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Is critical leadership studies ‘critical’?

Learmonth, M. and Morrell, K. (2016) 'Is critical leadership studies ‘critical’?', Leadership., 13 (3). pp. 257-271.


‘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 condemn.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:21 March 2016
Date deposited:04 May 2016
Date of first online publication:13 May 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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