This week’s journal article was focused on how information and communication innovation drives change in educational settings. The key focus of the article was how technology-based leadership has driven the digital age. Also, that the role of technology leadership incorporates with the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM).
In this paper, address the following key concepts:
Be sure to use the UC Library for scholarly research. Google Scholar is also a great source for research. Please be sure that journal articles are peer-reviewed and are published within the last five years.
The paper should meet the following requirements:
The writing should be clear and concise. Headings should be used to transition thoughts. Don’t forget that the grade also includes the quality of writing.
Carlyle, Freud, and the Great Man Theory more fully considered
Bert Alan Spector D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, USA
Contemporary surveys of leadership scholarship will occasionally mention the Great Man theory
before moving on to more rigorous academic categories. Less a theory than a statement of faith,
the Great Man theory does not fit into the rigorous scholarly theory and research that makes up
the contemporary canon of leadership discourse. My goal in this article is to treat the Great Man
theory seriously and to present a fuller notion of the theory. My intent is not to offer a defense of
the theory or to ‘‘redeem’’ Thomas Carlyle as a leadership theorist. Rather, I will add a hitherto
unacknowledged dimension: the element of Freudian psychology. In Freud’s case, the Great Man
was articulated not a moral proscription for how to act, but rather an analytic description of the
elemental forces that lead people to seek heroes. The article suggests that the Great Man theory
is worth considering because of its contemporary relevance. To consider the theory in full,
however, Freud’s work on leadership needs to be examined alongside that of Carlyle. It is
Freud’s description of the impulses that drive us toward authority figures, more than Carlyle’s
proselytizing for hero worship that can, and should offer valuable insights into how we—scholars,
observers, and participants in the business world—react to corporate saviors.
Great Man theory, Thomas Carlyle, Sigmund Freud, CEOs, intellectual history
In leadership discourse, the Great Man theory—an assertion that certain individuals, certain men, are gifts from God placed on earth to provide the lightening needed to uplift human existence—is associated mainly with Thomas Carlyle. For good reason. In the spring of 1840, Carlyle delivered a series of six public lectures on the role played by heroes in shaping the arc of history. The following year, those lectures were brought together in a single volume entitled On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, and the Great Man theory was born.
Carlyle’s voice in those lectures is off-putting to the contemporary ear. There is the obvious gender bias of his formulation, a rendering of his reading of history as unfolding through the
Bert Alan Spector, D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, 350 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA
Email: [email protected]
2016, Vol. 12(2) 250–260
! The Author(s) 2015
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effects of dominant males combined with the prevalent Victorian conviction that leadership was ‘‘irredeemably masculine’’ (Grint, 2011: 8). There is the deep religiosity of his language, a reflec- tion of the strict Calvinist upbringing provided by his parents who expected him to become a preacher (Bossche, 1991). And perhaps most distinctly, there is his admonition that ‘‘our’’ job, those of us not divinely designated, is to recognize the Great Man, lift him to a position of prominence, and then obey. A ‘‘sick’’ world would be thus healed (Carlyle, 1841/2013).1
Contemporary surveys of leadership scholarship will occasionally mention Carlyle’s Great Man theory before moving on to more rigorous academic categories: traits, behaviors, charisma, contingencies, and so forth (see, for example, Maloş, 2012). More often, Carlyle and his lectures are simply ignored (for example, Yukl, 2013), presumably because the Great Man formulation is less a theory than a statement of faith. As such, it apparently does not fit into the ‘‘rigorous scholarly theory and research’’ that makes up the contemporary canon of leadership discourse (Day et al., 2014: 64). A ‘‘trait approach’’ that emphasizes the extra- ordinary attributes that set effective leaders apart from less effective ones may be seen as a more recent echo of the Great Man (Northouse, 2013), although that approach too is dis- missed as unsatisfying, misleading, or both (Yukl, 1989). A notable exception to the scant attention paid to the Great Man theory can be found in Keith Grint’s survey of leadership discourse, which acknowledges Carlyle as a foundational writer of modern leadership dis- course (Grint, 2011).
The theme of the Great Man and its pull on the manner in which leadership is conceived and leaders are considered resonates in today’s discourse on corporate behavior. Nancy F. Koehn, for instance, suggested in a recent Op-Ed piece that the continuing upward spiral of CEO pay even in the midst of the well-publicized executive misdeeds in the first decade of the 21st century can be attributed directly to this ongoing belief in the ‘‘Great Man’’ (Koehn, 2014). This is a theory that warrants reexamination.
This essay is part of my larger, ongoing project to assess discourse on the topic of lead- ership, primarily in business organizations, as it unfolded in the 20th century. Under the title The Discourse of Leadership, I am analyzing not the practice of leadership but rather the manner in which the topic is defined, discussed, analyzed, and considered.
I view the writing of history as an exercise in narrative construction. Historical narratives depend not on the simple compilation of a timetable containing a sequence of events, but rather on an act of imaginative intervention that constructs an ‘‘order of meaning,’’ with the goal of revealing themes and interactions (Durepos and Mills, 2011). I recognize that numer- ous narrative lines can be drawn that connect Carlyle with contemporary discourse. One such line could be suggested that connects Carlyle and German sociologist Max Weber, whose configuration of charismatic authority can be represented as a transition from Carlyle’s emphasis on the hero as a gift from God to more contemporary constructions of charisma as an attributional characteristic applied by followers (Conger and Kanungo, 1987). Another line could start with Carlyle’s gendered view of heroic leadership and reach forward to the work of Virginia Schein and others focusing on the prevalence of masculine stereotypes in contemporary literature (Schein, 1973). Both approaches, and likely others, warrant full consideration. My interest in this essay, however, is specifically, on the narrative line that connects Carlyle to Sigmund Freud and then to contemporary discourse concerning the moral—or immoral or even amoral—nature of leadership. I suggest that Freud’s description of the impulses that drive us toward authority figures, more than Carlyle’s proselytizing for hero worship can, and should offer valuable insights into how we—scholars, observers, and participants in the business world—react to corporate saviors.
A note on methodology
My methodology for this essay is intellectual history. Intellectual historians look at ideas as expressed by intellectuals. I take Maciag’s inclusive definition of intellectuals as people who have ‘‘produced writing, speeches, sermons, and other textual material intended for public consumption’’ (Maciag, 2011: 744). In the belief that ideas are powerful agents that either change or support the status quo, I will take measure of the ideas expressed by these two seminal thinkers—Carlyle and Freud—concerning leadership, and the influence those ideas continue to exert in contemporary leadership discourse.
I make no argument that Freud read Carlyle or was otherwise directly influenced by his work. Rather, I am proposing a narrative in which Carlyle and Freud wrestle with similar questions of authority and the impact of leaders on followers, albeit from strikingly different perspectives. My contribution is to construct an historical narrative that encompasses these two sets of ideas.
The role of historical narratives is to engage in a simultaneous dual discourse, one with the past and the other with the present. It is that second exchange that offers the opportunity for critical perspective. By constructing a narrative representation of the evolution of an understanding of the Great Man theory of leadership and drawing special attention to Freud’s contribution, my intent is to offer a critical perspective on current discourse.
