Putting the contradictions back into leadership development

Russ Vince, Mike Pedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)
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The purpose of this paper is to outline an alternative view of leadership development that acknowledges the likelihood of unintended and contradictory outcomes in leadership work. Helping leaders to engage with contradictions is as important as developing their positive capabilities. A focus on the contradictions of leadership can help to address the emotional and political limitations that development programmes unwittingly impose on learning.

The paper discusses how leadership development currently falls short in helping people to lead in complex organizational environments. This argument is illustrated by examples taken from MBA teaching programme in a School of Management together with an analysis of contradictions in the National Health Service Healthcare Leadership Model. The final section gives four examples of how to put the contradictions back into leadership development.

The paper does not seek to present empirical findings. The illustrations support an argument for changes in practice. Examples are provided of a different approach to leadership development.

The paper critiques approaches to leadership development on the grounds of its relentless positivity regarding leadership behaviour and that focusses primarily on the development of individuals. Attention is called to the contradictions inherent in leadership work which extend to the leadership development process itself. Once acknowledged, these contradictions offer important leadership learning opportunities for both individuals and organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-872
Number of pages14
JournalLeadership and Organization Development Journal
Issue number7
Early online date8 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2018


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