Developing a new Perspective on Leadership Theory – From a Tree of Knowledge to a Rhizome of Contingencies


Does the discursive formation of leadership theory hinder the development and practise of alternative leadership styles in the UK?  This research question is in response to the issues summarised in the PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 2008 report on Key Trends in Human Capital. Eight years into the new millennium, leadership is still at the top of the human capital agenda. Although companies invest considerable amounts of money in leadership development, the report suggests that there is limited evidence of leadership programmes delivering value for money, and that three in every ten leaders in the UK do not demonstrate essential leadership qualities. This indicates issues with the practical application of leadership research. The common denominator of all leadership research and application is the leadership theories. The theories are an easily comprehensible, continuous series of events that lead into the present of leadership, supporting all leadership research. Unquestioned assumptions support the theory framework, becoming commonly accepted truths. These suppositions include; the grounding of theory and research in reality; leadership is a fundamental component of the human condition; that social and economic progress has only been possible due to leadership, together with the unquestioned dismissal of alternative voices. Finally there is a notion that leadership theory evolves, drawing on a Darwinian event of natural selection, by evoking biological empirical science to explain a discursive structure. The research and the subject of this paper is to challenge the assumptions and framework of leadership theory through the creation of a research strategy based on Foucault’s methods, creating a rhizome of contingencies rather than a progressive tree of knowledge. The paper will address definitions of the archive, archaeology and genealogy, as contextualised within the research.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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