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 7: How do Leaders Lead Change? Co-authored with Martin Wood and John Pillay

Donna Ladkin

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


7. How do leaders lead change? Co-authored with Martin Wood1 and John Pillay2 Fundamentally, everything stands still – the thawing wind, however, preaches to the contrary! Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1884 [1995], p. 201) For many leadership theorists, leadership and change are almost synonymous. The whole point of leadership, some authors suggest, is to influence individuals, organizations or communities to move from the ‘status quo’ into something different. This is often in an attempt to more closely align the organization with the changing environment in which it is situated. Many organizational change theories accord the leader great powers of persuasion, motivation and agency in ‘making’ change happen. A much more complex view of how leadership functions has been introduced throughout this book. Rather than being something that occurs through the agency of one individual; followers, context and the purpose to which effort is directed, all contribute to its occurrence. How might this more complex view inform our understanding of the role of leadership within change processes? What are the assumptions about change itself that underpin how we think it happens? What is change and how do we recognize when it has occurred? In order to explore this territory, this chapter draws from a branch of philosophy known as ‘process thinking’. Process thought problemitizes the idea of change itself. Rather than considering ‘stasis’ as the natural state of existence, it suggests that reality is continually in a state of flux, with innovations constantly arising and retreating. Process philosophy turns on its...

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