Upbeat leadership: A recipe for – or against – “successful” leadership studies

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In the last 40 years, leadership studies (LS) have moved from a condition of near despair, where complaints of slow progress were commonplace, to a situation of self-confidence and self-praise. However, during recent years we have seen an upsurge in criticism alongside a contradiction between positive leadership ideas and a working life bearing little imprint of the upbeat messages said to characterize successful leaders. LS primarily produces results where “positive” leadership is correlated with various “positive” outcomes. This is made possible through peculiar conventions characterizing LS, which produce a recipe for flawed, but publishable, research and career progress. This paper points at 20 elements of this recipe and argues for a radical rethinking of LS norms and practices to develop more complex and sophisticated knowledge that is intellectually and methodologically sounder, facilitating less ideological and more relevant and insightful studies and research results.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101439
Number of pages12
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number6
Early online date29 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Ideology
  • Leadership
  • Methodology
  • Recipes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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