Beyond unsustainable leadership: critical social theory for sustainable leadership

Bendell, Jem, Sutherland, Neil and Little, Richard (2017) Beyond unsustainable leadership: critical social theory for sustainable leadership. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 8 (4). pp. 418-444.

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The purpose of this paper is to prepare the ground for a new conceptual framework for the future study of leadership for sustainable development. The paper demonstrates the relevance of Critical Leadership Studies to future research on sustainable development policies and practices. A critical approach is also applied to concepts of sustainable development, with three paradigms of thought described. The approach taken is an extensive literature review in fields of leadership and sustainable development, with a focus on some of the broad assumptions and assertions in those literatures. A key finding is that leadership studies drawing from critical social theory can provide important insights into future research and education on leadership for sustainability. This literature shows that some assumptions about leadership may hinder opportunities for social or organizational change by distorting our analysis of factors in change, and by distorting the agency of those not deemed to be leaders. These limitations are summarised as ‘seven unsustainabilities’ of mainstream leadership research. The implications for practice are that efforts to promote organisational contributions to sustainable development should not draw uncritically upon mainstream approaches to leadership or the training of leaders. Instead, the paper suggests that, in the emerging fields of sustainability leadership scholarship and practice, full weight be given to the possibilities, theoretical and practical, of salient individual action whose collective, emergent and episodic aspects might not yet be adequately comprised in prevailing accounts of leadership. The authors believe this to be the first paper to provide a synthesis of insights from Critical Leadership Studies for research in sustainability.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 2040-803X
Departments: Research Centres > Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS)
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2017 08:38
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2021 16:17


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