Introduction "Leadership Matters?"

Knights, David and Mabey, Chris (2018) Introduction "Leadership Matters?". In: Leadership Matters? Routledge Studies in Leadership Research . Routledge, New York, pp. 1-14. ISBN 9781138572058

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The reason for the title of this book: Leadership Matters? is not simply to delineate the terrain we cover, it also pertains to two further levels. First and most obviously, leadership matters as a significant element of our daily lives: without effective and ethical leadership we suffer personally, socially, economically, ecologically. It matters for us also in so far as we are all affected by leadership not just in the simple way depicted in followership studies but in the more substantive manner in which leadership is about energizing practices of transformation that can only be enacted through collective embodied engagement. Second, much of the thrust of this book concerns the return to materiality in social science, the realization that we do not just bring our brains to work; that knowledge is not simply a commodity to be traded; that our relationships with co-workers are not simply transactions. What moves our heads is our bodies and the material contexts of their intra-action, and what moves our bodies is our souls and our relationships to the world around us. So, literally, matter does matter. Another interesting feature on this notion of what matters is Latour’s distinction between matters of ‘fact’ and matters of ‘concern’ for he felt that the latter moral dimension was frequently being chased out by the so-called factual as a result of epistemologies and methods grounded in the logical and positive sciences. In matters of leadership, the shift between ‘facts’ and ‘concerns’ is historical and forever in transition. Yet the question mark in our title suggests that we are not unreflective about each of these meanings and do not wish to impose them on readers but merely to offer then as points for debate, dispute, and even dismissal. VOICE. The sub-title is also important and the three sections of the book broadly follow the substantial though rarely articulated concerns of many of us enmeshed in contemporary organizations. Although recognizing that most of us have and continue to work out of economic necessity ow can I pause long enough to (re)-discover why I am working in the first place, how do I resist the ready-made ‘solutions’ and leadership techniques pushed at me every week? In short, how do I find my moral bearings, my unique voice? With a particular focus upon mindfulness, this is the subject of the first section. The second deals with CONNECTION. For too long the workplace has neglected the viscerality of our emotions, airbrushed-out diversity and difference, relegated family and non-work attachments, idolised the heroic at the expense of the here-and-now. Despite the everyday palpability of our bodies and all the signals they convey, we continue to pursue leadership in a largely dis-embodied manner, neglecting how ‘the mind is simply the idea of the body’ . In doing so, the body often returns to haunt us and no more so than in our masculine driven world of winning regardless of the consequences to one’s own and others bodies. In the blurring of boundaries between work and non-work, it is attention to the latter (and all the care and commitments this carries) that gets sacrificed. Also despite the constant babble about ‘leadership’ in the media, in sport, in corporations, in politics, the Englishness of this narrative (with all the imposition and limitation that this implies) goes unquestioned. Furthermore, in the pre-occupation with fantasized ideals of heroic leadership, this mythology massively underestimates the mundane, the everyday expression of leadership in ordinary acts. The third section deals with MEANING. In the raging waters of workplace expectations, business targets and career goals, it is easy to lose one’s moorings. In moments of honesty and places of trust, we all – as leaders - ask of ourselves: how do I deal with the persistence of ego, reduce the credibility gap between what I say and what I do, determine what is really important, retain integrity, have fun and stay resolute to my life goals? And in relation to leading with others, we ask: how can we find a moral compass so that we lead responsibly together; how can we confront dubious practices which cause us unease; how can we empower ourselves to do what is important, not just what is urgent and how do we play our part in changing the world and leaving a meaningful legacy? Whether we use the language of philosophy, soul or spirituality, the common territory here is not just the desire to invest our workspace with meaning but also to recognize its presence without such investments. And finding this voice, connection and meaning will surely bring an ethical edge to the way we think, speak and behave as followers and leaders.

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19 Apr 2018 08:28
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12 Sep 2023 02:28