Carlyle’s Great Man
In a period of crisis and upheaval—the Napoleonic wars and the accelerating pace of industrialization—Scottish-born Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) looked for a source of strength, direction, wisdom, and uplift. That source was no longer the Church, which in Carlyle’s experience had become a discredited shepherd (Bossche, 1991). Moving away from Calvinism involved a commensurate break with his father, so parental authority seemed as unreliable as Church hierarchy. Carlyle’s search led him to the Great Man: an individual of this earth but unmistakably sent by God.
Already a well-known author on his way to becoming ‘‘the most widely read and most greatly admired social philosopher of his time’’ (Schapiro, 1945: 99), Carlyle fought his discomfort over public speaking in order to earn the significant fees associated with lectur- ing. Carlyle opened his series of London talks on heroes by explaining his intent. ‘‘We have undertaken to discourse here for a little on the Great Men,’’ he explained to his audience, ‘‘their manner of appearance in our world’s business, how they have shaped themselves in the world’s history, what ideas men found of them, what work they did – on Heroes’’ (16). Carlyle intended to demonstrate how ‘‘the great man, with his free force direct out of God’s own hand’’ provided the ‘‘lightening’’ that shaped the world (29).
Given his loss of faith in the Church and his dismay over the revolutions that had spread across Europe, Carlyle wondered about authority. Who had it? Under what claims was it to be held? Who would hold it in the future? From Carlyle’s vantage, wrote Chris Vanden Bossche, ‘‘it appeared not only that authority had shifted, but that the transcendental grounds for it had been undermined’’ (Bossche, 1991). But if old platforms for authority were passing, what would replace them? In On Heroes, Carlyle provided his own answer: the ‘‘Able-man,’’ an individual who has been ‘‘sent by God’’ to have ‘‘a divine right over me.’’
Looking back at the French Revolution, Carlyle laid the responsibility for the collapse of the Ancien Régime squarely on the shoulders of its royal leader, Louis XVI.2 Louis was a far-from-able man, and revolutions occur, insisted Carlyle, when ‘‘you have put too Unable
252 Leadership 12(2)
Man at the head of affairs!’’ (162—all emphasis will be from the original text). Societies bedeviled by the lack of an Able-man at their helm had one core responsibility: find him:
Find in any country the Ablest Man that exists there; raise him to the supreme place, and loyally reverence him; you have a perfect government for that country; no ballot box, Parliamentary eloquence, voting, constitution-building, or other machinery whatsoever can improve it a whit. It is the perfect state; an ideal country. The Ablest Man; he means also the truest-hearted, justest,
the Noblest Man: what he tells us to do must be precisely the wisest, fittest, that we could anywhere or anyhow learn; – the thing which it will in all ways behoove us, with right loyal thankfulness, and nothing doubting, to do! (162).
Of course, locating an Able-man and having the multitudes agree that this was the Able-man was no easy matter:
‘‘That we knew in some tolerable measure how to find him, and that all men were ready to
acknowledge his divine right when found: that is precisely the healing which a sick world is everywhere, in the ages, seeking after!’’ (163–164)
Carlyle was offering as much an argument for how the world works as a theory of lead- ership. Great men were sent by God to be heroes and these heroes became leaders through the righteous process of hero worship. Perhaps no statement found in the lectures is more fre- quently quoted than what follows from the opening of On Heroes:
For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at
bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, these great ones, the modelers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatever the general mass of men contrived to do or attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world
are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these (21).
The goal of the lectures, then, was explicitly pedantic: to convince listeners to ‘‘bow down submissive before great men,’’ an act which would allow the worshiper to ‘‘feel himself to be more noble and blessed’’ (31).
Carlyle’s great men were an eclectic group; they were, in the order of his lectures, pro- phets, poets, priests, men of letters, and kings. Including Shakespeare along with Oliver Cromwell and Martin Luther demonstrates that Carlyle’s great men were heroic figures but not necessarily leaders in any institutional sense. To Carlyle, ‘‘all the greatness of man’’ came out decisively in Shakespeare.
That Shakespeare is the chief of all Poets hitherto; the greatest intellect who, in our recorded
world, has left record of himself in the way of Literature. I know now such a power of vision, faculty of thought, if we take all the characters of it, in any other man (95).
‘‘Nature’’ had offered Shakespeare to the world and Nature was pleased with the result. Still, it was the final lecture, ‘‘The Hero as King,’’ that carried the greatest weight for
Carlyle and cemented the connection between heroes and leaders, or commanders over men. It was ‘‘the last form of Heroism,’’ he wrote, ‘‘that which we call Kingship’’:
The Commander over Men he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally
surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important
of the Great Men. He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism;
Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, to command over us, furnish us with constraint practical teaching, tell us for the day and hour what we are to do (162).
It was this amalgam Great Man who should be raised to ‘‘the supreme place.’’ Carlyle professed indifference to the process of such elevation: ‘‘no ballot box, Parliamentary elo- quence, voting, constitution-building, or other machinery whatsoever can improve it a whit.’’ It was the fact of elevation and the resultant worshipful voluntary subjugation that would lead to ‘‘the perfect state; an ideal country’’ (162).
Carlyle’s view of history as working through the deeds of great men, or conversely through the absence of such a hero, did not go uncontested at the time. Ideas, at least important ones, seldom do. Within Victorian England there was Herbert Spencer. In his 1873 Study of Sociology, a founding text in the evolution of sociological study, Spencer took direct aim at the Great Man theory. Reflecting a sociological world view, Spencer argued that social context played a far more significant role in shaping events than did any indi- vidual leader, great man or otherwise.
The great man must always be considered and understood in terms of the times in which he lived. ‘‘Even if we were to grant the absurd supposition that the genesis of the great man does not depend on the antecedents furnished by the society he is born in,’’ Spencer wrote,
there would still be the quite sufficient facts that he is powerless in the absence of the material
and mental accumulations which his society inherits from the past, and that he is powerless in the absence of the co-existing population, character, intelligence, and social arrangements. (Spencer, 1873/1961, 31–32).
Great men, if and when they did appear, were products of social and historical forces rather than gifts bestowed on human civilization by God.
Other contemporary thinkers—notably Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace, 1869) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (Representative Men, 1903)—joined in this argument that leaders were products of their times. In On Heroes, Carlyle rejected the position totally:
He [the Great Man] was the ‘‘creature of the Time,’’ they say; the Time called him forth, the Time did everything, he did nothing – but what we the little critic could have done too! This
seems to me but melancholy work. The Times call forth? Alas, we have known Times call loudly enough for their great man; but not find him when they called! He was not there; Providence had not sent him; the Time, calling its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he
would not come when called. . . The great man, with his free force direct out of God’s own hand, is the lightening. His word is the wise healing word which we all can believe in. All blazes round him now, when he has once struck on it, into fire like his own (29).
Critics of the Great Man theory, Carlyle maintained, belittle themselves through their egre- gious misreading of how the world works.
It is impossible to miss the stern proselytizing, the righteous indignation, and the reproachful tone of these words. No surprise that Carlyle’s work found particular favor among the rising acolytes of 20th-century Italian fascism and German Nazism (Schapiro, 1945; Steinweis, 1995). Carlyle with his Great Man theory was called upon to add a ‘‘veneer of respectability’’ to ‘‘the fascists, who were delighted to find their ideas proclaimed in eloquent words by the great Victorian’’ (Schapiro, 1945: 114). More recently, the notion
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of hero worship has been criticized as a pathway to passivity and dependence (Frieze and Wheatley, 2011; McPherson, 2008). Moderns generally and rationalists in particular typic- ally express a deep unease with hero worship. Carlyle’s preaching—that is the best word for it—is easy to resist or ignore on scientific, moral, and political grounds. However, my narrative has an additional iteration to explore before arriving at a present-day consider- ation of the lingering impact of the Great Man theory.
