The Cultural and Commercial Production of Leadership

Eric Guthey, Nicole Ferry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Scholars have long criticized the commercialization of leadership, leadership education, and leadership development—some to distinguish what they consider legitimate research and practice from mass-market “bullshit,” others to characterize the whole notion of leadership as an ideological ruse or empty signifier. But neither critique rests on an adequate foundation of theory or empirical research regarding the actors, institutions, and industries that drive and profit from the commercialization of leadership. We therefore draw from the production of culture literature, Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of cultural fields, Roger Friedland’s critique of Bourdieu, and our own work on leadership fashions to develop a theoretical framework fit to explore the cultural and commercial production of concepts, discourses, products and services via the leadership industries. A deeper understanding of the competitive and industrial dynamics behind these industries promises to contribute fresh perspectives on the proliferation of so many approaches to leadership; on the industrialized production rather than just the social construction of those approaches; on the continued predominance of romanticized and individualized prescriptions over against more sociologically nuanced theories of relational and collective leadership; and on the central role that scholars themselves play in the leadership industries, and in the production and reproduction of leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eightieth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsGuclu Atinc
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2020: Broadening Our Sight - Virtual
Duration: 7 Aug 202011 Aug 2020
Conference number: 80


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2020
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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