Revisiting the Meaning of Leadership
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Podolny, Joel M.; Khurana, Rakesh; Besharov, Marya
During the past fifty years, organizational scholarship on leadership has shifted from a focus on the significance of leadership for meaning-making to the significance of leadership for economic performance. This shift has been problematic for two reasons. First, it has given rise to numerous conceptual difficulties that now plague the study of leadership. Second, there is now comparatively little attention to the question of how individuals find meaning in the economic sphere even though this question should arguably be one of the most important questions for organizational scholarship. This chapter discusses several reasons for the shift, arguing that one of the most important has been the lack of a clear definition and operationalization of meaningful economic activity. As a first step to redressing this shift, we offer a definition and operationalization of meaningful action, and we propose a typology of executive behaviors as a foundation for a systematic exploration of the meaning-making capacity of leaders. We conclude with a discussion of the relationship between the capacity of leaders to infuse meaning and the capacity of leaders to impact on performance.
leadership; economic performance; executive behavior
Required Publisher Statement: © Elsevier. Final version published as: Podolny, J. M., Khurana, R., & Hill-Popper, M. (2004). Revisiting the meaning of leadership. Research in Organizational Behavior, 26, 1-36. doi:10.1016/S0191-3085(04)26001-4. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.