Profaning the Sacred in Leadership Studies: A Reading of Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase

Martyna Sliwa, Sverre Spoelstra, Bent Meier Sørensen, Christopher Land

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The leadership literature is full of stories of heroic self-sacrifice. Sacrificial leadership behaviour, some scholars conclude, is to be recommended. In this article we follow Keith Grint's conceptualization of leadership as necessarily pertaining to the sacred, but-drawing on Giorgio Agamben's notion of profanation-we highlight the need for organization scholars to profane the sacralizations embedded in leadership thinking. One example of this, which guides us throughout the article, is the novel A Wild Sheep Chase, by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. By means of a thematic reading of the novel, we discuss how it contributes to profaning particular notions of sacrifice and the sacred in leadership thinking. In the novel, self-sacrifice does not function as a way of establishing a leadership position, but as a way to avoid the dangers associated with leadership, and possibly redeem humans from their current collective urge to become leaders. Inspired by Murakami's fictional example, we call organization scholars to engage in profanation of leadership studies and, in doing so, open new vistas for leadership theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization
Volume20
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)860-880
ISSN1350-5084
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

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