The symbolic violence of leadership: A critical hermeneutic study of leadership and succession in a British organization in the post-Soviet context

Sarah K. Robinson*, Ron Kerr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Charismatic leadership has often been associated with positive organizational change. Although some of the literature acknowledges the less positive aspects there is a lack of critical approaches to leadership. Empirical case studies demonstrating the more negative aspects of charismatic leadership and theoretical concepts that can be used to understand transformational and/or charismatic leadership as potentially destructive phenomena. This article therefore presents, from a critical perspective, an empirical study of leadership within a British international organization, drawing out the conditions that allowed an episode of charismatic leadership to be established. It also presents a theoretical study in which, by introducing Bourdieu's concept 'symbolic violence', we are able to explore the legitimation of power in relation to this episode of leadership. We conclude that the use of symbolic violence, by foregrounding power, is helpful in unmasking the potential human cost and possible long-term damage of extreme leadership episodes within organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-903
Number of pages29
JournalHuman Relations
Volume62
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009

Keywords

  • charisma
  • leadership
  • legacy
  • legitimation
  • post-Soviet
  • symbolic violence
  • succession
  • TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP
  • RESISTANCE
  • CRITIQUE

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