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“Let Them Have Fun” – Fantasies of Leadership, Practices of Control

The number of CEOs and corporate business leaders who are referred to as ‘global leaders’ is rather small. They yield huge power, yet they do not have democratic legitimacy to make decisions affecting millions of people. These business leaders often aspire to implementing social change that on the one hand is based on libertarian business model and on the other hand on managerial surveillance and social control. In his lecture, Professor Richard Little from the University of Cumbria will talk about the emergence of this type of leadership and its implications for democracy and social justice.

Lecture will be delivered in English. Free admission.

April 16

“Let Them Have Fun” – Fantasies of Leadership. Practices of Control.

The tiny number of people who happen to run giant corporations are now routinely referred to as ‘global leaders’. Not a mere courtesy for Hikmet Ursek, the CEO of Western Union. He recently claimed that mere politicians, elected locally in this or that polity, lacked the political legitimacy of the head of a global business. We may prefer to think, in defiance of this arrogation, that the humblest community representative has greater legitimacy than a man who is paid to run a business (of 11000 employees) and who is accountable only to shareholders. Increasingly, such people busy themselves with a narrowly defined form of social change, largely tech-driven, gather to congratulate one another at Davos and Aspen and arrogate to themselves the powers that properly belong to democratically elected and accountable public servants.

In the language and arrangements of the companies these people run, we can find two opposed tendencies: one, a rhetorical commitment to a liberatory, entrepreneurial model of the firm; the other, an unfettered practice of managerial surveillance and social control. Taken together, these forces infantilize and disempower. The tensions that result are hidden in plain sight by the fantasy of the visionary business leader devoted to social change.

In this talk, I will track the emergence of this fantasy, think aloud about the implications of fetishized leadership for democracy and social justice and show some of the wilder manifestations of what I call ‘panoptic managerialism’ – the terrifying convergence of facial recognition technology and poorly-conceived algorithms of work-place behavior. I will offer an alternative view of leadership as self-disappearance in the service of common interests and the common wealth: an everyday form of mindful action and responsible citizenship that is a daily corrective to the high-handed presumptions of corporate dictators.


258 richard little

About the Author

Richard Little - Professor at the Univeristy of Cumbria, UK

A leadership specialist. He has consulted to clients worldwide: in business corporations, in the voluntary sector, universities, governments and civil society organisations.

Richard is Professor of Sustainability Leadership at the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS, University of Cumbria, UK). He is also a leadership specialist with Impact International with whom, for 35 years, he has consulted to clients worldwide: in business corporations, in the voluntary sector, universities, governments and civil society organisations. Richard believes that organisational and social justice – preconditions for true sustainability – call for leadership that is inclusive, open, collegiate and dialogical. As an international facilitator and trainer, Richard has developed short programmes and academic courses in facilitation, moderation and consulting and supporting social theory. Richard has close and long-standing connections with Poland, Japan and Italy. In the 1970s he was involved in radical theatre, strongly influenced by the work of Jerzy Grotowski and Tadeusz Kantor. Richard lives in the English Lake District. He has been a mountaineer and climber all his life.

Date and Location

April 16, 2019, Tuesday, 18.00
Professor T. Tomaszewski Lecture Hall, 2nd Floor
Chodakowska 19/31, Warsaw

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