Habits and the Social Phenomenon of Leadership

Philosophy of Management 17 (2):243-256 (2018)


Leadership research has grown into two opposing approaches, the scientific approach and the critical approach. The first is focused on leadership, the second on the leaders. For reasons of practicality, they will be described as the leadership-centric and the leader-centric approach, respectively. Each of the two approaches is characterised by two different perspectives: leadership-centric research highlights science and process; leader-centric research deals with the leader using cognitive faculties and drawing on cultural practices. This opposition has created an unproductive gap in leadership scholarship. The present article focuses on how to reduce that gap by bridging some of the differences that currently undermine scholarship. The concept of habits is used to support an argument in favour of leadership as a social phenomenon. The main idea is that a social phenomenon involves both social interactions happening in everyday shared knowledge and intentionality that influences agents’ experiences. By borrowing from the pragmatist John Dewey, leadership is conceptualised as habits embedded in social life. Habits comprise the social sharing of experience and knowledge in a meaningful world. But it seems difficult, it is further argued, to elaborate on people’s intentionality through habits. To overcome this difficulty, Edmund Husserl’s notion of doxic-theoretical experience is used. Habits, it is concluded, help make leadership-centric research less anonymous, and doxic agency the leader’s intentionality more transparent.

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Michela Betta
Goethe University Frankfurt

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