Monday, April 28, 2008

Words, Words, and Leadership

Friedrich Waismann said that “language is the knife with which we cut out facts” (Parkinson G H R ed. 1968:57). It would seem to me much the same when one considers the language that theorists choose to describe movements or organisations, and the so-called leadership that exists within them. As it happens, the model of leadership I am studying for my present thesis puts the leadership-followership distinction at the centre: “There are three basal elements of leadership: leader, followers, and situation” (Clinton J R 1988:182); “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers” (Hunter J C 1999:124). Yet there is other language one could apply. For instance, one might think of a movement e.g. as a divine operation (Banks R and Ledbetter B M 2004:37), or as a living organism (Gibbs E 2005:28). QUESTION: How necessary is the leadership-followership distinction to organisational theory? Is it possible that it is altogether the wrong terminology? What are the consequences of different language that may be envisaged?

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