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Social Construction of Leadership

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Social Construction of Leadership

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  • April 2012
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Human Relations DOI: 10.1177/0018726705061314 Volume 58(11): 1467–1494 Copyright © 2005 The Tavistock Institute ® SAGE Publications London,Thousand Oaks CA, New Delhi www.sagepublications.com

Problems, problems, problems:The social construction of ‘leadership’ Keith Grint
The invasion of Iraq was premised upon accounts of the situation that have proved unsustainable, but that has not generated a change in the strategy of the coalition forces. Conventional contingency accounts of leadership suggest that accurate accounts of the context are a critical element of the decision-making apparatus but such accounts appear incapable of explaining the decisions of those engaged. An alternative model is developed that adapts the Tame and Wicked problem analysis of Rittell and Webber, in association with Etzioni’s typology of compliance, to propose an alternative analysis that is rooted in social constructivist approaches.This is then applied to three asymmetric case studies which suggest that decision-makers are much more active in the constitution of the context than conventional contingency theories allow, and that a persuasive rendition of the context then legitimizes a particular form of action that often relates to the decision-maker’s preferred mode of engagement, rather than what ‘the situation’ apparently demands. In effect, the context is reconstructed as a political arena not a scientific laboratory.

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contingency leadership problems social constructivism war

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Human Relations 58(11)

Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them. (Attributed to Laurence J. Peter)

Introduction
The assumption that successful leaders are those who respond most appropriately to the demands of the specific situation is commonplace. When all is calm successful leaders can afford to relax, seek a consensus and make collective decisions at a leisurely...