Title: Leadership and charisma: A desire that cannot speak its name?
Authors: Nancy Harding, Hugh Lee, Jackie Ford, Mark Learmonth
Reference: Human Relations, 64(7), 927–949
Leadership has proved impossible to define, despite decades of research and a huge number of publications. This article explores managers’ accounts of leadership, and shows that they find it difficult to talk about the topic, offering brief definitions but very little narrative. That which was said/sayable provides insights into what was unsaid/unsayable. Queer theory facilitates exploration of that which is difficult to talk about, and applying it to the managers’ talk allows articulation of their lay theory of leadership. This is that leaders evoke a homoerotic desire in followers such that followers are seduced into achieving organizational goals. The leader’s body, however, is absent from the scene of seduction, so organizational heteronormativity remains unchallenged. The article concludes by arguing that queer and critical leadership theorists together could turn leadership into a reverse discourse and towards a politics of pleasure at work.