Putting leadership in its place: introduction to the special issue

Sutherland, Neil, Bolden, Richard, Edwards, Gareth and Schedlitzki, Doris (2022) Putting leadership in its place: introduction to the special issue. Leadership, 18 (1). pp. 3-12. ISSN 1742-7169


This special issue emerges from a call for papers issued following the 18th International Studying Leadership Conference, hosted at the University of the West of England in December 2019, which addressed the theme of ‘Putting leadership in its place’. There was a certain playfulness to the topic, which invited contributors to not only look at the role of ‘place’ within Leadership Studies but also to actively challenge the reverence in which ‘leaders’ and ‘leadership’ are often held. In keeping with the purpose of the conference, and the journal Leadership that its founders David Collinson and Keith Grint established, we called for a critical reappraisal of assumptions around leadership theory, practice and development. Little did we know at the time of the turbulence and uncertainty that would follow, as the Coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill and laid bare the deep divisions and inequalities within our societies as well as the complex interconnections and interdependencies between the places in which we live and work.

The City of Bristol, where the conference was hosted, hit news headlines around the world just six months later when the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was toppled by a crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors and dumped unceremoniously in the harbour – itself a striking illustration of the need, and potential, to ‘put leadership in its place’. Without a detailed understanding of the history and significance of the Colston legacy within Bristol, the social and political issues associated with the statue’s removal, the manner in which the city responded, and the complex inter-relationship with a multitude of other places around the world, any attempt to understand or explain what happened or to provide guidance on what should be done next are deeply diminished (for more on this, see Bolden, 2020). Events such as this highlight just how blind we can become to the places in which we live and the need to develop an awareness of the social, physical, cultural, historical and symbolic contexts that shape our individual and collective understandings and practices of leadership.

In reviewing, editing and compiling the papers submitted for this special issue, we have been delighted to witness the diversity of perspectives and issues that have been covered. Each of the nine papers accepted for publication takes a fundamentally different approach, showing significant originality in terms of conceptual framing, methodology and implications for theory and practice. In so doing, they each respond to calls from the journal’s editor Dennis Tourish to be ‘critical’ (Tourish, 2015), ‘write differently’ (Tourish, 2017) and to do research that ‘matters’ (Tourish, 2019). In this introductory article, we set the scene for the discussions that follow by briefly (a) outlining the significance of the ‘critical turn’ in leadership studies, (b) considering the nature of context and ‘place’ in leadership theory and research, (c) introducing each of the papers, (d) mapping key themes and issues and (e) highlighting implications for leadership theory and research. In engaging with this special issue, we encourage you to read widely and reflect deeply in order to see and understand leadership and place in new ways.

Putting-leadership-in-its-place.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (150kB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item