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 6: What is so Important About the ‘Vision-Thing’?

Donna Ladkin


The hermeneutic has to do with bridging the gap between the familiar world in which we stand, and the strange meaning that resists assimilation into the horizons of our world . . . David Linge Introduction to Hans-George Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics (1976, p, xii) ‘Vision’ is an essential ingredient of most leadership theories. When leaders cannot articulate their ‘vision’ they can be harangued, as was US President George Bush Senior, for not having ‘the vision thing’. What is so important about ‘vision’? What differentiates successful ‘visions’ which are adopted by followers from unsuccessful ones which are ignored? This chapter suggests that a crucial aspect of a successful leadership vision is the extent to which it aligns meaning for those involved in a common activity. One of the recurring themes running through this book is the notion of the socially constructed nature of leadership. Leadership occurs when people construct it to be occurring. Leaders are leaders because through either some formally recognized organizational symbol or through informal attribution by ‘followers’, they are deemed to be so. Such attribution can occur through a number of sources. For instance, in dangerous situations the person who is seen to be the strongest or quickest might be attributed with the leader role. In situations calling for particular expertise, the person who has that expertise might be expected to take up the leader role. However, another source of leadership attribution comes from the ability of an individual to frame and, in this way, create others’ reality. For instance, Nelson...

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