Let’s bring Freud into this
By the time of the 1937 publication ofMoses and Monotheism, a revisionist study of the great Hebrew hero and savior, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) had established a worldwide psycho- analytic movement. In search of analytic rigor to aid his and others’ clinical assessment of patients, Freud delved into the unconscious working of the mind. Over time, intellectual curiosity led him to a broader perspective, seeking to illuminate a linkage between individual psychology and group dynamics, religious belief, and the structure of history. Although the study of Moses represents his most articulate view of the hero role in history, his notion of the great man (I am using small letters rather than capitals because it is meant to be descrip- tive in Freud’s case) can be seen in earlier works, most specifically his 1921 Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.
For Carlyle, heroes were gifts from God and the task for the rest of us was to recognize that gift and to follow. Heroism certainly resided outside of the traditional boundaries of patriarchy. For Freud, on the other hand, the need for a single, special leader was primal, arising from the drive for dependency and even love. He opened that reasoning by situating the individual within a larger collective: a tribe, clan, or family. Group membership conveys many obvious benefits to individual members, including safety and security. On the other hand, by following a single leader, group members tend to bend their thinking ‘‘in the direction of the approximation to the other individuals in the group’’ (Freud, 1921/1967: 20). Group members would opt for conformity while sacrificing individuality.
Freud selected two institutions to offer illustrative examples of this attraction: the Church, particularly the Catholic Church, and the military. Christ for the church and the comman- der-in-chief for the military were both father figures who were loved by group members and were thought to love all followers within the group equally. Those assumptions were based on the basic process of identification. This was, for Freud, the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person: particularly the son identifying with the father. ‘‘A little boy will exhibit a special interest in his father; he would like to grow up like him and be like him, and take his place everywhere’’ (Freud, 1921/1967: 37). Identification with a father figure was a natural, even inevitable form of emotional attachment.
For Freud, the leader is always male; a father figure. Strozier and Offer explain that ‘‘Freud always examines the unfolding of the Oedipus complex’’—this being the primary source of conflict within the family—‘‘from the boy’s point of view, adding only parenthet- ically that the analogue of the boy’s conflicts occurs in girls’’ (Strozier and Offer, 2011: 28). For Carlyle and Freud both, the great man is, well, a man. Carlyle’s gendered view derives from his reading of world history as unfolding through the actions of men; for Freud, it derived from the assumed role of the father as head of the family.
In Freud’s treatment of Moses, we can see his most complete statement of the role of the male hero leader in human society. Throughout history, Freud noted, ‘‘the great majority of people have a strong need for authority which they can admire’’ (Freud, 1937/1967: 111).
Freud replaced Carlyle’s belief in divine intervention with individual psychology, family dynamics, and psychosexual drives. He nonetheless located what he felt was a recurring human desire for a single, always male, individual. This father figure satisfied a primal need for protection and love.
Freud’s story of Moses departs in dramatic ways from that found in Exodus. Rather than being a Jewish son sent floating down the Nile, he is in Freud’s retelling an Egyptian born into royalty. His later struggle with the Pharaoh is, in this telling, a struggle—perhaps symbolic but maybe not—with his ‘‘real’’ father. Moses emerged as a hero by rebelling against this father, killing him ‘‘in some guise or another’’ (Freud, 1937/1967: 111). Monotheism, which Moses institutionalized among the Hebrews, represented for Freud the triumph of the father figure, the single male deity who could serve as the organizing totem for his followers. Moses was, for Freud, the great man, with monotheism representing the institutionalization of the single male authority figure.
A reconsideration (with Freud in the mix)
The Great Man theory, despite its lack of scientific rigor, remains fully relevant. In the world of business, the search for a hero to ‘‘save’’ failing companies still exerts considerable appeal. Driven by a ‘‘quasi-religious belief’’ in the power and influence of an individual hero, board members and investors regularly search for ‘‘saviors’’ (Khurana, 2002). Occasionally, that savior is a woman. Boards hire, and then frequently dismiss CEOs, both male and female, always on the lookout for the latest savior.
A number of scholars have noted the utility and appeal of condensing a multitude of forces, complex interactions, and uncertain causation into an individual (see, for example, Meindl et al., 1985; Pfeffer, 1977). Leadership as a concept upholds human agency. Furthermore, it offers a pathway to corrective action: when things go bad, fire the current leader and hire a new one. That is, of course, a simple, certainly simplistic pathway, but a pathway nonetheless.
External observers of corporate life contribute to the exaltation of individual leader/ heroes. James Meindl and Stanford Ehrlich (1987) asked research subjects to evaluate the performance of a fictitious firm based entirely on data provided them by the researcher. The performance data were held constant. What changed in the two accounts provided the subjects were an emphasis on the individual role of the leader in achieving that performance. The result: Subjects evaluated performance of a fictitious firm more positively when the information they received pointed to leadership as the main cause for performance. There is little reason, apparently, to think that the notion of an individual hero/leader has lost its power to influence our thought process.
Corporate executives explicitly reinforce the Great Man theory when they don the cloak of heroic leadership. Eric Guthey and his colleagues noted a trend, dating back to the later 19th century, for business executives to construct a narrative in which ‘‘they can remain floating in mid-air by virtue of their own innate skills and exemplary characteristics’’ (Guthey et al., 2010: 12). Other recent studies have shown that CEOs take pains to claim authorship of great successes for their companies, while blaming failures on outside forces: unfair foreign competition, crippling state regulation, world economic trends, and even bad weather (Bligh et al., 2011; Gray and Densten, 2007; Salancik and Meindl, 1984; Staw et al., 1983). By romanticizing their own role in the company’s success, CEOs seek to enhance their self-esteem. With adulation comes prestige, power, and control (Goode, 1978). CEOs seek to assure others—shareholders (both current and potential future investors), board members,
256 Leadership 12(2)
fellow executives, and employees at all levels—that their leadership in worthy of follower- ship; that they are indeed great men.
The narrative I have constructed explicitly offers Freud as a significant coauthor of the Great Man theory. Freud addressed many of the same matters taken up in Carlyle’s lectures, most particularly the source and role of authority in human existence (see Table 1).
For Carlyle, dependence on the Great Man offered nothing but uplift. For Freud, on the other hand, dependency inevitably led to a marked reduction in intellectual engagement on the part of group members. Part of this dynamic, what would later come to be known as ‘‘groupthink’’ (Janis, 1972; Whyte, 1952), involved placing a higher value on group mem- bership than on individual autonomy. But Freud added that the presence of a strong, attractive individual leader exacerbated the tendency to submerge the individual into the group. Group members provided the leader with love and expected that love to be recipro- cated equally to the members.3 This was Freud, so, yes, that attraction was in part sexual; a libidinous attraction to the father-figure/leader.
