally contributed to scholars’ understanding of desegregation as a social issue. The balance of the chapter revisits these premises as framed within a leadership imagination analysis. As such, US society underwent major seismic shits that nullified the original assumptions behind public school desegregation. The analysis discusses the high water mark for establishment and promotion of civil and personal rights attained within the Johnson Administration’s Great Society programs in the 1960s. By the time of Reagan’s election as president under the banner of New Republicanism in 1980, the federal support for these issues had faltered. They were on virtual life support by the mid 1980s. Using taxonomic leadership analysis, the chapter examines the mythic premises of the Great Society and its major constituencies and enemies. It does the same with New Republicanism (or Reaganism). Whereas the former championed cities, schools, and the environment, the latter stressed suburbs, “family issues,” and private ownership. The subsequent reduced status and resource degradation of public education resulted in overstressed public schools operating with structural disadvantages against other school types. The chapter concludes by noting indicated strategies that those in contemporary regional and national leadership positions interested in combating lingering US apartheid might take. It ends by discussing leadership implications at the level of a hypothetical urban public school principal.

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