The struggle for good leadership in social movements: Collective reflection and rules as basis for autonomy

Publikation: Wissenschaftliche FachzeitschriftOriginalbeitrag in FachzeitschriftBegutachtung


This paper analyzes how leadership is practiced in social movement organizations (SMO). Drawing arguments from Critical Leadership Studies, and based on qualitative empirical research conducted within the organizations of the Spanish protest movement 15M, this paper analyzes the perceptions of leadership, fields of tension and practices for dealing with these tensions. By empirically investigating a rather unexplored area of research, the paper makes three contributions. First, it offers in-depth investigations of leadership-practices in SMO, showing that activists are highly aware of the importance of leadership. Second, it contributes to leadership theory by confronting views of critical leadership studies with the empirical results. Activists share quite precise views on what good leadership means for them, which we propose to characterize as autonomous, reflexive and rule-based. Third, with the emphasis on collective reflection and rules, it highlights two aspects of leadership in SMO that have been widely ignored in discourses, but turn out as important means of dealing with challenges of autonomous leadership.
FachzeitschriftEphemera - Theory and Politics in Organization
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2020