This individualist worldview does not take into consideration ways of being that
involve multiple ways of knowing one’s self through experiences of gender, class, and
race. The work is to dethrone the mythical white male unified subject or more broadly,
one subject with one type of subjectivity. We must push back on this uncontested notion
of the autonomous female identity which feminist theorists often use simply to replace
the autonomous male identity. This can be connected to leadership as a call for a more
rigorous investigation of subjectivity and agency in that field. There are programs that
“promise the better exercise of leadership practice through the better understanding of
leadership theory” (Kellerman, 2012, p. 160), so there is room for this work.
What Other Authors Say about Agency
Agency is not universal; it does not affect all people in the same way. Author
Saba Mahmood (2005) asks us to think deeper about agency’s complexity saying, “the
meaning and sense of agency cannot be fixed in advance, but must emerge through an
analysis of the particular concepts that enable specific modes of being, responsibility, and
effectivity” (p. 15). Again, this is why I am suspect of Kellerman’s search for a unifying
We cannot pin agency down until we are in the process of using and defining it—
as Judith Butler (1997) says becoming “is no simple…affair” (p. 30). We must be in
process of using agency before we can define it. Mahmood (2005) continues, “agentival
capacity is entailed not only in those acts that resist norms but also in the multiple ways
in which one inhabits norms” (p. 15, author’s italics). Agency is with us when we resist,
when we comply, and as we judge others’ resistance and compliance. The complexity
that is asked of us pushes back on the notion that agency is resistant to oppressive power,
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