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Resistance, Suffering and Leadership: An Introduction to Apophatic Leadership

Rossbach, Stefan (2018) Resistance, Suffering and Leadership: An Introduction to Apophatic Leadership. International Political Anthropology, 11 (2). pp. 47-67. ISSN 1974-7268. E-ISSN 2283-9887. (KAR id:70646)

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The academic approach to leadership rests on a particular understanding of human action as goaloriented: leadership helps a group achieve a common, given goal or reward. One of the iconic historical figures that students of leadership never fail to present as an example, however, had a very different conception of human action. Mohandas Gandhi did not understand the orientation towards goals, outcomes or rewards as the essence of human action. Drawing on the Bhagavad Gita, Gandhi emphasized that proper human action must not be preoccupied with its fruit, i.e. that we enact the fullness of our human nature precisely when our action, in a sense to be clarified, is disinterested. Gandhi’s influence concerns the very attitudes that we adopt towards ourselves and our pursuit of goals. A discussion of Gandhi’s reading of the Gita, and of the manner in which it informed key notions such as satyagraha, truth and non-violence, will suggest that to those that were drawn to him, Gandhi served the role of a touchstone, enabling others to ponder a “truer” and “better” version of themselves. If we wish to characterise his influence as “leadership”, I propose to describe it as “apophatic leadership”, which is “negative” in the sense that it enables us to detach ourselves from goals that hitherto were taken for granted.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: leadership, interested and disinterested action, Gandhi, Bhagavad Gita, non-attachment, renunciation, the leader as touchstone, apophatic leadership
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Stefan Rossbach
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 11:07 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Rossbach, Stefan:
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