At the Complexity and Management Conference 2013 our guest speaker, Ann Cunliffe, described her ideas about what she terms relational leadership, which are also set out in an article in Human Relations here. In her conference presentation and in her article Ann Cunliffe responds to what she understands as a crisis in leadership education and practice. In the news we are presented with example after example of failures of leadership which also point to an impoverished moral understanding on the part of leaders about their responsibilities, she argues. Cunliffe sets out her alternative by drawing on Bakhtin, Ricoeur, Heidegger and Shotter whom she adduces to develop her argument that leadership work is to be found in the everyday conversational activity of people trying to achieve things together. Her ideas turn on the idea of inter-subjectivity, that we are formed by others just as we form them, which she argues has implications for the way we think about our relationships. We should, she says, develop better anticipatory awareness about what matters in those relationships and the moral consequences of our responsiveness, or lack of it, to others. Responsibility arises, Cunliffe argues after Ricoeur, by recognising oneself as another. Continue reading
At the Complexity and Management Conference in June this year we will be hosting discussions about leaders and leadership from a critical perspective. As a way of warming up for the event it might be interesting to rehearse three recent and different critical perspectives on the ineluctable rise of ‘leaderism’ in contemporary society. The first, by Rakesh Khurana (2007), charts the development of the discourse of leadership and the way it has colonised and captured American business schools coterminous with the ascendancy of neo-liberal economics. The second, by Martin and Learmonth (2012), looks at the way that the discourse on leadership is used to co-opt a broad range of actors into particular projects to ‘reform’ the public sector, and the third, by Alvesson and Spicer (2011), explores the way that a more nuanced critique of leadership might be developed to help employees struggle with the exercise of authority in organisations. Mats Alvesson is a previous guest at the CMC conference. Continue reading
‘Leadership is leadership, and talent is talent’. So said a Minister from the UK Home Office when called upon to respond to criticisms of recent government proposals to open up some of the middle management positions in the police force to applicants from business and the community. In expressing himself thus, he gave a very good example of the way in which the cult of leadership has taken hold in current discourse about the management of organisations, and is taken for granted. By implication we all know what leadership is and can feel confident that certain individuals, particularly from a business background, are good leaders whatever the context. Leadership has become a foundational concept.
In this year’s Complexity and Management Conference we will be calling into question this blind faith ubiquitously expressed in the notion of leaders and leadership. Some of the topics we may find ourselves discussing are whether the assumption that leadership is distinct for management really holds; whether the necessary exercise of authority in organisations can always be understood in terms of what leaders are doing; whether the concept of leadership has been so widely stretched and differentiated (servant leadership, distributed leadership, self-leadership, leadership and followership, even upwards leadership) that it has become meaningless and unhelpful. Because it is so widely spoken about, yet so little understood, it becomes a very important topic for critical reflection.
From the perspective of complex responsive processes, and from the insights offered by our guest speaker, Professor Ann Cunliffe of Leeds University, we will be trying to understand leadership as a highly social phenomenon co-created by people as they negotiate how to go on together.
The conference attracts a wide diversity of participants every year: academics from other institutions, consultants and managers, as well as graduates and current students from the Doctor of Management programme.
If you would like to book for the conference the payment page at the University of Hertfordshire site is now open and can be accessed here: http://tinyurl.com/crm734w
As usual, there is a discount of £50 for early-bird bookers up till April 26th.
We look forward to seeing you there.