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 8: How Can Individuals Take Up the Leader Role Wisely?

Donna Ladkin

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


To be a really good and noble guardian of the State requires [one to] unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength. Plato The Republic, Book II (380 BCE [1992], p. 229) The contemporary philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre begins his seminal book, After Virtue (1985), by describing a scenario in which a catastrophe has befallen the human race and continuity between the past and the present has been severed. Only scraps of the previous history and culture remain and without a connecting narrative, no one is sure of their significance. Some things are recognized as being symbolic but no one can interpret them. People have vague memories of different modes of thinking but without a direct link to the past they are unable to glean any insight from them or apply them to the present context. MacIntyre suggests that such a situation is analogous to that experienced by many of us when attempting to incorporate ethical thinking and behaviour into our lives. We know there is something of importance called ‘ethics’ but we do not quite understand its legacy nor why certain principles influence our thinking so much. MacIntyre goes on to observe the incommensurability of different ethical approaches when applied to particular situations. For example, he revisits the question of whether or not abortion is ethically correct. Approaching the question from one set of ethical principles, the rights of the child as a creature deserving moral consideration dictate that abortion is not ethical. However, from a standpoint that...

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