Incompetent or immoral leadership? Why many managers and change leaders get it wrong

Thomas Diefenbach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The idea, if not to say ideology of managing organizational change is fairly established within orthodox management (Musson and Duberley, 2007). It is so deeply embedded in organizational realities as well as organization studies that Sorge and Witteloostuijn (2004) call it an ‘organizational change hype’. Managing change is predominantly portrayed in functional ways, as a technology which simply needs exact execution of ‘tried-and-tested’ blueprints. According to the ‘managerial standard model’, organizational change has to be planned, linear, top-down and management-driven.

Change management understood in such ways requires first and foremost leadership. When it is about organizations and organizational change, leadership and management (and, hence, leaders and managers) are regarded not only as key, but as a necessity. Moreover, managers and change leaders are portrayed as skilful and competent leaders who can change organizations, or parts of it, ‘at will’ (Kark and Van Dijk, 2007; Ilies et al., 2006; Van Vugt, 2006; Gill, 2003). Whether transformational or transactional leadership (Masi and Cooke, 2000; Bass et al., 1987; Burns, 1978), the idea of leadership is closely accompanied by rhetoric about the (necessary) skills and competences of
leaders (Siebens, 2005). Leaders seemingly have, or at least are capable and willing to develop, all the positive leadership attributes and behaviours textbooks and proponents of orthodox leadership ideology suggest (Aronson, 2001; Masi and Cooke, 2000; Bass et al., 1987; Burns, 1978).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrganizational Change, Leadership and Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationLeading Organizations Towards Sustainability
EditorsRune Todnem By, Bernard Burnes
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages22
Edition 1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781136256141
ISBN (Print)9780203106013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


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