Ethical Leadership Reimagined

By in Research on 7th Aug, 2015

Two years ago when the nights were long and cold like this, I found myself drifting in a new academic role.

I had just left a life behind in Sydney and ventured into another city alone. I took my first step out of my PhD and fell into an expansive ocean of knowledge. I was granted enormous autonomy to find a new research agenda, but I couldn’t find anchorage.

It was then in July that I travelled to the other side of the world for my first European Group for Organisation Studies Colloquium in Montréal. I joined a stream convened by Alison Pullen, Suzanne Gagnon, and Pasi Ahonen on the embodiment of leadership ethics. When I returned home, I voraciously read everything I could about ethical leadership. The more I read, the more I questioned the way many dominant voices of the field assumed a straightforward notion of ethical leadership born from a romanticised ideal of leaders. I wondered if ethical leadership went far enough in conceptualising the potential for leadership to challenge the status quo and normalised systems of domination, like patriarchy, whiteness and heteronormativity.

I fell into a haze during this period in which I wrote the core of this article. ‘Reimagining ethical leadership as a relational, contextual and political practice’ gives voice to my own sense of disenchantment with leadership and is an impassioned call for leadership’s emancipatory potential to be realised. You’ve read my reflection on the conference when I returned as well as the notes from an earlier presentation on the paper.

I’m very happy to say you can finally read the article, my first conceptual paper, in Leadership. The abstract of the paper is included below:

Interest in ethical leadership has been spurred by the widespread reporting of corporate malfeasance and corruption reported in the last decade. Although ethical leadership theories have highlighted the importance of ethical considerations in leadership, the dominant discourses of this field tend to treat ethical leadership as individualised, decontextualised and power-neutral. The purpose of this article is to address these limitations of the mainstream literature through a reimagination of ethical leadership research, development, and practice grounded in a feminist, communitarian and corporeal ethic. This approach, I propose, has the potential to reorient leadership as a collective ethico-political project exercised towards the goals of equality, justice and emancipation.

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