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Thinking Differently about Leadership

A Critical History of Leadership Studies Suze Wilson, Lecturer, School of Management, Massey University, New Zealand
This book is a critical historical analysis of leadership thought in the Western tradition, examining Classical Greek, medieval and modern social scientific theories of leadership, focussing on the assumptions and effects which arise from these ways of understanding leadership and offering a new basis for leadership theory-building.

Extent: 288 pp
Hardback Price: $125.00 Web: $112.50
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 978 1 78471 678 3
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  • Business and Management
  • Business Leadership
  • Economics and Finance
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Leadership
Thinking Differently about Leadership asks why and how we have come to understand leadership in the way we now do, and the consequences that arise from these understandings. Its critical interrogation of Classical Greek, Medieval and modern social-scientific ideas reveals troubling assumptions and problematic expectations for leaders and followers, which are key features of leadership theorizing both in the past and present day.

By tracing developments in leadership thought over time, this book reveals the influence of ideas from history on current thinking, inviting reflection on what we now seek from leaders and followers. Its unique, multi-faceted analysis identifies non-scientific factors that have profoundly influenced the development of leadership science in the modern era. Arguing that conventional understandings of leadership today are deeply problematic, the book examines why we ought to think differently about leadership and offers an approach for doing so.

The book offers a framework for leadership theory-building which readers can use to apply to their own context, making it an ideal resource for critical management and leadership scholars as well as students and practitioners, who will value its novel focus and perspective.
‘The field of leadership studies is generally characterised as one that is in a state of late adolescence. This ambitious book shows compellingly that the field has a considerably lengthier and richer pedigree. We need to recognise, prioritise and instill a historical appreciation into our teaching and our research of leadership in the critically reflexive and genuinely interdisciplinary manner that the author models so brilliantly in this wonderfully original book.’
– Brad Jackson, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

‘Much leadership writing seems to suggest that only those with super powers can be effective leaders and that, whatever the problem, leadership is the answer. Suze Wilson comprehensively demolishes both these fallacies, and does so in captivating style. In highlighting such issues as context, power and history she offers stimulating new perspectives on how we can rethink leadership – and do it better.
– Dennis Tourish, University of London, UK
Contents: 1. Why Leadership? 2. Questioning Leadership Knowledge 3. The Classical Greek Truth about Leadership 4. The 16th Century European Truth about Leadership 5. The Foundations of Leadership ‘Science’: Carlyle and the Trait Theorists 6. Our modern Era of Leadership ‘Science’ 7. Change and Continuity in the Truth about Leadership 8. Conclusion and Future Trajectories Index