Article Title

From sovereign to subject: Applying Foucault's conceptualization of power to leading and studying power within leadership

Abstract

This article uses Michel Foucault's conceptualization of power to rethink how power operates within leadership relations. Foucault (1980:220) defines power as a “a structure of actions, bearing on the actions of those who are free.” This idea is explored, noting how it differs from much leadership theorizing which defines power in terms of a leader's position or personal characteristics. Foucault's assertions that “power is everywhere” (1988, 12), that it is relationally based and is best perceived through its effects are examined. We identify implications for researching power from this perspective, including the appropriateness of methods capable of mapping social, historical, and institutional dynamics. We offer four analytic strategies: beginning from power's outcomes, investigating points of resistance, proactively identifying hidden dynamics and attending to networked alliances. Insights generated from this approach highlight the contingent, ephemeral nature of power and help explain the indeterminacy leaders often experience when wielding it in practice.

Department

Leadership, Management & Business

Journal

Leadership Quarterly

Volume

34

Issue

2

Publication Date

2021

Document Type

Article

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2019.101310

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