The Leadership Challenge

November 2, 2012

I teach a postgraduate course called Leading and Changing Organisations.

One of the key parts of this course is to help the students understand how they can critically assess the many multitudes of books available that claim to have figured out what leadership and change is all about. In contrast to these books we advocate for an explanatory perspective in our course, by using critical theory to understand the foundations of leadership and change in specific contexts.

This however does not mean that we can ignore the multitude, as generally these kinds of books provide the language with which business communicates leadership and change concepts. So we have to to be able to talk them, even if we don’t think they will achieve what they claim.

One of the most read of these books is The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, though it is really more than a book as it also combines workshops, websites, etc… This book is fairly typical of the type often used in business. It is relatively simple to ‘get’ and generally easily consumable. It is also highly problematic in a range of important ways.

But instead of me pointing these out I want instead to link to a set of blog posts by a colleague of mine, Dr Bill Kaye-Blake. As well as being an astute consultant to business Bill manages to fill his spare time reading up on literature, critical philosophy and psychoanalysis. In this four-part series Bill conducts a sustained critique of The Leadership Challenge. First a literary critique, then a psychoanalytic critique, followed by an economic critique and finishing with the perspective of a consultant. This is the type of analysis I will use to demonstrate to my students how good critique can and should look like.

Thanks to Bill Kaye-Blake for taking the time to undertake this analysis and to make it freely available, Bill’s blog can be found here:

Author: Dr Andrew Dickson, email:

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The Other Side of Business

Welcome to The Other Side of Business. This is a blog that collects and distributes the opinion and analysis of staff and students from the School of Management, College of Business, Massey University. The aim is to post once or twice a month on current issues in business... Read more