education investment, so leadership’s foundation of self-centered ideals and poor means
of assessment is problematic for the hard work of “educating citizens who can sustain and
develop inclusive democratic spheres” (Giroux, 2002, p. 432). By questioning the
philosophical underpinnings of the subjectivity and agency of the leader, I am filling in
some of the weaknesses identified by Kellerman and expanding notions of who can be a
leader and how that leadership may occur.
Kellerman (2012) enumerates the assumptions she sees the leadership industry
being built upon including,
Leadership is a skill of some sort, which everyone everywhere should aspire to
acquire; leadership can be learned quickly and easily— over a period of months
or weeks or even a weekend; in comparison with leaders, followers are [a] less
valuable commodity; context is of secondary or even tertiary consequence; and
leaders control outcomes. (p. 154, italics added)
This list provides a place to question the leadership industry’s suppositions, particularly
the idea of everyone everywhere. We are all presumed consumers of leadership material,
making people appear as a unified consumer body, but by saying everyone everywhere
can be a leader assumes much about social context and social realities. This is especially
true if the theoretical basis for which one is assumed to be leader does not take into
account “the complex and multiple ways in which the subject and object of possible
experience are constituted” (Alarcón, 1990, p. 361). The assumption that leadership can
transfer from person to person without real conversations around race, gender, and class
as well as how leaders are known as subjects is problematic, yet the leadership industry
assumes subjectivity and agency are accessible to all people.
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