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Negative capability and care of the self




L Tomkins


This chapter considers caring leadership through the twin prisms of Negative Capability and Care of the Self, arguing that an aspiration to practise caring leadership involves a commitment to the development of self-knowledge and the capacity to be without. It presents an example of leadership in the prison service to illustrate how a phenomenological inquiry into one’s experience of self may serve to heighten the quality of attention that leaders give in complex situations. In a sector increasingly dominated by systems and driven by targets and performance indicators, this case reveals a dedication to re-humanising leadership by challenging the organisation to recognise that being human matters. This means developing a capacity for courage, trust and care in order to make decisions that are not driven by personal agendas, universal regulations of so-called best practice, or the fear of failure.


Von Bülow, C., & Simpson, P. (2020). Negative capability and care of the self. In L. Tomkins (Ed.), Paradoxes of Leadership and Care: Critical and Philosophical Reflection (131-141). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Acceptance Date Sep 21, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 2, 2020
Publication Date Mar 2, 2020
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 3, 2020
Pages 131-141
Series Title New Horizons in Leadership
Book Title Paradoxes of Leadership and Care: Critical and Philosophical Reflection
Chapter Number 11
ISBN 9781788975490
Public URL
Publisher URL


Negative Capability And Care Of The Self VON BULOW SIMPSON (accepted) (161 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a draft chapter. The final version is available in [insert book title] edited by [insert editor(s) or author(s)], published in 20xx, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd

The material cannot be used for any other purpose without further permission of the publisher, and is for private use only.

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