Whiteness in leadership theorizing: A critical analysis of race in Bass’ transformational leadership theory
Leadership, Management & Business
Leadership theorizing is largely constructed from a positional vacuum, as if leadership looks and works identically across contexts, and as if those who theorize about leadership are not themselves subject to biases based on their own gendered, racial, class, sexual, and national identities. This article challenges the assumed neutrality of leadership theorizing by analyzing one of the most utilized and researched leadership theories, Bernard Bass’ “Transformational Leadership Theory” (TLT) through the lens of Critical Race Theory. Understanding that the language through which transformational leadership is conveyed is indicative of its underpinning assumptions, the tools of critical discourse analysis are employed to identify the normativity of whiteness operating within this theory. The analysis reveals how normalization, solipsism, ontological expansiveness, and the creation of “abject others”—followers—infuse the theory. Through its deconstruction of TLT, the article calls for deeper interrogation of leadership theories whose unquestioned assumptions harm not only leaders and followers identified as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, but White leaders and followers as well.
Ladkin, D., & Bridges Patrick, C. (2022). Whiteness in leadership theorizing: A critical analysis of race in Bass’ transformational leadership theory. Leadership. (January) https://doi.org/https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/17427150211066442