Rethinking Leadership
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Rethinking Leadership

A New Look at Old Leadership Questions

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.
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Chapter 2: Why are There so Many Different Theories of Leadership?

Donna Ladkin


Phenomenology . . . examines the limitations of truth: the inescapable ‘other sides’ that keep things from ever being fully disclosed, the errors and vagueness that accompany evidence, and the sedimentation that makes it necessary for us always to remember again the things we already know. Robert Sokolowski Introduction to Phenomenology (2000, p. 21) Situational leadership, trait-based leadership, transformational leadership, distributed leadership, servant leadership, collaborative leadership, shared leadership, charismatic leadership, authentic leadership – the list goes on and on. It grows longer as ever more leadership consultants, developers and scholars add their observations and ideas about leadership. Is it just the fact that leadership has become a twenty-first century fad that accounts for the proliferation of writing about it? Or might something else be going on? This chapter addresses that question by considering whether or not the very plethora of ideas and theories about leadership conveys something critical about it. Rather than adding yet another definition or theory to the mix, I turn to the philosophical approach known as phenomenology to gain insight into the nature of leadership as a phenomenon. Why ponder the nature of leadership? Firstly, the nature of a thing indicates the most appropriate means by which it might be studied. If the nature of a thing is such that when removed from the environment in which it naturally occurs it alters radically, you will not glean an accurate account of it by examining it within laboratory conditions. If you are only accustomed to seeing it operate within such an artificial...

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