In Freud’s view, the great man is ‘‘the father that lives in each of us from his childhood days for the same father whom the hero of legend boosts of having overcome.’’ The ‘‘picture of the father,’’ then, includes the ‘‘decisiveness of thought, the strength of will, the self- reliance and independence of the great man [and] his divine conviction of doing the right thing which may pass into ruthlessness.’’ The great man will be admired, trusted, and fol- lowed. However, ‘‘one cannot help but being afraid of him’’ (Freud, 1937/1967: 140).
That final note—‘‘one cannot help but being afraid of him’’—offers a markedly differ- ent tone from the jubilation so prevalent in Carlyle. And Freud did not stop with that warning. By admiring a leader unconditionally, followers were submitting to authority. In so doing, followers rendered themselves vulnerable. Submission enabled an authority
Table 1. Comparing the contributions of Carlyle and Freud.
Great Man Theory
Great men were sent by God to
be heroes and these …
The 15th International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education
Bucharest, April 11-12, 2019 10.12753/2066-026X-19-115
The Role of Technology Leadership: Innovation for School Leadership in Digital Age
Umut AKCIL, PhD., Zehra ALTINAY, PhD., Gökmen DAGLI, PhD., Fahriye ALTINAY, PhD. Education Faculty, Near East University, Near East University boulevard, Nicosai, Cyprus.
Abstract: Recent developments in information and communication technologies have moved schools
into digital platforms. For this reason, in our digital-age, technology-based leadership has an
important place increasing the quality of expected education in the environment of the new generation
students, who we call digital natives. The Technology Leadership that emerged at this point is an
important type of leadership that should be adopted for the school administrators in the digital age. In
this context, the aim of this study is to evaluate the role of technology leadership self-efficacy on
educational processes in the digital age in the context of Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). In the
study, a semi-structured interview form was employed as the data collection tool. The study was
conducted in the academic year of 2018 and a total of 20 school administrators engaged in the
secondary education level under the ministry of national education were included in the study. The
views obtained from the administrators were analyzed with content analysis. The results were evaluated
utilizing TAM model. In light of the views of administrators which are analyzed according to "perceived
ease of use" and "perceived usefulness" defined by TAM model, it is concluded that the technology
leadership self-efficacy has an impact on technology integration to the education process, promoting
effective use of technology for learning, communicating effectively with all the stakeholders and
creating social interaction based on trust.
Keywords: technology leadership; technology acceptance; digital age; school administrators; digital
Today, in a digitalized world, the societies adopt the digital age as a lifestyle rather than use it
as a tool. Therefore, the effects of the digital age continue gradually more in all fields. Information
technologies and along with these, digital applications have shown impact intensively on education as
on all fields (Altınay & Altınay, 2014). Such that, in recent years, the benefits of internet technologies
such as social media are addressed in order to strengthen the participation of young people in digital
public spaces (Manca & Grion, 2017). The use of computers and computer-aided technologies
contribute to the learning processes of the digital natives; young people who were born and raised in
the technology world of 21st century (Kivunja, 2014). Current research continues how such
technologies have become an important tool for teaching and learning in schools (Akcil, Altınay &
It seems that in the digital age, the social and political structures that rapidly change due to
information and communication technologies cause changes in the functions of educational
institutions and their relationships with the environment (Aslan & Karip, 2014). In order to manage
this change, there is a need for a human profile that can follow the updated technologies, produce the
information quickly, use and share it effectively, as well as use these technologies in administration
processes. Therefore, administrators are expected to demonstrate leadership characteristics in the use
of technology in administrative and instructional processes (Afshari, Bakar, Luan, Samah, & Fooi,
2009). Matthews (2002) defines the technology leaders as people who follow developments in
technology; people who set an example and motivate the teachers on the effective use of technology.
In general, it can be stated that if the administrators possess the technology leadership standards
(NETS-A) developed by ISTE (2009), educational administrators can be referred to as technology
leaders. NETS-A standards aim to ensure that school administrators use technology effectively,
organize technology-related activities and become models at the school (Altınay & Altınay, 2015).
According to ISTE (2009) these standards are described as "visionary leadership", "digital age
learning culture", "excellence in professional practice", "systemic improvement" and "digital
citizenship". These standards are explained as follows (Hacıfazlıoğlu, Karadeniz & Dalgıç, 2011 a;
1. Visionary Leadership (VL): Educational administrators inspire and lead development and
implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote
excellence and support transformation throughout the organization.
2. Digital Age Learning Culture (DALC): Educational administrators create, promote, and
sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging
education for all students.
3. Excellence in Professional Practice (EPP): Educational administrators promote an
environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance
student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.
4. Systemic Improvement (SI): Educational administrators provide digital-age leadership and
management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information
and technology resources.
5. Digital Citizenship (DC): Educational administrators’ model and facilitate understanding of
social, ethical, and legal issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture.
Technology leaders who hold these standards should possess a high technical expertise. They
should follow new technologies, be aware of tools that can positively affect the student's academic
achievement and utilize them (Courville, 2011). To follow the emerging technologies, it is necessary
to have an interest in these technologies (Jameson, 2015), to adopt and develop a positive view of the
use of technology for the innovation in schools (Tarhini et all, 2015). All these refer to technology
acceptance model (TAM). Developed by Davis (1989), TAM explains end-user's desires, i.e. attitudes
to use emerging technologies in institutions. The attitude towards the use is determined by two other
variables: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Perceived ease of use directly affects the
perceived usefulness as well as attitude (Nagy, 2018). Perceived Ease of Use is defined as the "the
degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort" (Davis,
1989) while Perceived Usefulness is defined as "the degree to which a person believes that using a
particular system would enhance his or her job performance" (Davis, 1989).
According to Venkatesh and Davis (2000) for individuals to exhibit behaviours of using a new
technology; it is effective that the system; is easy to use and helpful, is required by the people the
individual cares, increases the individual's social status, is pertinent to the individual's profession,
performs its functions successfully, is not mandatory to be used and has concrete benefits
From this point of view, the aim of this research is to investigate the technology leadership
self-efficacy of school administrators within the framework of technology acceptance model. The
research questions determined for this purpose are as follows:
1- What do administrators think about technology integration to the education process with regards to the perceived usefulness and ease of use?
2- What do administrators think about promoting effective use of technology for learning with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use?
3- What do administrators think about effective communication with all stakeholders with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use?
4- How do administrators make a creation of social interaction based on trust on technology use in the organization with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use?
This research is designed as a comparative case study among the qualitative research designs.
Qualitative research can be defined as a research model in which qualitative data collection techniques such
as observation, interview and document analysis are employed and a research model in which a qualitative
process is followed to reveal perceptions and events in a realistic and integrative way in their natural
environments. Qualitative studies are studies that focus on investigating and understanding social
phenomena within the environment they are connected to (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Yıldırım & Şimşek,
2011). Case studies are studies in which multidimensional data collection techniques such as observation,
interview, document analysis were employed and the obtained data is analyzed by methods as revealing
patterns, describing and comparative analysis and the results are reported by means of defining and
interpreting the cases comparatively or alone (Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2011).
The study group consists of 20 administrators who are working in secondary schools in
northern part of Cyprus in the 2017-2018 academic year. No sampling was made from the universe; all
the secondary school administrators within northern part of Cyprus were reached.
The administrators' views on the first dimension of the study; technology integration to the
education process with regards to the perceived usefulness and ease of use are presented with themes
and percentages in Table 1.
