Leadership and the promise of democracy

Barthold, Charles (2024). Leadership and the promise of democracy. In: Knights, David; Liu, Helena; Smolović-Jones, Owain and Wilson, Suze eds. The Routledge Critical Companion to Leadership Studies. Routledge (In Press).

URL: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Critical-C...


The current world is characterised by a combination of major crises such as inequality and climate change; and by the rise of an anti-democratic authoritarianism both in the Global North and the Global South. As a result, it is important to reflect on democratic leadership and how these reflections might enable us to contest the status quo and bring about more egalitarian decision-making processes. In this chapter, I begin by providing a mapping of democratic leadership in the field of organisation studies, facilitating an account of the diversity of perspectives, from theories based on consensus and deliberation to theories based on agonism or dissensus. Then, drawing on previous work in critical leadership studies, I argue for a dialectical understanding of democratic leadership – trying to combine, on the one hand, the need for dissensus and rupture and, on the other hand, the need to institutionalise democratic leadership in organisational structures so as to challenge the status quo. Finally, I move on to discussing avenues for future research in relation to democratic leadership in the fields of critical leadership studies and organisation studies.

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