The Phenomenology of Leadership


Teaching people about leadership is different from creating leaders. Teaching leadership uses a third-person approach to impart someone else’s knowledge, which grants learners limited direct access to the being and actions of effective leaders. In contrast, creating leaders entails a first-person phenomenological methodology, which provides direct access to what it means to be a leader and what it means to exercise good leadership in real time, with real results. The distinctiveness of the first-person “as-lived/lived-through” approach lies in its capacity to disclose the hidden contexts that shape the ways of being, thinking, and acting that are the source of the leader’s performance. When these contexts become unveiled, it allows for the creation of new contexts that give leaders more space and more degrees of freedom to lead effectively as their natural self-expression. A phenomenological inquiry into leadership does not study the attributes of leaders, but rather the fundamental structures of human “being” that make it possible to be a leader in the first place. Because the phenomenological “facts” of lived experience reside in language, creating for oneself what it is to be a leader entails mastering a special language (that includes terms like intentionality; thrownness; being-in-the-world; clearing-for-action; absorbed coping; hermeneutic; and, break-down) from which leaders can orient their being, thinking, and actions. Learning to be a leader is not first and foremost about the acquisition of knowledge or certain personal attributes. Rather, only when leadership becomes an as-lived/lived-through experience does it grant access to its actual nature and essence.

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Souba, W. (2014) The Phenomenology of Leadership. Open Journal of Leadership, 3, 77-105. doi: 10.4236/ojl.2014.34008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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