Where's the agency in Leadership-as-Practice?

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    Agency is typically defined in terms of the intentional actions that express an individual’s freedom to make rational choices in her/his own life. From this perspective, it is individual agents who exert power and influence in the world, where power is understood as some thing that may be acquired and possessed. This chapter argues that this agent-centred view must be revised if the participatory, engaged and relational potential of leadership-as-practice is to be fully realised. Drawing on a practice typology originally proposed by the Pragmatist philosophers John Dewey and Arthur Bentley, three contrasting practice perspectives on leadership are explored: the Leader-Practitioner, Leadership as a set of Practices, and Leadership in the flow of Practice. Each has its own unique expression of power and agency, and each is defined as a philosophically distinct category. The first two adopt a representationalist idiom to describe respectively the practices of individuals and collectives (from dyads to networks), while the third invokes a performative idiom that engages with the continuous emergence of leadership movements in the ordinary everyday becoming of practice. The relevance of, and interplay between all three perspectives is illustrated in the leadership practice(s) of the All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby team.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLeadership-as-Practice
    Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Application
    EditorsJoseph A. Raelin
    Place of PublicationAbingdon
    Number of pages19
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2016

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Studies in Leadership Research


    • leadership practice
    • power and agency


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