1st Edition

The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership A Critical Perspective

By Dennis Tourish Copyright 2013
    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    264 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Most research into leadership has presented leaders as heroic, charismatic and transformational ‘visionaries’. The leader, whether in business, politics or any other field, is the most important factor in determining whether organizations succeed or fail. Indeed, despite the fundamental mistakes which have, arguably, directly led to global economic recession, it is often still taken for granted that transformational leadership is a good thing, and that leaders should have much more power than followers to decide what needs to be done.

    The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership confronts this orthodoxy by illustrating how such approaches can encourage narcissism, megalomania and poor decision-making on the part of leaders, at great expense to those organizations they are there to serve. Written in a lively and engaging style, the book uses a number of case studies to illustrate the perils of transformational leadership, from the Jonestown tragedy in 1978 when over 900 people were either murdered or committed suicide at the urging of their leader, to an analysis of how banking executives tried to explain away their role in the 2008 financial crisis

    This provocative and hugely important book offers a rare critical perspective in the field of leadership studies. Concluding with a new approach that offers an alternative to the dominant transformational model, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership will be an invaluable text for academics interested in leadership, students on leadership courses requiring a more critical perspective, and anyone concerned with how people lead people, and the lessons we can learn.

    PART ONE: LEADERSHIP AGENCY UNRAVELLED 1. Introduction: Why the dark side? Why now? 2. Transformational leadership: The dynamics of excessive leader agency 3. Coercive persuasion, power and corporate culturism. 4. Spirituality and leadership: Using ideology to enhance leaders’ power. 5. The dark side of leadership and silence in the workplace. 6. The folly and the dangers of leadership education in business schools PART TWO: CASE STUDIES 7. The dark side of leadership in corporate America: Enron revisited. 8.The Militant Tendency’s long march to oblivion: Conformity and authoritarian leadership on the left. 9. Leadership, group suicide and mass murder: Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate through the looking glass 10. Accounting for failure: Bankers in the spotlight PART THREE: CONCLUSION 11. Reimagining leadership and followership: A processual, communication perspective


    Dennis Tourish is a Professor of Leadership and Organization Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published seven previous books on leadership and organizational communication and serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Human Relations and Management Communication Quarterly, where he was previously a co-editor. He is a Fellow of the Leadership Trust Foundation and a co-editor of the journal Leadership.

    "This book is a very welcome addition to the still small, but now rapidly growing literature which offers substantive and detailed challenges to the grandiose and heroic notions of leadership which have been so heavily promoted over last few decades…Tourish’s method of drawing on empirical studies as the main basis for his critique renders this work highly accessible to both practitioner and student audiences who might otherwise find more theoretically oriented critical work too far outside their normal frame of reference. The body of evidence he offers in support of his claims is persuasive and will likely challenge those who have only been exposed to more conventional accounts of leadership to seriously reconsider their position." - Dr Suze Wilson, School of Management, Massey University, New Zealand, in Organization, 2015, Vol. 22(1) 

    "Never before have I provided an endorsement with such genuine enthusiasm. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership is a singularly strong contribution to leadership theory and practice: iconoclastic on the one hand, and deeply researched and carefully constructed on the other. Tourish challenges our conventional wisdoms; he takes on our usual icons; and he lays bare our collective deficiencies. But he does not end there.To the contrary. Tourish provides whole new way of looking at leadership and followership, leading us wisely and well to where we belong, to the second decade of the 21st century."- Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School, USA

    "I fully anticipate that this important book will mark a critical and overdue turning point for the field of leadership studies. The author writes with a compelling mix of absolute conviction, refreshing clarity and expert authority. I will be strongly recommending it to both scholars and senior executives." - Brad Jackson, Fletcher Building Education Trust Chair in Leadership, University of Auckland Business School, Australia

    "At last, an erudite and critical analysis of Transformational Leadership that explores the dark side and pulls back the self-imposed curtains that are so frequently an element of this approach. This is an uncomfortable but very important 'must-read' for all students of leadership." - Keith Grint, Warwick Business School, Warwick University, UK

    "Much of the book is a near tour-de-force that highlights Tourish's broad and deep command of the TL literature, which he leverages to creatively and imaginatively apply his ideas and those of others to critically illuminate a variety of leadership issues and situations in a manner that mainstream works have no heretofore been able to do." - Stephen Jaros, Management Learning (Vol. 44 No. 5)

    "This interesting and pertinent book should resonate with those involved in the dynamics of Action Learning" - Dr Michael Walton, Action Learning: Research and Practice

    "Extending upon previous articles he has written, Tourish writes in a style that invokes interest and a desire to know more. He clearly has a depth of knowledge and has undertaken qualitative analysis of interview scripts examining the spoken themes of some of the bankers involved in the banking crisis. It is extremely readable and creates a spotlight upon the dangers of having unregulated power and the negative impact this has on employees, organisations and society." - Elizabeth Carter, The Psychologist