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Leadership, more or less? A processual, communication perspective on the role of agency in leadership theory - Developing Managers
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  1. Dennis Tourish

  1. Professor of Leadership and Organization Studies, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
  1. Dennis Tourish, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK. Email: Dennis.Tourish{at}rhul.ac.uk

Abstract

‘More’ or ‘better’ leadership remains a popular panacea for business failure, climate change, educational underachievement
and myriad other world problems. Yet there has been a growing concern that traditional approaches to the subject have naturalised
oppressive power relationships, particularly in the workplace. Scholars have therefore put more stress on the creative contribution
of ‘followers’ as co-creators of organisational reality. It is now normal to find calls for shared leadership, less leadership
or no leadership. This article argues that even when couched in emancipatory terms, many of these perspectives still tend
to diminish the contribution of organisational actors who do not occupy formal leadership roles. Communication and process
theories of organisation are employed to suggest that leadership could be more usefully envisaged as those practices which
see leaders occupying transitory roles within fluid social structures, in which there is no essence of leadership apart from
the discursive constructions of organisational actors and in which the facilitation of disagreement and dissent holds the
same importance as a traditional stress on the achievement of cohesion and agreement.

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Leadership, more or less? A processual, communication perspective on the role of agency in leadership theory