Theme n %
The use of technology in the
education process was very
effective in increasing the
The use of technology
should not be in front of any
educational purpose in
Use of technology in
education saves time and
provides benefits to improve
Table 1: Administrators' views on technology integration to the education process with regards
to the perceived usefulness and ease of use
As can be seen from the table above, a total of 75% of school administrators stated that the use
of technology in the education process was very effective in increasing the educational success. In this
context, a school administrator stated: "I can clearly state as an administrator that with the support we
have provided to our teachers for effective and efficient use of technology, our school success in
education has increased considerably (I(3))." The percentage of the administrators who have
expressed their views under the theme that technology should not take precedence over any
educational objectives was revealed as 60%. Under this theme, one school administrator has expressed
his views as "The use of technology in school and education is very important. However, the use of
technology should not take precedence over any educational objectives (I(14))." Among the school
administrators, a total of 45% expressed their views under the theme; use of technology in education
saves time and provides benefits to improve instruction. Referring to this theme, one school
administrator stated her views as; “I can say that the use of technology in education provides a great
saving of time and thus brings important benefits for the improvement of instruction thanks to the
suggestions we have provided to our teachers about the importance of using technology as the school
The administrators' views on the second dimension of the study, promoting effective use of
technology for learning with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use are presented with themes
and percentages in Table 2.
Theme n %
The school administrators
stated the students' learning
was highly improved when
they supported the efficient
use of technology in
That the more effective
administrators are in the use
of technology, the more
teachers put effort to make
use of technology and faster
the students' learning process
Table 2. Administrators' views on promoting effective use of technology for learning with
regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use
As can be seen from the table above, a total of 70% of the school administrators stated that the
students' learning was highly improved when they supported the efficient use of technology in
learning. In this context a school administrator stated “I can say that the learning of the students
improve considerably when we promote the efficient use of technology in our school as administrators
(I(8)). The percentage of the administrators who have expressed their views under the theme, that the
more effective administrators are in the use of technology, the more teachers put effort to make use of
technology and faster the students' learning process becomes, was revealed as 55%. Under this theme,
one school administrator has stated his views as “The more effective administrators are in the use of
technology, the more teachers put effort to make use of technology and faster the students' learning
process becomes (I(13))."
The administrators' views on the third dimension of the study, effective communication with
all stakeholders with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use are presented with themes and
percentages in Table 3.
Theme n %
School administrators stated
that they are more successful
in communicating effectively
with all the stakeholders
through the use of
That the success of education
increases as a result of
administrators' increased of
The importance given to the
technology and the use of
technology by administrators
all activities carried out in
the school are coordinated
Table 3. Administrators' view on effective communication with all stakeholders with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use
As can be seen from the table above, a total of 80% of school administrators stated that they
are more successful in communicating effectively with all the stakeholders through the use of
technology. In this context, a school administrator stated: "In our school we communicate only
through technology and I can say that we are more successful in communicating effectively (I(9))."
The percentage of the administrators who have expressed their views under the theme that the success
of education increases as a result of administrators’ increased of effective communication through
technology was revealed as 75%. Under this theme, one school administrator has stated her views as "I
can state that as school administrators, we increase the effective communication among teachers
through using technology and thus we are more effective in the increasing the success of education
(I(18))." Among the school administrators, a total of 70% stated their views under the theme; as a
result of the importance given to the technology and the use of technology by administrators all
activities carried out in the school are coordinated and organized seriously. Referring to this theme,
one school administrator stated his opinions as; “I can say that as a result of the importance we give to
the technology and the use of technology as administrators we provide great opportunities for all
activities carried out in the school are coordinated and organized seriously (I(20).”
The administrators' views on the fourth aspect of the study, creation of social interaction based
on trust on technology use in the organization with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use are
presented with themes and percentages in Table 4.
Theme n %
School administrators stated
they created social
interaction based on trust and
thanks to the social
interaction the teachers'
School administrators stated
that through creation of
social interaction based on
trust a strong sense of
belonging was attained and
that the success in education
Table 4. Administrators' views on creation of social interaction based on trust on technology use in the
organization with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use
As can be seen from the table above, a total of 70% of school administrators stated that they
created social interaction based on trust and thanks to the social interaction the teachers' motivation
increased strongly. In this context, one school administrator expressed: "I can clearly state as an
administrator thanks to the use of technology we have created social interaction and as a result of this
interaction the teachers are strongly motivated (I(10)." The percentage of the administrators who have
expressed their views under the theme that through creation of social interaction based on trust a
strong sense of belonging was attained and that the success in education has enhanced, was revealed as
60%. Under this theme, one school administrator has stated his views as "Related to technology use, I
can say that, thanks to the social interaction based on trust we have created a strong sense of
belonging and have increased student success in education (I(19))."
First Dimension: Administrators' views on technology integration to the education process
with regards to the perceived usefulness and ease of use.
In the first dimension of the study, within the context of administrators' views on technology
integration to the education process with regards to the perceived usefulness and ease of use a total of
75% of school administrators stated that the use of technology in the education process was very
effective in increasing the educational success. In this context we can suggest that it is appropriate to
provide continuous support and training to administrators and teachers on the use of technology
(Aksal, 2015). The percentage of the administrators who have expressed their views under the theme
that technology should not take precedence over any educational objectives was revealed as 60%.
Relevant to this theme we can say that it is more appropriate to set limitations on use of technology on
certain subjects. Furthermore, it is also concluded that the use of technology provides significant
benefits for students and teachers in education process through saving a substantial amount of time
(Gazi & Aksal, 2017).
Second Dimension: Administrators' views on promoting effective use of technology for
learning with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use.
Within the context of participants' views on promoting effective use of technology for learning
with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use a total of 70% of the school administrators stated
that the students' learning was highly improved when they supported the efficient use of technology in
learning (Akcil, Altinay & Altinay, 2016). The more effective administrators are in use of technology,
the more effort teachers put into practice on the use of technology and thus realize the learning process
with students. Therefore, it can be suggested that school administrators should be provided with
planned training on development of missing information and education on technology use.
Third Dimension: Administrators' view on effective communication with all stakeholders
with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use.
Within the context of the participants' views on the third dimension of the study the; effective
communication with all stakeholders with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use a total of
80% of school administrators stated that they are more successful in communicating effectively with
all the stakeholders through the use of technology (Gazi & Aksal, 2017) It is understood from the
received responses that the administrators can increase the success of education as a result of
enhancing the effective communication using technology. As a result of the importance they give to
technology and its use, the administrators can seriously coordinate and organize all the activities
conducted within the school.
Fourth Dimension: Administrators' views on creation of social interaction based on trust on
technology use in the organization with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of use.
In the fourth dimension of the study, within the context of participants' views on creation of
social interaction based on trust on technology use with regards to perceived usefulness and ease of
use a total of 70% of school administrators expressed that they created social interaction based on trust
and because of the social interaction the teachers' motivation increased strongly. We can say that due
to the social interaction based on trust the administrators have succeeded in creating a strong sense of
belonging and thus increased the student success in education within the school (Altınay, Dagli &
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Is critical leadership studies ‘critical’?
