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Organisational politics: reconciling leadership's rational‐emotional paradox

G. Sheard (Flakt Woods Ltd, Colchester, UK)
A.P. Kakabadse (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)
N.K. Kakabadse (Northampton Business School, Northampton, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 8 February 2011




Effective leadership action requires managers to harness power that is intrinsically political. This paper aims to study and characterise the political nature of a manager's behaviour when taking leadership action.


The methodological approach is qualitative and examines three organisations over a three‐year period when these entities experienced a major product failure. The paper analyses the actual managerial behaviour of managers and provides insight into the factors that most strongly influence the effectiveness of managers when taking leadership action.


Political behaviour when taking leadership action can be conceptualised in terms of rationality and emotionality. In so doing, it can be clarified how behaviour must be modified to ensure that leadership action is consistently effective.

Research limitations/implications

A case study of three multinational engineering companies engaged in the design, development and manufacturing of turbomachinery provides the platform for the research. The concepts presented in the paper will require validating in other organisations of different demographic profiles.

Practical implications

The concepts presented and the implications discussed provide insight into the political nature of managerial behaviour when taking leadership action. The paper highlights the practical steps individual managers can embrace to ensure that their behaviour is appropriate to context, even under the most traumatic situations. Thus, the paper provides managers with a model that facilitates effective leadership action.


This paper provides insight into how managers behaved in circumstances that mattered to them. Through immersion in events at the time they took place, the authors captured situations in which managers were under real pressure and, in so doing, avoided the bias inherent when interviewing a manager about past events. As such, the paper concludes that the political behaviour in which managers engage when taking leadership action is rooted in the reality of the adversity that the most capable managers have both experienced and overcome. This detailed study reports behaviour in a situation where managers' business and future prospects were in jeopardy. This paper identifies why some managers were able to use the experience positively, helping them to adopt politically intrinsic behaviour to facilitate effective leadership action.



Sheard, G., Kakabadse, A.P. and Kakabadse, N.K. (2011), "Organisational politics: reconciling leadership's rational‐emotional paradox", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 78-97.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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