Traditional Institutions, Social Cooperation, and Public Leadership Across Cultures
Where do public leaders derive their legitimacy from, in specific cultural contexts? This is a question to ponder at some length if we are to account for the continued emergence (or re-emergence) of public leadership in different spheres of human activity from non-elite quarters despite modernity, a phenomenon that has surprised some commentators in the academia and the media in recent years. At the same time, the intellectual exercises for evolving any credible theoretical model to address such an issue can hardly sustain themselves without closely engage with the sociocultural and historical contexts in which public leaders emerge. It is pertinent to mention here that such ‘emergence’ from the non-elite strata of any society may not necessarily be understood from any exclusive theoretical standpoint, such as the Leadership Emergence Theory (Clinton, 1988). Instead, a comparative approach with a view to unravelling the already existing research paradigms in leadership studies and taking a closer look at indigenous institutions, traditions, and customs that have produced (and continue to produce) effective leadership across cultures may yield better results.
It has become apparent that the crucial element of traditional institutions cannot be discounted while exploring the question of legitimacy in public leadership. It is of particular importance in societies where traditions, customs, and social institutions have been found to contradict certain core assumptions of Eurocentric modernity, which many agree to be a legacy of the 17th-18th century CE “Enlightenment” in Europe. Traditional institutions like the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Chinmaya Mission, Bharat Sevashram Sangha etc. have demonstrated tremendous leadership-building capabilities by running diverse socio-cultural programmes concerning education, healthcare, relief activities on pan-Indian as well as International scales, with little or no governmental aid. Naturally, the processes that spur such leadership-building drives are bound to generate interest among leadership studies scholars, practitioners and leaders alike; and accordingly they may raise questions such as: what role do traditional institutions, customs, and the social dynamic that keeps them closely interconnected and agile, play in developing public leadership and in conferring legitimacy upon the same? This line of enquiry may effectively address the seemingly counterintuitive phenomenon of the emergence of public leaders who appear to be strongly rooted in their traditional culture, and who, unlike their more ‘cosmopolitan’ counterparts, are adept at employing cultural symbols and tropes in their communications with followers as well as in their actions. The dimension of communication from public leaders has come to attain new significance in the hands of such a leadership, as ossified globalised conventions and signifiers are getting challenged by their utterances and actions.
Under this central theme for the upcoming issue, research articles and case studies are invited on topics such as:
Public Leadership across Civilisations: Lessons from the Past and Roadmap for the Future
Leadership in the public sphere has often sprung from the diverse exigencies of the political, social and spiritual dynamics of the culture that the leaders and their followers have found themselves in. Knowingly or unknowingly, leaders across time and space have derived from their immediate physical, intellectual and spiritual milieus the traits that have defined them. Broad, evolving but historically coherent cultural contexts have influenced, shaped, and enabled epoch-defining movements of thought and actions with inspired – and sometimes cynical – leadership at their head.
Through this issue, the International Journal of Studies in Public Leadership seeks to examine how civilisational wisdom has guided successful leadership interventions across cultures at various moments in history. The aim is to shed light on the foundational principles and best practices that leaders have derived/borrowed/learnt from the civilisational ethos of their cultural traditions. Not limited to isolated cases of success stories, the issue would also be interested in studying the instances, if any, where entire ecosystems of coordinated and successive generations of leadership might have emerged through dynamic interactions between leaders and followers in a civilisational context.