As the world recovers from a pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us, it is worth taking some time to reflect on whether leadership studies is as relevant as it could be to the big problems of the day. In many ways the pandemic has been a dress rehearsal for how the world conceives of and addresses climate change.
On our current trajectory we are headed towards climate catastrophe. Such catastrophe is likely to mimic the dynamics of the pandemic, with the poorest suffering the severest consequences. Meanwhile, intensification of technology in workplaces and societies offers the promise of more empowering and autonomous lives but tends in reality to deliver less job security, worse pay and conditions, and ever more upward redistribution of wealth (Benanav, 2020).
Finally, while important strides have been taken with regards equality in gender, race and sexuality, multiple regressive movements opposing equalities have also gained traction.
The key justification of this special issue call is therefore twofold. First, that leadership studies should take more seriously the major events and challenges of our time (Tourish, 2019). Co-opting the title of the hit allegorical climate emergency film, Don’t look up, there is far too much of leadership scholars looking down at their laptops and not enough looking up at the world.
Our second justification, however, is that we should in fact stop looking up, at least up the hierarchies of organisations, and instead pay more attention to the energies and movements of resistance from below. After all, it is the present crop of leaders who have engineered and maintained the world’s multiple serious and chronic problems, so the case for merely refining their personal characteristics, behaviours and practices seems weak indeed. Instead, far more effort is needed from leadership research to better understand how the power of those who have created our problems is resisted, and how alternative leadership practices may be offered.
This call for papers is inspired by the submissions we received for the 19th International Studying Leadership Conference, hosted by the Open University in December 2021.
We hope that delegates and presenters at the conference will consider submitting their work to this special issue, but we are also keen to invite contributions from people who were unable to attend.
Full details and call for papers: PDF