Barriers to leadership development: Why is it so difficult to abandon the hero?
Sylvia Schweiger, Barbara Müller and Wolfgang H Güttel | 2020
Critical consensus holds that leader-centred leadership theories reproduce romanticism by exaggerating the impact of individual leaders. In contrast, a processual perspective views leadership as an ongoing social interaction involving all organisational actors. Developing such a processual leadership meaning, however, is not easy, especially as formal leaders are embedded in a business world that still supports the heroic image of a leader.
Critical literature highlights the difficult road towards meaning development, on which leaders are confronted with various obstacles that can impede development. In order to better understand potential barriers to the development of a processual leadership meaning, we analyse the development of leadership meaning for EMBA students over the course of two years.
In particular, we identify two hindering dynamics that show how a leader-centred leadership meaning becomes reconstructed and reinforced over time, despite receiving training input on a processual leadership meaning. Additionally, we generate insights on two patterns that explain why it is so difficult to abandon a heroic image by revealing the crucial role of one’s sense of self-as-a-leader. Finally, we provide important practical implications for future leadership development.