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 8: Resistance, Dissent and Leadership in Practice

Gail T. Fairhurst and Heather Zoller

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


Gail T. Fairhurst and Heather Zoller INTRODUCTION Laurie Graham’s (1995) participant ethnography of an Indiana SubaruIsuzu plant, a Japanese ‘transplant’, reveals an organization in the process of instituting team-based systems and other forms of participative management. Although not the focus of her research, Graham’s case study is used here to highlight the complex relationship between leadership and dissent. In this chapter, we draw out the lessons to be learned as we unpack the complexity of this relationship. However, rather than take a traditional focus and examine leadership as the management of dissent, we turn the scheme on its head to examine dissent as a form of leadership. Our intent is to show a more emergent view of leadership and that ‘dissent leaders’ are more than just the most outspoken members of a group. By examining the practice of dissent in this way we also hope to provide insight for organizational leaders all along the organizational hierarchy, from employees to supervisors, managers and executives. Based on an earlier analysis of this case (Zoller and Fairhurst, 2007), we examine dissent as leadership and the tensions and emotions that must be managed in the inevitable conflicts. THE CASE OF SUBARU-ISUZU In On the Line at Subaru-Isuzu Laurie Graham’s (1995) purpose was to investigate the degree to which control shifts to employees in team-based participative management systems. Graham began working at the plant just as it was gearing up for production. Her study illustrates how management maintains control of employees in a workplace...

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