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2021/2022  BA-BBLCV1703U  Introduction to Leadership: Conventional and Critical Perspectives

English Title
Introduction to Leadership: Conventional and Critical Perspectives

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 40
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, BSc
Course coordinator
  • Eric Guthey - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
  • Nicole Ferry - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • Management
  • Organisation
  • Cultural studies
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 23-06-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the mainstream and popularized approaches to leadership covered in the course
  • Critically evaluate the implicit assumptions behind the mainstream approaches to leadership covered in the course
  • Identify key organizational, cultural, academic, and media industry influences that shape popularized approaches to leadership
  • Describe the strengths, weaknesses, and implicit assumptions behind key critical and alternative approaches to leadership introduced in the curriculum
  • Compare and contrast the consequences of the mainstream versus alternative/critical approaches to leadership covered in the course for organizations and for the individuals and groups who work in them
Introduction to Leadership: Conventional and Critical Perspectives:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Leadership has become an organizational and cultural mantra, as well as a staple feature of the business school curriculum. The job market demands that students develop leadership skills, while leadership-speak has infiltrated many other corners of everyday life, including personal development, interpersonal interaction, gender relations, politics, even moral discourse and spiritual/religious belief. Popularized approaches like transformational, servant, authentic, and spiritual leadership elevate the skills and characteristics of individual leaders over organizational and relational leadership processes, and often stress that leaders must develop their inner, emotional selves in order to inspire their followers.


Such approaches to leadership have become big business, a subject of much pop-psychologizing and commercial promotion by big name leadership gurus like John Maxwell, Sheryl Sandberg, and Simon Sinek. These promotional influences make it imperative that students question the popularized, conventional wisdom about leadership, and decide for themselves whether a given approach to leadership can actually help organizations and/or the people who work in them to pursue activities and achieve goals they consider important.


This course will help students to become critical consumers and informed practitioners of leadership by analyzing popularized approaches to the subject, and by critiquing the assumptions behind them, as well as the sources that generate them. The curriculum will consist of a series of mainstream and popularized leadership texts chosen for the way they exemplify key leadership issues and debates that students will face in the course of their careers. Select theoretical and critical sources will provide alternative perspectives on these texts and help students understand their broader significance.

Description of the teaching methods
This class will be participation and discussion intensive. During the course, groups of students will present and argue for and against these mainstream and critical sources, developing along the way a popular and critical vocabulary for talking about leadership and developing their own approach to the topic.

Class sessions will consist primarily of student presentations, discussion, and debate of course materials. Small groups of students will present and argue for the perspectives contained in the mainstream leadership texts assigned, and other groups will present and argue for the critical perspectives assigned in connection with the mainstream texts. Instructors will facilitate discussion, provide theoretical perspectives and background via both discussion and lecture, and otherwise participate actively in discussion and debate
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback will take place continuously in the course of class discussions. Instructors will also make use of the feedback features available in Canvas, including PeerGrade.
Student workload
Class Participation 36 hours
Preparing Course Materials 46 hours
Group Discussions and Preparation of Presentations 40 hours
Exam Preparation 46 hours
Exam 40 hours
Expected literature

A collection of theoretical and critical readings on leadership assigned in conjunction with selections from popularized leadership texts such as the following:


  • Brené Brown (2018) Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
  • Bill George and Peter Sims (2007) True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership
  • James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner (2017) The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things
  • John C. Maxwell (2007) The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.
  • Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (2009) Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow
  • Sheryl Sandberg (2013) Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013)
  • Simon Sinek (2017) Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't Happen in Organizations, Sixth Edition
Last updated on 23-06-2021