Mark Learmonth Durham University Business School, UK
Kevin Morrell Warwick Business School, UK
‘Leader’ and ‘follower’ are increasingly replacing ‘manager’ and ‘worker’ to become the routine
way to frame hierarchy within organizations; a practice that obfuscates, even denies, structural
antagonisms. Furthermore, given that many workers are indifferent to (and others despise) their
bosses, assuming workers are ‘followers’ of organizational elites seems not only managerialist, but
blind to other forms of cultural identity. We feel that critical leadership studies should embrace
and include a plurality of perspectives on the relationship between workers and their bosses.
However, its impact as a critical project may be limited by the way it has generally adopted this
mainstream rhetoric of leader/follower. By not being ‘critical’ enough about its own discursive
practices, critical leadership studies risk reproducing the very kind of leaderism it seeks to
Critical management studies, critical leadership studies, critical theory, manager, worker
The terms ‘leader’ and ‘follower’ are increasingly replacing expressions like ‘manager’ and ‘worker’ and becoming routine ways to talk about hierarchical groups within organizations. For example, what was once ‘management development’ has frequently become ‘leadership development’; ‘senior management teams’ have often morphed into ‘senior leadership teams’ and CEOs typically present themselves, apparently unquestioningly, as their institution’s ‘leader’ (and are generally described as such in the media). We have even come across the
Mark Learmonth, Durham University Business School, Mill Hill Lane, Durham DH1 3LB, UK.
Email: [email protected]
2017, Vol. 13(3) 257–271
! The Author(s) 2016
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term ‘middle-leader’ in an advert for a school teacher. As Alvesson and Spicer (2014: 40; italics in original) argue:
In many instances, embracing the idea of leadership does not involve any significant change to practice but merely indicates an interest in relabeling managerial work as ‘‘leadership’’ to make it sound more fashionable and impressive. The term leadership is seductive, has a strong rhetorical appeal, and is therefore heavily overused.
However, this slippage between manager/leader and worker/follower is more than merely rebranding with a more fashionable label. It relies on a logic of equivalence: on understand- ing leadership as equivalent to a role or a kind of work. Because it relies on a logic of equivalence, rather than a subtle interpenetration of meanings or gradual porousness in the terms leader/manager and follower/worker, the shift to leadership represents a significant shift in discursive terrain. Basic categories, fundamental to understanding work and the employment relationship, are disappearing. In their place are labels that implicitly depict a unitarist perspective of the labour process. The manager/worker dyad makes a power imbalance explicit and includes the possibility that interests will diverge. Leader/follower by contrast entails a common goal. It glosses fundamental questions about prerogative because a worker can question managerial prerogative, but it does not quite make sense for ‘followers’ to question their leaders’ basic authority in that way.
This shift to discourse about leaders could be attributed partly to a mushrooming literature on leadership (Alvesson and Spicer, 2014; Grint, 2005; O’Reilly and Reed, 2010; Tourish, 2013). However, and paradoxically, calling someone a leader just because they inhabit a role, or carry out a kind of work goes against the prevailing construction of leadership in the literature. Contemporary leadership scholars tend to understand terms like leader and fol- lower as referencing identities that are in some ways chosen and personal (which could be consistent with the leader/manager slippage), but that are also enacted relationally (which is not). According to most thinking about leadership, to be a leader is not merely to inhabit a role, it is to identify as a leader, and for others to orient towards that identity or to sanction it in some way (Grint, 2010). This is significant because at the same time as editing out terms which potentially signal divergent interests (e.g. manager/worker), popular discourse on leader/follower also airbrushes out any sense of consent or relationality. If a senior executive is axiomatically a leader, those below are axiomatically followers – whether they like it or not.
We have been troubled by the practice of habitually calling people leaders and followers, as if they were synonyms for manager and worker, ever since starting to notice it; not least because of the experiences one of us (Mark) had while working as a manager in the UK National Health Service (NHS) in the 1980s and ‘90s. But even to say NHS ‘manager’ in the context of the early 1980s NHS is not quite correct. When Mark first started in the NHS no one officially had that title; everyone was an administrator. In 1983, however, after a gov- ernment inquiry suggested that management should be introduced into the NHS there was overwhelming enthusiasm for the change. Overwhelming enthusiasm, that is, amongst the newly named managers (i.e. former administrators); but it came about only with strong backing from the Thatcher government, in the teeth of opposition from clinicians (Strong and Robinson, 1990). One thing that did unite the newly up-titled managers with the clin- icians, however, was a shared intuition: that an apparently simple change in job title – from administrator to manager – represented a shift in power dynamics (Bresnen et al., 2014; Learmonth, 2005), one that would serve the interests of some (e.g. the new managers) over others (e.g. the clinicians).
258 Leadership 13(3)
A generation on, we can see a comparable shift occurring across all sectors and industries. Only now we are calling the managers leaders (Ford and Harding, 2007; Martin and Learmonth, 2012; O’Reilly and Reed, 2011). The shift is occurring gradually and informally, though even some 12 years ago Parker (2004: 175) had already detected that ‘management itself [is] beginning to go out of fashion (being discursively articulated as something rather like administration) and leadership [represents] the new panacea’.
Our aim in this paper is to demonstrate the problematic effects that accompany the routine use of a leader/follower rhetoric – what one might call the language of leadership – especially in the context of critical leadership studies (CLS) research. Our intent is not so much to debate what leaders and followers are, but to show what the use of these terms does; par- ticularly when deployed as apparently routine and more-or-less unnoticed generics for hier- archical groups within organizations. What we call things sanctions certain forms of discourse and knowledge, while disqualifying other possible ways of knowing and being in the world. Yet for all its considerable merits in many other ways, much of CLS appears to use the leader/follower dualism just like the mainstream – taking these terms as merely the building blocks of analysis; in and of themselves necessary, natural and unproblematic. Labels are never innocent though. Social scientists do not simply describe the world, we also constitute it. Calling people leaders and followers potentially has a range of effects, which might encourage us to be cautious in the use of these terms. As Alvesson and Kärreman (2016:142) argue, the terms leadership and followership are predominantly used ‘to build and maintain a positive, celebrating, even glamorous view of organizational relations [while] naturalizing and freezing (asymmetrical) social relations’.
The basic point, therefore, is that what we call people matters – and so reflexivity about the effects of our naming practices is necessary. Unfortunately, when it comes to founda- tional terms like leader and follower, such reflexivity appears to be largely absent in CLS. Collinson (2011: 181) describes how CLS has ‘a concern to critique the power relations and identity constructions through which leadership dynamics are reproduced’. We agree; but argue that by routinely adopting the language of leadership, CLS risks being implicated in the very power relations it sets out to critique.
In developing this argument, our article proceeds by providing critical readings of recent leading work in CLS to show that:
(1) In spite of its claims to be distinctive from critical management studies (CMS), often CLS is only definitively about leadership because of its preference for the terms leader and follower. It seems as if more traditional terms like manager and worker have simply been crossed-out by CLS researchers and replaced with leader and follower.
(2) Unfortunately, this preference for the language of leadership affects the tone of CLS work – naturalizing the interests of elites while de-radicalizing critique. Indeed, trying to be critical while using the language of leadership can strike some very odd-sounding notes.
