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Looking for the key to leadership under the lamp post


  • Sims, David


Summary The proliferation of books on leadership continues to be fed by a widespread anxiety about leadership. When in doubt, wicked problems in organizations are often defined as leadership problems, and every new offering from the leadership 'alchemists' is seized on in the hope that at last there may be technique which enables us to turn everything to organizational gold. The flow of books on leadership shows no sign of diminishing, and we do not seem to be much closer to having a practical grasp of the subject. How much progress are we making? If we look harder under the lamp post where most of the work has been done and therefore where the light is, will we find out about leadership? Or are we seeking answers in the wrong place? This paper argues that we have indeed been looking for answers in the wrong place, and suggests new areas to search instead. In particular, it argues that: - Leadership is an activity, not a role. - To understand leadership we need to look at activities, not at individual named leaders. - We need new and better metaphors for the activities of organizational leadership, such as the poet in residence, contemplation, narrative, and dialogue.

Suggested Citation

  • Sims, David, 2010. "Looking for the key to leadership under the lamp post," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 253-259, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eurman:v:28:y:2010:i:4:p:253-259

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