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Worldly leadership: challenging the hegemony of Western business education

Sharon Turnbull (The Leadership Trust, Ross‐on‐Wye, UK)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




Leadership theories that inform business education have largely been rooted in Western conceptions of leadership. The purpose of this paper is to report on research that seeks to uncover and reflect on how leadership wisdoms originating beyond the Western world can support the radical transformation of global business education toward a more responsible and sustainable template. It argues that indigenous and Eastern ideologies will be needed if we are to change educational mindsets and challenge the obsolete model of Western business school education.


In total, 45 in‐depth interviews with leaders from indigenous and non‐Western cultures were conducted in order to gain deep insights into how their leadership identities, values and behaviours have been shaped by their societies and the oral wisdoms in their cultures. The author also draws on interviews and observations of 26 executives participating in a class of the International Masters Programme in Practicing Management. The findings from each study were combined to propose how these might challenge and inform a future business school curricula that challenge its orthodoxy of “shareholder value above all else”.


The research identified a number of embedded leadership wisdoms currently overlooked in the current model of business education. Based within a deep‐rooted ethic of responsibility, conviction, stewardship and sustainability and reflecting a cosmopolitan mindset, the critical knowledge and values embedded in indigenous communities, transmitted orally across many generations, provides a challenge to Western business schools to embed the knowledge found within those societies and communities toward a more sustainable response to the crisis of our planet. Responsibility, humanity, benevolence, trusteeship, contribution, honesty and conviction are some of the core “wisdoms” uncovered in the research that can inform and frame a radical rethink of the norms of business school curricula.


The current model of business education preserves the status quo of twenty‐first century capitalism. As globalisation advances, leaders appear to be powerless to act against a dominant ideology that reveres shareholder value above all else. The research builds on De Woot's critique of the shareholder value paradigm to suggest that a new form of business education based on leadership wisdoms in indigenous and oral cultures, and ancient texts has much to contribute to radical mindset change in business education.



Turnbull, S. (2011), "Worldly leadership: challenging the hegemony of Western business education", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 170-187.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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