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Ideals and conceptions of leadership in contemporary organizations.

To perform their role effectively, leaders are expected to supply visions, direction and behavioral guidelines. They are also held accountable for the circumstances in which cooperative effort takes place. If the circumstances conform to upheld norms with regards to performance, atmosphere and so forth, then the leadership is considered to be good or even excellent. If not, lack of, or insufficient leadership is the obvious scapegoat to blame for what is experienced as failure.

Leadership, seen as explanations of circumstances, puts emphasis on the individual agency. This also means that leaders are defined as strategic actors. Consequently leaders are among the categories of humans that have attracted the most scientific interest and attention. However, what happens if we do not take this category as a given, and start asking questions about how this category 'leader', and its pair categories: 'followers', 'co-workers', etc. are played out in the drama of organizational life?

Many theories of leadership provide recommendations and prescriptions for how leaders should behave, or what leadership should look like. This body of research has been described as our Western society's version of the great hero stories and sagas of more ancient times. In this project we shift focus from the utopian recipes for success, to peoples' own stories of actual, lived experience of leadership in practice i.e. how leadership as ideas, conceptions and labels are used to explain what happens in organizations. Inferences made in stories and in interaction serve as material for insights into the power of the concept of leadership in structuring organizational realities.

Project leader: Ingalill Holmberg


Åkerblom, C. (2007) Young Leaders Talk about Leadership - A Narrative Analysis of their Personal Stories, Research Paper Series 2007/4. Stockholm: Centre for Advanced Studies in Leadership at Stockholm School of Economics.

de Geer, H., Holmberg, I. & Karlsson, S. (2005) Att välja ledare - om värdet av rätt person på rätt plats vid rätt tid. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur. »

Holmberg, I. (2005) Förebilderna - om ledare och ledarskap i samtiden. In de Geer, H., Holmberg, I. & Karlsson, S. (Eds.) Att välja ledare - om värdet av rätt person på rätt plats vid rätt tid, Stockholm: Natur och Kultur. »

Holmberg, I. (2005) Det betyder något - Om ledarskap och mode. In Daniel, E. & Kallifatides, M. (Eds.) Samtalet fortsätter - Bortom ledarskapets gränser, pp. 41-61. Lund: Academia Adacta. »