Dissent and the Failure of Leadership

Dissent and the Failure of Leadership

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Edited by Stephen P. Banks

A timely discussion of dissent as a critical factor that differentiates leadership failures and successes. This book explores the vital but largely unrecognized connections between leadership and dissent. From interdisciplinary perspectives the author demonstrates dissent as a critical factor that differentiates leadership failures and successes and examines how dissent is implicated in problems plaguing theory development in leadership studies. By way of conclusion new proposals for legitimating dissent as a unique instrument for advancing social development and avoiding failures of leadership are presented.

Chapter 2: Varieties of Dissent

Brian Martin

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


Brian Martin INTRODUCTION ● ● ● ● ● A scientist publishes a research paper questioning the dominant view on global warming. A minister gives a sermon suggesting the Holy Ghost is irrelevant to Christian belief. A company accountant meets with the boss to query the boss’s favored tax write-off scheme. Protesters join rallies against corporate globalization. A doctor in China sends e-mails alleging corruption in the Communist Party. Each of these scenarios might be considered an expression of dissent. What they have in common is questioning or challenging a dominant belief system, dominant either via widespread acceptance or via the power of those in charge. Dissent depends on your perspective: It is both lauded and loathed. It is lauded when it is in the glorious, unthreatening past. Famous dissenters include Socrates, Galileo and Martin Luther. Dissent is especially lauded when dissenters emerge victorious, such as the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is also more easily lauded when it is geographically distant. Aung San Suu Kyi, the charismatic leader of the opposition to Burma’s repressive regime, is an example. But closer to home dissent is less attractive – at least to those whose power or position is threatened by it. Whistleblowers, for example, are individuals who speak out in the public interest. The classic whistleblower is a loyal, trusting employee who reports either internally or to outside audiences on a problem in the organization, such as corruption or a danger to the public. For their trouble, whistleblowers are routinely ostracized, threatened, harassed, reprimanded, referred to...

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