Critical Leadership Studies
Almost since the idea of organizational leadership was first introduced, leadership has had its critics. A full review of literature critical of leadership in various ways is beyond the scope of this article (for such a review see Tourish, 2013). However, exemplary work includes for us landmark papers such as Meindl et al.’s (1985: 79) analysis of the romance of leadership,
Learmonth and Morrell 259
something which is: ‘hinted at in the observations made by a number of social and organ- izational analysts who have noted the esteem, prestige, charisma, and heroism attached to various conceptions and forms of leadership’. It also includes Smircich and Morgan’s (1982: 258) critique of leadership as the management of meaning:
The leader exists as a formal leader only when he or she achieves a situation in which an obliga-
tion, expectation or right to frame experience is presumed, or offered and accepted by others. . . . It involves a complicity or process of negotiation through which certain individuals, implicitly or explicitly, surrender their power to define the nature of their nature of their experience to others.
Indeed leadership depends on the existence of individuals willing, as a result of inclination or pressure, to surrender, at least in part, the powers to shape and define their own reality.
Since the 1980s, if not before, we have been able to see that what generally gets referred to as leadership tends to be bound up with insidious forms of power asymmetries, overly roman- ticized celebration, covert complicities and the surrender of agency. These features all signal leadership as a problem in itself, something which is hardly the mainstream view. Such a reading of leadership is rarely, if ever, explicit in the corporate courses that have proliferated in recent years, nor in responses to remotely administered questionnaires that much main- stream work in the field pursues. Indeed, it is only in the last few years that CLS has emerged as a separately recognizable approach to studying and critiquing leadership.
The emergence of CLS is closely related to the growth of the more established tradition of CMS. Briefly, CMS is a diverse set of ideas which, rather than being concerned primarily with increasing organizational efficiency, seeks to reveal, challenge and overturn the power relations within organizational life (King and Learmonth, 2015). This is a valuable under- taking because, in contemporary industrial societies, it is through such structures that many people are often constrained and dominated. CLS, as Collinson (2011: 182) argues, broadly shares CMS’s political aims and intellectual traditions, but it attempts to broaden CMS’s range, in that it:
Explicitly recognizes that, for good and/or ill, leaders and leadership dynamics (defined . . . as the
shifting, asymmetrical interrelations between leaders, followers and contexts) also exercise sig- nificant power and influence over contemporary organizational and societal processes [whereas] many CMS writers ignore the study of leadership, focusing more narrowly on management and
Fairhurst and Grant (2010: 188) support Collinson’s reading of CMS’s limits in relation to leadership studies. For them also:
CMS scholars tend to be less enamored of leadership per se . . . If CMS scholars mention lead-
ership at all, they cast it as a mechanism of domination . . . view it with suspicion for being overly reductionist . . . or proclaim a need for agnosticism.
Furthermore, many in CLS remain alive to the dangers of essentializing leadership as something categorically distinct from management. As Collinson and Tourish (2015: 577) argue:
[I]t makes sense to see management as somewhat more concerned with day-to-day operational activities than leadership [nevertheless] the term leadership [as opposed to management] has heuristic value in that it captures the approach, perceptions, and interactional dynamics of varied organizational actors when they encounter uncertain environments, powerful others,
260 Leadership 13(3)
and complex strategic dilemmas, and in which the salience of leadership issues is therefore
heightened. However, attempts to establish absolutist distinctions between them [leadership and management] can be viewed as another example of the ‘‘dichotomizing tendency’’ in lead- ership studies.
Another feature of CLS, according to Collinson, is its emphasis on how ‘leadership dynam- ics can emerge informally in more subordinated and dispersed relationships . . . as well as in oppositional forms of organization such as trade unions . . . and revolutionary movements’ (2011: 182). The prominence attached to this feature of CLS certainly reflects a critical point of view because rather than reproducing officially sanctioned corporate hierarchies it chal- lenges and subverts them. Indeed, work like Zoller and Fairhurst’s (2007: 1332) study of resistance leadership – which highlights ‘the role of leadership in resisting and potentially transforming structures of domination’ provides an illustration of the critical potential in such work. They provide extended examples of the leadership of dissent, focusing ‘on the role of perceived unfairness and injustice as a key resource of dissent mobilization’ (2007: 1340). Take this excerpt, which uses the accounts of a participant ethnography by Laurie Graham (1995) who worked in an American automobile factory. It was in this setting that Graham:
[U]sed discourses around Japanese concepts of self-management and extant organizational policy to fight the [recently introduced and unpopular] overtime requirement. However, her refusal gains traction from other employees as it articulates simmering employee anger around this issue. Before this incident, she [Graham] describes angry reactions when the team
leader asked employees to stay after shift to put away their tools because the line would no longer stop five minutes early. Employees privately complained, saying things like ‘this is the kind of bullshit that brings in a union’, and ‘this place is getting too Japanese around here’. She
says, ‘From that day on, whenever the line ran up to quitting time, all of us on the team dropped whatever we were doing and immediately walked out, leaving the team leader to lock up the tools and clean the area’ . . .That same month, after resentment grew about the mandatory
overtime, when the line kept moving after shift, ‘nearly everyone on the car side put on a coat and walked out’, although leaving a moving line is a cause for firing ‘and everybody knew it’. (Zoller and Fairhurst, 2007: 1350)
According to Zoller and Fairhurst, activists and trade unionists – among other oppositional groups – appropriate some of the influencing tools of leadership to advance causes that go against the interests of elites. It is unsurprising then, that Zoller and Fairhurst (2007: 1354) conclude by urging ‘more dialogue between leadership and critical researchers in order to understand resistance leadership’.
We welcome all the above aspirations, and unlike authors such as Gemmill and Oakley (1992), we are not arguing for a blanket ban on using the term leadership in organizational scholarship. For us, the term can sometimes be a valuable category to deploy, especially when used reflexively and judiciously to challenge and subvert its received usage in mainstream research. After all, foundational critical thinkers like Weber and Gramsci include discussions of leadership and its dynamics in their work. What we are against, however, is the a priori use of leader and follower to represent different hierarchical groups – as a kind of master category for representing and under- standing social and organizational dynamics. As we show in the next section, this is common practice in CLS – in spite of CLS’s many other virtues –something which effectively sets CLS against some of its own aspirations.
Learmonth and Morrell 261
In order to explore the issues that arise, we now examine three prominent pieces of recent CLS writing in more detail. We should emphasize that we regard all three of them as highly successful – and critical – in many ways. However, all three share an important blind spot: an apparently unreflexive use of leader and follower. The first is Harding (2014), a paper we use to explore our claim that Critical Leadership Studies seems to be different from Critical Management Studies only because of its preference to use leader and follower – and that manager and worker would do just as well – at least in terms of semantics. The second is Collinson (2014) – an article we juxtapose with some of Collinson’s earlier work (from 1988) – to show both how new this drift from manager to leader is; and why it matters. Finally, we examine the work of Collinson and Tourish (2015) to demonstrate the dangers of the uni- versalization of leadership that an unreflexive use of leader and follower can imply – even in an article that is otherwise highly successful in critiquing mainstream leadership studies.
