International Studying Leadership Conference

University of Edinburgh, 11-13 December 2016

In December 2016, the International Studying Leadership Conference will be hosted by the University of Edinburgh Business School’s Centre for Strategic Leadership (CSL).

Rethinking Leadership Research

Edinburgh, as the city of the Enlightenment, provides an ideal setting for debates and discussions about important new directions for research into leadership and leadership development. The 15th International Studying Leadership Conference (ISLC) invites proposals for paper presentations related to the general theme, Rethinking Leadership Research. We intend for this theme to generate a broad range of presentations, discussions and exchanges related to the study and practice of leadership and leadership development in a wide range of organisational and institutional contexts.

Given the world in which we live, has leadership as a concept outlived its usefulness? Is the underlying assumption of hierarchy, selective application, linearity and rationality in traditional leadership theory and concepts any longer appropriate? In an environment of ambiguity, doubt, distrust and risk where wicked problems increasingly dominate are we witnessing the end of business-as-usual? In an era where ‘crisis’ seems constitutive, how are taken-for-granted or relied-upon leadership processes and precepts threatened or breakdown, presenting an opportunity to question existing knowledge, understanding or practices (Mabey and Morrell 2011)? Indeed, to what extent has the social construction of crises undermined calls for more collective and progressive versions of leadership, such as post-heroic, spiritual, authentic or distributed, and led to a regression to the more familiar and still dominant heroic, individualistic, directive and coercive approaches based on formal positions of authority (O’Reilly et al 2015)?

What, in other words, will leadership and leadership research look like in the twenty-first century? Are our models of leadership irredeemably broken and in need of reinvention? And if so, on what basis and in what way does that reinvention take place? Can we develop alternative frameworks which move away from ideas of individual agency and control, and take into account the power relations that shape the more emergent processes of organising and change? In this conference we seek to explore what it means to go beyond leadership, as we currently understand it, and rethink the basis for, conduct of and implications drawn from leadership research. To that end we are interested in papers that explore answers to these issues from a range of perspectives. Polyvocality and heterogeneity, even heterodoxy, will be welcomed. Criticality and challenge will be celebrated, as will dialogue between the old and the new perspectives. Specifically, we are interested in papers, workshops and round-table proposals that explore these issues:

Ontologically – What is leadership as a way of being and becoming in the world and alternative formulations of leadership?

Epistemologically – what are the nature, sources and limits of our knowledge of leadership beyond foundationalism (contextualism, standpoint epistemology, virtue, wisdom)?

Methodologically – what are the appropriate bodies of knowledge and principles associated with or potentially associated with the study of leadership?

Ethically – what are the principles of morality and standards of right and wrong (the rules/standards for right conduct and practice) in leadership research and practice?

Symbolically – what are the signifiers and signified in the study of leadership and how is it construed as a totemic device?

Contextually – what will leadership look like in different contexts, organisationally, geographically, temporally, culturally?