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Managing the monsters of doubt: Liminality, threshold concepts and leadership learning

Hawkins, Beverley; Edwards, Gareth


Beverley Hawkins

Gareth Edwards
Professor of Leadership and Community Studies


© The Author(s) 2013. In this article, we argue that management and business undergraduate students who are engaged in learning about leadership occupy a liminal space or state of between-ness. Drawing on anthropological conceptualisations of liminality in which those undergoing liminal rituals must grapple with symbolic monsters, we point to the experience of doubt and uncertainty as ‘monsters’ with which students must come to terms. We link this to scholarship that characterises dealing with uncertainty as a central element of leadership practice. Drawing on notions of ‘threshold concepts’, we suggest that students experience the monster of doubt as they progress in their learning experience and that there are a number of potential ways students might ‘think like a leadership scholar’. We set out some opportunities for leadership educators to engage students with threshold concepts as they seek to become familiar with ‘doubt’ as central to the study and practice of leadership. Applying a liminality framework to the understanding of threshold concepts helps identify threshold concepts as crucial to learning, infused with cultural assumptions and situated within an understanding of the student experience.


Hawkins, B., & Edwards, G. (2015). Managing the monsters of doubt: Liminality, threshold concepts and leadership learning. Management Learning, 46(1), 24-43.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Journal Management Learning
Print ISSN 1350-5076
Electronic ISSN 1461-7307
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 1
Pages 24-43
Keywords leadership, liminality, learning, identity, threshold concepts
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Additional Information Additional Information : Published online before print September 25, 2013