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Why is collective leadership so elusive?

Edwards, Gareth; Bolden, Richard

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Gareth Edwards
Professor of Leadership and Community Studies

Richard Bolden
Dir of Res Ctr - Ldrship & Behav Change


This ‘Leading Questions’ thought piece explores the elusive nature of collective leadership. We use our previous experiences to explore issues that tend to go unnoticed and unreported within the academic analysis of collective forms of leadership, including (1) the motives of those commissioning and conducting applied research to ‘make a difference’ through collective forms of leadership; (2) the performative effects of how ‘collective leadership’ is framed; and (3) the extent to which ambiguity around the nature of collective leadership makes it a powerful ‘empty signifier’ for holding incompatible and inconsistent conceptions and ideologies. Such issues, we suggest, are inherent features of the landscape of collective leadership theory, policy and practice and have important implications for scholars, practitioners and developers.


Edwards, G., & Bolden, R. (2023). Why is collective leadership so elusive?. Leadership, 19(2), 167–182.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 7, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 26, 2022
Publication Date Apr 1, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 31, 2022
Journal Leadership
Print ISSN 1742-7150
Electronic ISSN 1742-7169
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 167–182
Keywords Collective Leadership, Social Construction, Negative Ontology, Performativity, Reflexivity
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