Fools, jesters and the possibility of responsible leadership

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The vibrant academic and practitioner conversation about corporate responsibility does not appear to reduce the number of scandals involving unethical managerial behaviour. This leaves the question of whether responsible organisational leadership is possible. Some leadership scholars recently suggested that understanding leadership as a relational process can facilitate more responsible leadership practice. This article develops the relational leadership perspective by offering a critical discussion of the possibility of responsible relational leadership. I construct an understanding of responsibility following the writings of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. I then use the archetypal figure of the Fool as an imaginary device to translate Levinasian and Derridian ethics into lived experiences and thus illuminate the conditions under which responsibility may be possibilised. This theoretical analysis exposes the irresolvable tension between responsibility and the relational in leadership but also identifies ways through which leadership actors can strive for responsibility through purposefully engaging with the tension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-633
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Early online date7 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


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