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Radical politics, intersectionality and leadership for diversity in organizations

Alison Pullen (Macquarie Business School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Carl Rhodes (UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia)
Celina McEwen (UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia)
Helena Liu (UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 23 December 2019

Issue publication date: 29 October 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore leadership for diversity informed by intersectionality and radical politics. Surfacing the political character of intersectionality, the authors suggest that a leadership for diversity imbued with a commitment to political action is essential for the progress towards equality.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing lessons from the grassroots, political organizing of the black and Indigenous activist groups Combahee River Collective and Idle No More, the authors explore how these groups relied on feminist alliances to address social justice issues. Learning from their focus on intersectionality, the authors consider the role of politically engaged leadership in advancing diversity and equality in organizations.

Findings

The paper finds that leadership for diversity can be developed by shifting towards a more radical and transversal politics that challenges social and political structures that enable intersectionality or interlocking oppressions. This challenge relies on critical alliances negotiated across multiple intellectual, social and political positions and enacted through flexible solidarity to foster a collective ethical responsibility and social change. These forms of alliance-based praxis are important for advancing leadership for diversity.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to studies of leadership and critical diversity studies by articulating an alliance-based praxis for leadership underpinned by intersectionality, radical democracy and transversal politics.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and the Wattamattagal clan of the Darug nation on whose lands the universities are located. The authors recognize them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands and pay their respects to their Elders both past and present. The authors are in-debited to Mustafa Ozturk for his editorial guidance and care, and they thank the anonymous reviewers who offered generous, yet critical, commentary throughout the review process. Their willingness to engage with this paper made it even better than it would otherwise have been. A special note of thanks to the reviewers for guiding the authors towards Indigenous knowledge and reminding them of the responsibility that is required in this work. The authors move forward slowly, learning from inspiring intellectuals and activists who put others before themselves. This research was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (Project DP180100360). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or Australian Research Council.

The papers form part of special section “Re-orientations: moving from boxed-in to box-breaking research in diversity and inclusion”, guest edited by Mustafa Bilgehan Ozturk.

The papers form part of special section “Re-orientations: moving from boxed-in to box-breaking research in diversity and inclusion”, guest edited by Mustafa Bilgehan Ozturk.

Citation

Pullen, A., Rhodes, C., McEwen, C. and Liu, H. (2021), "Radical politics, intersectionality and leadership for diversity in organizations", Management Decision, Vol. 59 No. 11, pp. 2553-2566. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-02-2019-0287

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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