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 13: Afterword: The Promise of Dissent for Leaders

Stephen P. Banks

Subjects: politics and public policy, leadership


Stephen P. Banks INTRODUCTION This volume began with a quote from Lee Iacocca about the absence of leaders in contemporary politics and corporations. His observation seconds Margaret Wheatley’s question: ‘Where have all the leaders gone?’ (Wheatley, 2005: 164; Warren Bennis asked the same question over a quarter century ago – see Bennis, 1973; 2001: 11). Both Iacocca and Wheatley stress the urgent need for new leadership, but they see different routes to ‘finding our way’, as Wheatley characterizes the quest for more humane and effective group processes. Iacocca looks to greater citizen participation in public life, more accountability among legislators, improved character among leaders and less passivity among followers. Wheatley breaks away from traditional concepts of the individual leader and envisions new processes and forms of organizing that embrace connectivity, sharing, apprenticing and transforming aggression into creativity. The dissent-focused essays in this volume may be thought to mark a midpoint between the ambitions of changing the motives and morals of leaders and followers, as Iacocca would have us do, and changing human nature and forms of sociation, as Wheatley advocates. As such, learning to embrace dissent might be a transitional step toward realizing the kind of world Wheatley envisions and observes being practiced in limited instances, a necessary phase of improved interacting that ultimately makes the current concepts of leadership and followership obsolete. WHAT DISSENT BRINGS TO LEADERS It might take many generations to overcome cultural resistance to Wheatley’s ideas of flattened hierarchies and leading by community. She...

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