Metaphors We Lead By
Understanding Leadership in the Real World
Edited by Mats Alvesson, André Spicer
Routledge – 2011 – 224 pages
We live in a leadership-obsessed society. The result is that we assume nearly any social or economic ill can be mended through better leadership. Sometimes, this commitment to leadership is followed by hero worshipping, wishful thinking and misplaced hope.
Seeking to understand the faith we place in leadership, the authors draw on a number of in-depth studies of managers trying to "do" leadership. It presents six metaphors for the leader: as gardener, cosy-crafter, saint, cyborg, commander and bully. Some of these offer unexpected insights into how leadership does and does not work. The book sheds light on a varied - often contradictory and sometimes darker - side of leadership.
Cutting through the management-speak drenched current literature on leadership, Metaphors We Lead By presents an enlightening and refreshing understanding of an important topic. It will be useful reading for students and researchers, as well as the thinking manager.
'This insightful work is a valuable contribution to the study of leadership. It is a must for university business collections, and merits inclusion as collateral reading in academic and professional leadership-related courses of study.'
J. B. Kashner, CHOICE
'A sophisticated and critical analysis of 'leadership' metaphors that pushes the boundaries well beyond the conventional. There are lots of books on leadership but there aren't many books like this - read it!'
Keith Grint, Professor of Public Leadership & Management, Warwick Business School, UK
'This highly engaging book compellingly shows what a critically-oriented approach can do to not only invigorate the field of leadership studies but also to constructively assist leaders (and followers) make sense of and act authentically in a world in which is leadership is over-hyped yet widely misunderstood.'
Professor Brad Jackson, Fletcher Building Education Trust Chair in Leadership, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
1. Introduction (Mats Alvesson and André Spicer) 2. Theories of Leadership (Mats Alvesson and André Spicer) 3. Metaphors for Leadership (André Spicer and Mats Alvesson) 4. Leaders as Saints: Leadership through Moral Peak Performance (Mats Alvesson) 5. Leaders as Gardeners: Leadership through Facilitating Growth (Tony Huzzard and Sverre Spoelstra) 6. Leaders as Buddies: Leadership through Making People Feel Good (Stefen Svenningsson and Martin Blom) 7. Leaders as Commanders: Leadership through Creating Clear Direction (André Spicer) 8. Leaders as Cyborgs: Leadership through Mechanistic Superiority (Sara Louis Muhr) 9. Leaders as Bullies: Leadership through Intimidation (Dan Kärreman) 10. Communicating Leadership Metaphors (Gail Fairhurst) 11. Conclusion (André Spicer and Mats Alvesson)
Mats Alvesson is Professor of Business Administration at the Lund University, Sweden. He is also affiliated with University of Queensland Business School. Another of his recent books, Changing Organizational Culture, is also available from Routledge.
André Spicer is an Associate Professor of Organisation Studies at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK. He is also a visiting research fellow at the University of Lund, Sweden. His recent publications (as co-author) include Unmasking the Entrepreneur and Understanding Corporate Life.