Semantic swap: Crossing-out managers and workers
Let us turn first to Harding (2014). To demonstrate how synonymous leader and manager, follower and worker are, at least in Harding’s usage, below is the article’s abstract in full. Each reference to leadership/leader is replaced with management/manager; and each refer- ence to follower is replaced with worker:
This paper develops a theory of the subjectivity of the leader manager through the philosophical
lens of Hegel’s master/slave dialectic and its recent interpretation by the philosopher Judith Butler. This is used to analyse the working life history of a man who rose from poverty to a leadership management position in a large company and eventually to running his own successful
business. Hegel’s dialectic is foundational to much Western thought, but in this paper, I rashly update it by inserting a leader manager in between the master, whose approval the leader manager needs if s/he is to sustain self-hood, and the follower worker, who becomes a tool
that the leader manager uses when trying to gain that elusive approval. The analysis follows the structure of Butler’s reading of the Dialectic and develops understanding of the norms that govern how leaders managers should act and the persons they should be. Hard work has become for leaders managers an ethical endeavour, but they grieve the sacrifice of leisure. They enjoy a
frisson of erotic pleasure at their power over others but feel guilt as a result. They must prove their leadership management skills by ensuring their followers workers are perfect employees but at the same time must prove their followers workers are poor workers who need their continued
leadership management. This leads to the conclusion that the leader manager is someone who is both powerful and powerless. This analysis is intended not to demonize leaders managers, but to show the harm that follows the emphasis on leadership management as a desirable and necessary
There is no loss in meaning or resolution with these changes – showing how manager and worker here are direct synonyms for leader and follower. Also, the preference for leader/ follower has nothing to do with the paper’s central problematic. Judith Butler’s reading of Hegel’s master/slave would work with either leader/follower or manager/worker as the dialectic.
That these terms are interchangeable would probably be true of many articles in Leadership – especially those that focus on leadership as a positional and/or personal attri- bute; but a reason for focusing on Harding’s paper is that in the body of the text she explicitly makes leader equivalent to manager. She also signals that the identity of the leader/manager is intimately linked with capitalism: ‘it is on the body of ‘‘the leader’’,
262 Leadership 13(3)
‘‘boss’’ or ‘‘manager’’ that capitalism is inscribed, and it is through the leader/boss/manager that capitalism speaks’ (2014: 392). She also writes of ‘follower–bondsman–worker’ (Harding, 2014: 399) as synonyms. One is left to wonder, therefore, whether the article is about leadership merely because it uses the terms leader and follower.
It clearly could have used manager and worker as its dominant terms; if it had done so though, even with no other changes, Harding’s work would presumably have been regarded as a contribution to CMS. However, if manager had been its preferred term, the article would doubtless not have been published in Leadership. Indeed, one factor fuelling the growth in the language of leadership in organizational scholarship over the last few years may well simply be the rise of journals like Leadership, which effectively require authors to represent their work in the language of leadership (The Leadership Quarterly, published from 1990, was the first major journal of this type). Nevertheless, Harding’s article is already being commended as a model of writing in CLS (Collinson and Tourish, 2015; Tourish, 2015).
Drift over time: From shop-floor worker to follower, from ‘the management’ to leaders
As an illustration of why it matters whether we talk about leaders and followers or managers and workers consider Table 1. It is a short extract from the recent writings of David Collinson, juxtaposed with work he published some 26 years earlier.
The first thing that strikes us from this juxtaposition is just how radically Collinson has chosen to re-present his earlier work in the language of the leader/follower. We say re- present, because throughout the whole of the 1988 paper he used neither term (leader nor follower) at all. What this change does, however, is markedly to alter the tone of the two extracts. Whereas the 1988 piece has the feel of a radical critique of (the) management voiced in the language of the shop-floor, the leader/follower dualism (though the word employee is used once) gives the 2014 extract a rather more conciliatory, manager-orientated (or rather we should say leader-orientated) tone. It is as if the 2014 version were addressed primarily to and written for so-called leaders – leaders who seem to be equated, a priori, with elites. It is still critical in the sense that it says uncomfortable things to those elites, i.e. that they can be out of touch, unaware or unsympathetic. But all the Marxian-inflected rhetoric we find in the 1988 extract (e.g. ‘obscure conflict’; ‘hierarchical structure of status and power’; ‘the polar- ization between management and shop-floor’ etc.) seems to have disappeared – along with the terms manager and shop-floor worker. To our ears, these changes have the effect of significantly depoliticizing the 2014 account. They make the critique less challenging to the powerful, with no sense of workers’ voices coming through.
Our other main observation about the above table concerns the practice of calling people like shop-floor workers followers. Follower seems so unlikely to be part of what Collinson (1988: 185) himself calls the ‘cultural identities’ of most ordinary workers across the world. Can you imagine people like ‘‘‘Fat Rat’’, ‘‘Bastard Jack’’, ‘‘Big Lemon’’ and ‘‘The Snake’’’ (nicknames for some of the people Collinson (1988: 185) encountered during his shop-floor ethnography) thinking of their identity via the term follower? Surely not! Take the opening scene of the1960 British film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (available at the time of writing on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v¼zJAeb0wiQjA). The camera pans across a busy factory before alighting on the protagonist, Arthur Seaton, played by Albert Finney, at his workbench. Speaking directly to the camera, Arthur says of his bosses: ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down!’ Or what about Sergeant Milton Warden, played by Burt
Learmonth and Morrell 263
Lancaster, in the 1953 Hollywood film From Here to Eternity. Though the figure of the military officer is often taken as the consummate, archetypal leader, Warden memorably declares ‘I hate officers – I always hated officers!’ and starts an affair with his own officer’s wife, perhaps in part to prove the point.
We can see that a case might perhaps be made for calling such people followers built on notions like multiple subjectivities or identities. Still, why does anyone need to use it, espe- cially as the routine term for people in lower hierarchical positions? To us, the thought of people like Arthur Seaton or Sergeant Warden representing themselves as followers (of any kind of organizational elite) is more than simply misleading – it is risible – indeed, insulting to the many people today who share similarly dismissive views of the people in power over them. How many academics would refer to themselves as ‘followers’? Yet many of us are ready to label others with these terms, such that contemporary Arthur Seatons and Sergeant Wardens are regularly being represented as followers in CLS research. Indeed, we find it hard to see any organizational context where the term ‘follower’ might be appropriate (cf. Blom and Alvesson, 2015; Ford and Harding 2015). Its use seems as insulting and demean- ing to workers as it is flattering to the managerial ego: a toxic combination!
Framing the field: Alternatives to leadership, leadership?
It is important to emphasize that CLS writers who nowadays prefer to talk about leaders and followers leave no doubt that they propose a critical reading of organizational life. Indeed, Collinson and Tourish (2015) have recently provided radical criticisms of mainstream
Table 1. From shop-floor worker to follower; from ‘the management’ to leaders.
Collinson (2014: 44) Collinson (1988: 186/7)
My own research in organizations over the past
30 years has found a recurrent . . . pattern. This
is for organizational leaders to be either una-
ware of organizational tensions and paradoxes
or, if they are informed of them, to try to deny
or downplay their nature, extent, and conse-
quences. This is especially the case with regard
to leaders’ relations with followers/employees.
Leaders’ hierarchical position ‘‘at the top’’ of
organizations can result in them being distant
and detached from ‘‘the front line’’ where
many of the organization’s tensions are often
most acutely experienced . . . Equally, followers
may face considerable difficulties and barriers
in seeking to voice their ‘‘critical upward
communication’’ to those in senior
positions . . . Consequently, leaders can be lar-
gely unaware of fundamental tensions and
contradictions embedded within routine
Shop-floor humour directed at managers was
usually concerned to negate and distance
them . . . By contrast, management repeatedly
sought to engage shop stewards in humorous
interaction. Yet, the stewards were aware …
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