Intellectual Failure and Ideological Success in Organization Studies: The Case of Transformational Leadership

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article discusses the current self-confidence and apparent success—at least by market/popularity measures—of leadership studies (LS) in general and transformational leadership (TFL) in particular. An alternative interpretation is offered, suggesting that it is the ideological character of these approaches that account for their “success,” at least in quantitative terms. Their wide appeal needs to be understood against the background of the fragmentation in the field before the entrance of these much more popularly appealing, but theoretically questionable ideas which lack credible empirical support. The article concludes that the currently popular streams are strongly structured by ideology—drawing on hero and religious mythologies—and suggests some ways to reduce the ideological overtone and the resulting tendency to produce tautologies and biased results.


External organisations
  • Cass Business School
  • University of Queensland
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • Royal Holloway University of London
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration


  • leadership, philosophy of science, power and politics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-152
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Apr 1
Publication categoryResearch