Community as Leadership
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Community as Leadership

Gareth Edwards

This book takes a fresh look at leadership through the paradigm of community. Community as Leadership develops leadership thought through important aspects of understanding community, such as individualism, sense of belonging, friendship, social networks, symbolism, liminality, language and ethics. The book also explores more critical and postmodern perspectives of leadership and community and examines themes for future research, as well as suggesting ideas and implications for leadership learning.
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Chapter 3: Leadership, friendship and social networks

Gareth Edwards


Friendship is a powerful weapon in the real politics of decision-making and it would be naive not to recognize it. (Norris, 2001, p. 8, cited in French, 2007, p. 262). This chapter explores concepts of friendship and social networks and how these concepts inform our knowledge of community, and, in turn, our knowledge of leadership. As shall be seen, this is an area of significant research in the leadership field already, but further reflection on the topic from an explicit community outlook appears warranted. To start it is worth taking Etzioni’s (1993) critical standpoint who advises that one of the main criticisms of community perspectives is that concepts of community are vague and fuzzy and that ideas of strong communities curb individual freedoms. One must recognize, then, the ‘in group’ and ‘out group’ nature as a core element of potential exclusion within the idea of a strong community and hence the criticism of ‘tribalism’ that can be levelled at communitarian ideals. Personal communities, as Phal (2000) suggests, can be inward looking, conservative and resistant to change. He goes on to propose that in some circumstances friendships can be dangerous, such as in instances of political purges.

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