Reading Response to 4 Leadership Articles

Among all three Leadership readings assigned for this week, I am most familiar with the article of “What Makes a Leader?” (“Leader”) by Daniel Goleman, as the components of Emotional Intelligence (EI) are frequently used in corporate leadership trainings. I am mostly educated by “A History of Leadership” (“History”) that depicts a full picture of the leadership development in four different patterns throughout the human history. And I am most interested by “Redeeming Leadership” (“Redeeming”) of its highly logical yet poignant views on contributing hegemonic leadership to white colonial domination, expansion, and further imperialism, patriarchy and white supremacy, explained in both male and female leadership practices.

In “Leader”, Daniel Goleman introduced five components of EI and displayed them in a gender-neutral way that embraces male and female attributes. The corresponding leadership was implied as an individual effort in changing the corporate world after rounds of leadership training, coaching, feedback, and practice.

In “History”, Keith Grint first explained the origins of leadership and details and examples of Classical, Renaissance, and Modern leadership studies. He proceeded to a comprehensive picture of leadership development in four different patterns and concluded that leadership in history is related to prevailing culture, historical knowledge could prevent repetitive mistakes, and we should persist on generating leadership for public good.

“Dominance” and “Purity” in “Redeeming” analyzed hegemonic leadership from both male and female practices. “Dominance” explored the association of leadership with masculinity through the vestige of Enlightenment thinking, and how leadership was shaped by imperialist ideology that had historically constructed whiteness as the leadership norm and exemplar. “Purity” focused on how femininity has been historically constructed through dominant ideologies of imperialism, white supremacy and patriarchy, further formed white feminism. It then illustrated a few female high-power leaders in corporate world to show this hegemonic ideal in action.

All three readings touched the romance with individual leadership, while “History” and “Redeeming” directly argued about it and “Leader” embedded it in subtly. That is related to Donna Ladkin’s article on reflecting leadership in Donald Trump’s response to COVID-19. “Dominance” discussed leadership stories that concern individuals than systems of power and solutions to gender inequality becoming individualized. It also described the ‘orderliness, rationality and self-control’ characteristics of autonomous European man that are related to the five components of EI in “Leader”, which may have well influenced both male and female white supremacy leadership in “Dominance” and “Purity”.

Three readings complemented each other and provided us a full picture of leadership — its history, its modern implication in corporate world, and its negative impact on dimensions of race, sexuality, and class.

I used to truly believe in the five components of EI as a classic leadership model for my career development. Not until I read “History” and “Redeeming”, I learned the origination and current practice of the hegemonic leadership through repetitive and various patterns in gender, race, class, etc. If we do not consciously learn from past mistakes and raise our awareness, same stories will recur. On personal level, when I reflected my own experience as an educated knowledge worker but a POC (people of color) in the United States, and my younger years’ life growing up in patriarchal society of China, many related memories flashed back and connected dots for me.

“Patriarchy has no gender” in “Redeeming” reinforced my doubt on the effectiveness of rising corporate female leadership by simply hiring more female managers, executives, or board of directors; while contrasted by the aggressive, controlling, and indifferent female leadership qualities I have observed and experienced. On the other hand, no real commitments or changes are made in diversifying leadership and truly elevating the leadership of female and people of color. I am eager to read on for solutions or alternative leadership models proposed in the later chapters of “Redeeming”.

Meanwhile, do gender neutral individual and female leadership performance not have any positive impacts in the leadership development? Do mass social movements like MeToo and George Floyd protests not shaking people’s and societal views on gender and racial inequality and further challenging the legal system? Has the author researched smaller-scale social impact organizations (vs. corporations) headed by female leaders with a higher percentage of female workers than other sectors, and have been making positive social impact for decades? As a book published before Covid-19 spreading around the world, “Redeeming” may also missed the accelerated changes on diversity and inclusion and further diversifying leadership from its impact.

I enjoyed learning and critiquing all aspects of leadership and will keep reading on.

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