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2014/2015  KAN-CPOLV1021U  Leadership Power & Communication

English Title
Leadership Power & Communication

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Course period First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc i International Business and Politics, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Øjvind Larsen - MPP
Professor Mitchell Dean CBS
Professor Ole Thyssen CBS
Associated Professor Øjvind Larsen CBS

Administrativ kontakt: Karina Ravn Nielsen - electives.lpf@cbs.dk, direkte tlf. 3815 3782
Main academic disciplines
  • Philosophy and philosophy of science
  • Business Ethics, value based management and CSR
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Organization
  • Political leadership, public management and international politics
Last updated on 09-04-2014
Learning objectives
After having followed the course, the students are expected to be able to:
  • Explain the content of Weber’s, Foucault’s, Luhmann’s and Habermas’s theories about leadership, power and communication.
  • Analyze the main topics and concepts of the course, which are leadership, power, communication, politics, bureaucracy, risk management, self-government, systemic communication, normative communication, management communication.
  • Reach their own conclusions on the main topics and concepts of the course, which are leadership, power, communication, politics, bureaucracy, risk management, self-government, systemic communication, normative communication, management communication.
  • Explain how the theories, topics and concepts of the course can be used for empirical studies of leadership power and communication in politics and organizations.
Leadership Power & Communication:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Duration 72 hours to prepare
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period October
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure
The aim of this course is to introduce participants to the analysis of forms of leadership in contemporary organizations by using the fundamental concepts and frameworks of four major thinkers, Max Weber, Michel Foucault, Niklas Luhmann and Jürgen Habermas. The purpose of such an introduction is to facilitate participants’ understanding of how leadership operates in contemporary societies and to apply concepts and analytical strategies to study leadership in public and private organizations.

Topics of the course:
The course has the following 6 topics:
Topic 1: General introduction to leadership in the European tradition
Leadership has been discussed in European culture since ancient Greek democracy. Thus, the course begins with a short overview of different understandings of leadership in the European history of ideas. This will enable participants to situate the thought of Weber, Foucault, Luhmann and Habermas.
Topic 2: Weber’s theory of leadership and bureaucracy
Weber founded the basic theory of modern legal and rational bureaucracy, which remains the standard for all other theories of public administration. Participants will engage with Weber’s idea of different forms of leadership (Herrschaft) in traditional, charismatic and legal-rational forms of organization. The legal-rational model will be presented in detail. Key relevant themes include Weber’s concepts of leadership as vocation (Beruf), the ethos of office and ethic of responsibility, and the danger of blind obedience.

Topic 3: Foucault’s theory of governance, risk-management and self-government
Foucault is famous for his central concern with the way we conduct ourselves and others in relation to truth and knowledge.  To lead in his terms is to conduct others and oneself, or what he terms government.  Participants will become acquainted with his analytics of government, and its key terms such as political rationality, governmentality, technologies of the self and technologies of governing. They will examine his relationship to Weber’s account of rationalization and bureaucracy and how his approach can be used to study the ethos of office and professional transformation within contemporary management and audit and risk cultures, and the way contemporary organizational practices rely on forms of self-government.
Topic 4: Luhmann’s theory of leadership as decision making and risk management in contingent organizational communication
Luhmann has developed a radical theory of communication in which organizations are viewed as contingent autonomous self-reproductive or ‘autopoietic’ systems of communication. Such a communication is always threatened by the possibility of a total collapse. In this perspective, leadership becomes a form of risk management of communication. In principle, communication can only be momentary stabilized by decisions that again have to be stabilized by new confirmations. In Luhmann’s theory, the usual relation between agency and communication is turned around so that agency is totally subordinated to communication. Leadership has become a perpetual making of risky decisions, which only can be momentarily stabilized in the statement of something as simple as the purpose, direction and aim of the organization. In Luhmann’s perspective of leadership, there is no place for a normative evaluation of such a statement.
Topic 5: Habermas’s theory of leadership as a normative loaded communication versus systemic management communication in organizations
Habermas has developed a theory of communicative action in which communicative leadership has to be understood as a reflexive communication with all implicated parties. Habermas’s theory can be seen as a critique of Weber at the same time as it opens a utopian horizon for more democratic forms of administration. Habermas also includes Luhmann’s perspective in his theory of communicative leadership. For Habermas, social systems are acceptable as autopoietic communication as long as such systemic management communication does not substitute a normative communication, when it is needed. In this case, communication has to be a form of personal ethical reflection and normative communication. The leader has to be able to take a personal responsibility.

Topic 6: Leadership as a concluding combination of different organizational perspectives
The course will conclude with a discussion of the leadership theories of Weber, Foucault, Luhmann and Habermas in relation to each other. The aim of the course is to give the participants the ability to combine the four theories in different perspectives and to apply these different perspectives for empirical studies. In this context, participants will be encouraged to develop analyzes which combine Habermas’s normative, democratic, and dialogical themes with the more value-neutral strategies of Weber, Foucault and Luhmann. They will have the opportunity to use key concepts and methods in the analysis of specific organizations.
Teaching methods
Normal class teaching with lectures, presentations, questions and discussions.
Further Information

Changes in course schedule may occur
Tuesday 13.30-15,10, week 36
Tuesday 13.30-17.00, week 37-43

Expected literature
There will be a compendium with key English-language texts of Weber, Foucault, Luhmann and Habermas, and some commentaries and illustrative applications.
Last updated on 09-04-2014