Summary of Reflexive Leadership

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Lund University’s Mats Alvesson, Martin Blom and Stefan Sveningsson offer a different take on leadership. Their leadership theory proposes that organizations don’t always need leaders. The authors base their recommendations on empirical studies, their original research and the concept of “reflexivity” in modern leadership. Though they can be pedantic, they are writing for an audience of leadership academics and industry consultants first and corporate executives second. Still, their call for thoughtfulness and reflection can help leaders in all settings think more deeply about their roles.

About the Authors

Mats Alvesson, PhD, teaches at Lund University, the University of Queensland and Cass Business School and has published about 30 books on reflexive methods and related topics. Martin Blom, PhD, teaches strategic management at Lund, where Stefan Sveningsson, PhD, teaches business administration.

 

Summary

Quality leadership is crucial for many organizations, but leaders must actively reflect on their work.

“Reflexivity” calls for being thoughtful and challenging your assumptions about leadership. The practice of leadership – and viable alternatives to conventional leadership – demand this level of analysis. Accepted wisdom holds that commercial and noncommercial organizations require leadership for nearly all their activities. But leadership appears in different varieties.

Leadership is active from the top to the bottom rungs of corporate life in positions held by people with varying levels of influence. 

Traditional leadership offers many benefits, such as inspiring employees, raising morale and spurring greater competence.

Visionary leadership can give companies and employees meaning, purpose and direction. Strong leadership boosts morale, promotes learning and encourages development.

Jan Wallander, the former chairman of Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken, typifies quality leadership. Appointed in the early 1970s, Wallander took over during a severe crisis at the bank. He cut costs...


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