Rethinking Leadership

Rethinking Leadership

A New Look at Old Leadership Questions

New Horizons in Leadership Studies series

Donna Ladkin

A must-read for serious leadership studies scholars, Rethinking Leadership offers a radical reconceptualisation of leadership as a contextually embedded, physically embodied phenomenon. The book arrives at original and surprising answers to perennial questions such as ‘What is leadership?’ and ‘How do leaders lead change?’, by addressing them from a philosophical, rather than psychological or sociological standpoint.

Chapter 1: Why Study Leadership from a Philosophical Perspective?

Donna Ladkin

Subjects: business and management, business leadership, politics and public policy, leadership


I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language . . . Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way to the answer. Rainer Maria Rilke Letters to a Young Poet (1929 [2009], p. 35) Why are there so many different theories of leadership? In fact, what is leadership? Sociology, anthropology, political science and psychology are among the disciplines which have addressed these questions. Definitive answers, however, remain elusive. Rather than attempting to provide such answers, this book questions the very questions perennially asked about leadership. In it ideas from the branch of philosophy known as ‘Continental philosophy’1 are applied to interrogate habitual ways of thinking about and inquiring into this much studied phenomenon. For instance, rather than asking ‘What is leadership?’, the question, ‘How might we understand leadership as a phenomenon?’ is posed. Instead of pondering ‘What is charisma?’, you will be invited to consider ‘How do followers make judgements about the aesthetic quality of a leader’s performance?’ Through ‘living the questions’ differently and living different questions, this book aspires to breathe new life into the way scholars, teachers and students intrigued by it might re-conceptualize leadership and its role in human communities. Continental philosophy has never been wary of...

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