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The Value of Autoethnography in Leadership Studies, and its Pitfalls

Lookup NU author(s): Mx Jan Deckers



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The field of leadership studies frequently focuses on defining leadership traits in abstraction from the context in which leadership operates. The first aim of this article is to provide a brief overview of reasons why this might be the case. Reasons include: leadership studies being dominated by the perspectives of leaders; the lack of definition and visibility of followership studies; the status and limitations of much qualitative research; and a predominant focus on good leadership. Consequently, many people who experience the effects of leadership, and particularly those of bad leadership, do not recognise their experiences in the literature. However, recognising that followers who experience bad leadership personally increasingly engage in autoethnographic studies, my second aim is to draw out some examples of bad leadership from the autoethnographic literature, as well as their effects. In spite of its negative effects, bad leadership frequently remains unchallenged. My third aim is to explain why this might be the case, where I argue that this stems partly from the pitfalls of autoethnographic studies. I also sketch how these pitfalls might be overcome and how doing so and adopting the principle of ‘accountability for reasonableness’ might help to tackle bad leadership.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Deckers J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophy of Management

Year: 2021

Volume: 20

Issue: 1

Pages: 75-91

Online publication date: 15/08/2020

Acceptance date: 05/08/2020

Date deposited: 16/08/2020

ISSN (print): 1740-3812

ISSN (electronic): 2052-9597

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s40926-020-00146-w


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