Sub-theme 47: Reclaiming the Shadow for Leadership

Ishan Jalan
Lancaster University, UK
Yiannis Gabriel
University of Bath, UK
Eric Faÿ
EMLYON Business School, France

Call for Papers

Leadership studies have traditionally adopted functionalist and rationalist perspectives, giving precedence to leading as a cerebral and disembodied activity, concerned with making decisions, strategy, generating vision and changing minds of people. Leaders are then seen as problem solvers, appointed to inspire, motivate and control their followers. There is often little or no account of the lived or visceral experiences that tie leaders and followers together and there is often little or no acknowledgement of emotions, fantasies, unconscious dynamics and hidden desires. This generates various blind spots when dealing with power asymmetries, identity construction, follower dynamics and issues of gender and difference. This sub-theme proposes to explore these dimensions of leadership by reclaiming the concept of a shadow, not as something necessarily negative or dysfunctional, but as something whose repression can often lead to dysfunction.

Stepping away from traditional views on leadership, Collinson (2014) notes, "Critical perspectives share a focus on the situated power relations and identity dynamics through which leadership discursive practices are socially constructed, frequently rationalized, sometimes resisted, and occasionally transformed". The critical turn in leadership studies invites a dialogue around the dark side of leadership, provoking the hidden and working with the shadows. Shadows cast fear, anxiety and apprehension, precipitating various defences. They allow illicit and hidden to surface. Through this call, we attempt to throw light in these grey zones. By exploring the range of emotions, fantasies and feelings prompted by leadership and power relations, we seek to encourage a fresh look at the concepts of the leader, to lead, to be led and what this means for organizations today.

Emotions, both conscious and unconscious, are powerful and play an important role in shaping perspectives, attitudes, thoughts and actions. Leadership and relations of power, authority, dependence and vulnerability frequently trigger off powerful emotions that remain unacknowledged or silenced. Some such emotions may be proscribed or denied, just as others are lauded, acknowledged and privileged. Both leaders' and followers' emotions are liable to be rationalized away, depriving them of their complexity, subjectivity and energy. By reclaiming the shadow, we encourage participants to this subtheme to move beyond simple dualities of positive and negative emotions, constructive and destructive passions, and reconnect with the unconscious dynamics of leadership as a source of vitality and renewal for organizations as well as communities.

We invite contributions from critical, psychoanalytic, Jungian, Lacanian, discursive, literary and other perspectives, addressing some, but not necessarily exclusively, the following themes:

  • Leader fantasies, desires and lust
  • Leadership dysfunctions and the lure and allure of power
  • Hidden, illicit, covert, emotional dynamics in leader follower relations
  • Followership, follower identity and follower fantasies
  • Leadership as the management of emotions and meaning
  • Leadership emotions, emotions in leadership and emotions and leadership studies
  • Stories, narratives and other texts, including literary and artistic, by leaders, about leaders, and about leadership and followership, that address the shadow in leadership.




  • Collinson, D. (2014): "Dichotomies, Dialectics and Dilemmas: New Directions for Critical Leadership Studies?" Leadership, 10 (1), 36–55.
  • Driver, M. (2013): "The Lack of Power or the Power of Lack in Leadership as a Discursively Constructed Identity." Organization Studies, 34 (3), 407–422.
  • Faÿ, E. (2008): "Derision and Management." Organization, 15 (6), 831–850.
  • Gabriel, Y. (1997): "Meeting God: When Organizational Members Come Face to Face with the Supreme Leader." Human Relations, 50 (4), 315–342.
  • Gabriel, Y. (2011): "Psychoanalytic Approaches to Leadership." In: A. Bryman, D.L. Collinson, K. Grint, B. Jackson & M. Uhl-Bien (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Leadership. London: SAGE Publications, pp. 393–405.
  • Petriglieri, G., & Stein, M. (2012): "The Unwanted Self: Projective Identification in Leaders' Identity Work." Organization Studies, 33 (9), 1217–1235.


Ishan Jalan is Lecturer in Management Learning and Leadership at Lancaster University, UK. He holds a PhD in Management from University of Bath, UK, and was previously a post-doctoral fellow at Lund University, Sweden. His research interests include studying emotions, leadership, storytelling, psychoanalysis and subjectivity at work.
Yiannis Gabriel is Professor of Organizational Theory at Bath University, UK, and Visiting Professor at the University of Lund, Sweden. He is known for his work on psychoanalysis, leadership, storytelling, management learning and the depth psychology of contemporary consumption.
Eric Faÿ is a Professor of Management at EMLYON Business School, France, and a member of OCE Research Center. He holds a PhD in Management science from Université Lyon 3 Jean Moulin, France. His research interests include examining how affect, speech and life – as they can be enlightened by Henry's phenomenology of life and Vasse's Lacanian psychoanalytical anthropology – are acknowledged or not when organizing/managing/leading.